What a mixed bag this is! If Barenboim was hoping to incarnate - not imitate - his lodestar of Furtwangler, the embodiment is fitful at best.
On the Credit side of the ledger, the performance of the Ninth is close to being the best on the market - what a performance and the Berlin Phil sound like the days of yore. Richard Osborne, who reviews Bruckner performances for the Gramophone, lauded it as the front-runner and he is no mean critic. 5 / 5
The Fifth is a fast and punchy performance which means that the slow movement is less moving than others - but the last movement is incandescence itself and second to none - again, the Berlin Phil plays like gods. 4 /5
The First Symphony is right on the money and highly enjoyable. 4/ 5
On the other side of the ledger 3 & 4 are good concert performances and no more. They are superlatively played and well recorded - but in each instance, Barenboim fails to impart a unified view of the music. Both performances avoid being episodic - a cardinal error in Bruckner - but they lack an overarching 'vision made flesh'. At no point in either of them does one detect an immolatory act of consummation. Both 3 / 5 (and this is being somewhat unfair to the performance of the Third, which is very listenable).
The Seventh Symphony makes all the right gestures but fails to lodge in the memory - magic, there ain't. The first movement is nearly as slow as the Maazel / BPO performance from the late 1980s and it is just as tensionless. 2 / 5
The Sixth Symphony is the nadir of this cycle - it is clearly the end-product of multiple edits taken from a range of performances (it is not a patch on the Karajan, for all its flaws, or the Stein). 1 / 5
The Eighth, sad to say, is not a success: at no point does it take one in the hand and say 'we are going on a journey together.' One loud climax follows another - and the Berlin Phil appear to be sight-reading the score, such is their lack of assurety. 2 / 5
The Second Symphony is also unsettled - it lacks a still turning point. As with Eight, one wonders how much rehearsal time was allocated beforehand. 2 / 5
All in all, 26 / 45 is barely a pass-mark. Perhaps Barenboim aced the Ninth on the night. So where does that leave Danny as a Brucknerian? Above Rattle, Abbado and Maazel but not by much. Some might say that his first cycle with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra - such as it is - is more impressive than this outing: and they might be right.