Review by fafnir November 19, 2007 (12 of 13 found this review helpful)
|This recording is distinguished from almost all other recordings of the Ninth by the inclusion of a performing version of the Finale by a team of Samale,Phillips, Cohrs, and Mazzuca as further revised by Cohrs and Samale. The legitimacy of this, or any other, performing version of the last movement is, of course, very controversial. Thus, it is worthwhile to provide a brief description of the extent of the reconstruction of existing material and amount of new composition required. The interested reader should consult the excellent full description by Cohrs on the abruckner.com web site.
The full length of the Finale is 665 bars of which 442 bars is taken from orchestrated score sheets, 117 bars from elaboration of Bruckner's sketches and movement outline plans, 10 bars from other sketches, and 96 bars from substantially supplemented or composed. The most significant composed material is in the coda, which has followed descriptions by early Bruckner scholars of sketches since lost. Apparently Bruckner was extremely close to completing the work when he died, even playing the coda on the piano for his doctor.
The result of this reconstruction is, IMHO, very convincing first rate Bruckner, and casts the work as a whole in a new light. It no longer ends in a whisper but in a bang of jubilation, or as Bruckner was said to describe it, a "hymn of praise."
As far as this recording is concerned:
The first two movements are swift and powerfully presented, particularly the climaxes in the first movement. These are not the most refined available versions, but are well-played and exciting. The third movement is, however, somewhat problematic. With a duration of just under 20 minutes, I have never heard it played as quickly. Prior to writing this review, I was tempted to use the word "unprecedented" in describing the tempo. A few minutes research on the abruckner site showed, however, that this is not the case. Bruno Walter in 1953 with the VPO was over a minute faster, and Bruno Walter in 1946 and 1953 (NYP) as well as Schuricht in 1961 were virtually identical.
After several hearings, I am still not sure how I feel about this tempo. It is certainly not a travesty. Indeed, it is beautiful and works well within the four movement context, but some of the movement's solemnity is lost.
The recorded sound is splendid. In spite of being played in a very resonant space, clarity is maintained. This is one of those recordings where the walls seemingly disappear.
Not withstanding my caveat concerning the third movement, I think this is an essential recording for Bruckner enthusiasts. You may never again wish to listen to the three movement version.
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