Bruckner CD review


BRUCKNER: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Jansons (BR Klassik 900173) ***

Recordings of Bruckner's unfinished ninth symphony fall between two extremes of both timing and orientation. At one end is Jascha Horenstein's 1953 recording with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (Vox), the swiftest ever recorded (52.28) which reveals how the music looks forward to the 20th century – particularly Mahler's ninth and unfinished tenth symphonies. The demonic scherzo is played with utter ferocity. Giulini's amazingly broad (68.10!) live Vienna Philharmonic recording (Deutsche Grammophon) emphasizes the symphony's spiritual qualities while looking back to Beethoven's ninth symphony and his Missa Solemnis. Mariss Jansons conducts a quite brisk (57.10) performance taken from Bavarian Radio tapes and one which feels rather pick-and-mix. The visionary Adagio is very swift, but without Horenstein's purpose, while the scherzo sounds tame – Dohnanyi's Cleveland recording (Decca) shows how hair-raising it can be. Compared to the finest recordings – the list includes Haitink, Karajan and Wand – Jansons and the BRSO sound professional but perfunctory.

Norman Stinchcombe

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