BBC Music Magazine - - REVIEWS -

Sym­phony No. 9 Chicago Sym­phony Orches­tra/ Ric­cardo Muti CSO Re­sound CSOR 901 1701 62:20 mins

There are many valid ways of per­form­ing Bruckner’s last, un­fin­ished sym­phony. At the very least there should be pow­er­ful apoc­a­lyp­tic and dev­as­tat­ing pas­sages, with oth­ers of un­easy calm and pos­si­bly of con­so­la­tion. Of the in­nu­mer­able ac­counts now avail­able disc, I would say that Michael Gie­len’s most re­cent record­ing

(SWR Mu­sic), Carlo Maria Gi­ulini’s with the Vi­enna Phil­har­monic and Wil­helm Furtwän­gler’s with the Berlin Phil­har­monic (both on Deutsche Gram­mophon), pro­vide the most com­plete and in­deed over­whelm­ing ac­counts, though there are many other very fine ones, if you aren’t in the strong­est frame of mind.

The Chicago Sym­phony Orches­tra has recorded the sym­phony sev­eral times, from Daniel Baren­boim’s first ac­count on­wards, and its fa­mil­iar virtues, above all per­haps its in­cred­i­bly gor­geous brass and wood­wind sec­tions, can be heard here to stun­ning ef­fect. Yet noth­ing hap­pens be­neath the sur­face. If you can imag­ine Bruckner rewrit­ten by Richard Strauss, this is it.

Ric­cardo Muti is fa­mous for the pol­ish of his per­for­mances, and he has shown an in­ter­est in Bruckner from time to time, record­ing Sym­phonies Nos 4 and 6 with some suc­cess. Here, how­ever, there is lit­tle sus­pense in the Beethoven Nine-like open­ing, no sav­age­ness in the great uni­son theme, no strug­gle in the first move­ment’s devel­op­ment. I thought that the stam­pede of the Scherzo might ig­nite the per­for­mance, but it is just heavy. And the third move­ment, with its Par­si­fal-like open­ing, its hes­i­ta­tions

and its dread­ful march to the abyss, quite lacks all the dis­parate qual­i­ties which make it one of mu­sic’s most gru­elling and pro­found ex­pe­ri­ences.

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