* BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor – London Sym. Orch./ Bernard Haitink – LSO Live LSO0746 multichannel SACD, 67:10 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
The Symphony No. 9 in D minor is only a partial symphony, with three movements and some sketches for the Fourth before the composer died in 1896. While some recording are offered with the fourth movement completed by other composers, this performance with the London Symphony Orchestra and Bernard Haitink has only the Bruckner-composed three movements.
Bruckner knew he might not finish the composition, and suggested his Te Deum be played at the end, and there have been some recording and concerts following that request.
Recording of the 9th are common, with the first I know of being the Klemperer with the New York Philharmonic from 1934. This SACD is among the best recording/performances I have heard. The driving and mysterious first movement is rendered with emotion and precision. The recording is so detailed I can hear counter-melodies that have eluded me in other editions. The remaining two movements are also exemplary.
Bruckner called the 3rd and final movement his “Farewell to Life”. Indeed it was. There is dissonance, quotes from some of Bruckner’s earlier symphonies, and the Kyrie of his Mass No. 3. Again, this is a very detailed recording that never strays into garishness.
The disc is a happy combination of playing of the first order and an SACD to bring it all into the home. Of the Bruckner 9ths I’ve heard, this will be my reference until something comes along to top it. Instruments are perfectly balanced, and the surrounds offer a hint of the hall. It is far better than Haitink’s earlier Concertgebouw recording available on CD and iTunes.
This recording was made at the Barbican in London in February of 2013. The Barbican has always been acoustically controversial, with complaints about its ‘dry’ sound, but the engineering here is warm and rich. It’s no small accomplishment.