BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor – Radio Symphony SWR, Stuttgart/Carlo Maria Giulini – Hanssler

by | Nov 19, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor – Radio Symphony SWR, Stuttgart/Carlo Maria Giulini – Hanssler CD 93.186, 62:18 (Distrib. Allegro) *****:

For the spirit of valediction, even that forbidden mourning, go no further than this resuscitated performance of the Bruckner Ninth (20 September 1996) led by the noble maestro Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005), one of the aristocrats of the conductor’s art. The lovely A Major theme of the opening movement exhibits a sweet serenity, the interval of a fifth rising and falling in passionate waves. The third theme, a cross between crusader’s march and bucolic invocation, moves with a deliberate sense of mortality. Imperious and solemn, the first movement plays out its massive structure in blazing periods,. The Stuttgart brass is in regal, dare I say, Wagnerian, form. The extended transition to the recapitulation pours out like a lost, dissonant sequence from Smetana’s The Moldau. The hymnal march becomes more frenzied, clamoring for spiritual guarantees, an assault on Valhalla. The exaltation in the grand reprise (D Major) will surely remind collectors of Furtwaengler’s one extant inscription from 1944, when that conductor was bidding a whole culture an anguished farewell. The stretti approaching the coda roll forth, the tympani and brass lit up, until the French horn and woodwinds try to exert something of Nature’s melioration on the solemn procession.

The wicked Scherzo combines the danse macabre with an organ sonority reminiscent of the Dies Irae of the Verdi Requiem. Giulini works up a frenzy in the trumpets, strings, and tympani; even Nature’s balm in the trio cannot dispel the angst. The horn and wind motifs become increasingly disturbed in syncopation, this world being metrically askew. The dissonance over the pizzicati strings usher in the whirlwind once more, a titanic death march, a tempestuous cataclysm, Yeats’ rough beast. Splendid trumpet work from the SWR, the dizzying drive of the movement a real tour de force. The great D Major Adagio can be interpreted as Bruckner or Giulini’s swan-song. That Bruckner intended to provide a last movement to this symphony is common knowledge; Giulini put down his baton in 1998. The ethereal, literally aerial heights of Giulini’s Adagio bespeak Nietzsche’s lonely philosophical musings on mountain tops. The great hymn of melody emerges out of strings and winds, a Marienlied of passionate beauty. The deep, manic tones of the brass often suggest Franck or the fin-de-siecle school of Schmidt and Korngold. Masses of sound hurl themselves heavenward, and sound engineer Bernhard Bauer of SWR has been meticulous in capturing them in a most spacious testament to Giulini’s late style.

— Gary Lemco

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