This masterpiece was the shy Austrian composer’s final symphonic utterance, and is incomplete at that – lacking the finale of which only portions exist. We have reviewed an earlier SACD with Nikolaus Harnoncourt which includes a workshop lecture with examples of what fragments exist of the symphony’s finale. Frankly, since the movement is full of missing sections, I feel it is best not included – although it was interesting to hear Harnoncourt’s demonstration.
The Ninth is a sort of summary of Bruckner’s lifetime reworking of symphonic structure in his own no-compromising way. It is undoubtedly the most modern of all his works, and the second movement Scherzo with its incessant hammering rhythm could fit right into the futurist/mechanized music style which developed in the 1920s. The final movement he actually completed – the Adagio – is the longest of the three and abounds in many intense orchestral climaxes. It is so monumental-sounding that it brings the symphony to a very logical conclusion and one doesn’t miss the finale at all.
Marek Janowski has been both the music director and artistic director of the famed Suisse Romande since 2005. The recording was made in the Victoria Hall of the orchestra in Geneva last year, and I find it frankly more attractive both sonically and performance-wise to the Vienna Philharmonic SACD which we placed on our Best of the Year List. The orchestra sounds more gutsy and the low bass support is stronger than on the RCA SACD. The Vienna performance even sounds just a bit strident and thin vs. the richer Suisse Romande version. The vital over structure of Bruckner’s massive blocks of sound seems to flow more naturally and smoothly, although Janowski’s length times out at only three minutes longer than the Vienna recording. To quote our own Gary Lemco, there’s more “Brucknerian resonance.”
— John Sunier