On the heels of the new recording of the Libera Me finale for Mozart’s Requiem comes this double-disc combo of two first recordings: a new Critical Edition of the three-movement Ninth by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, plus a lecture/demonstration by conductor Harnoncourt titled “Like a Stone from the Moon” on the original Finale composed by Bruckner shortly before his death for his final symphony. The lecture disc is only a standard CD; I found this difficult to understand since it too includes orchestral performances of existing portions of the Ninth’s Finale. The first half of the first disc is the documentation in German, and in the second half Harnoncourt is speaking in English. While the talk and research is interesting – especially the urging to listeners to check their attics and other storage areas for the missing pages of Bruckner’s last symphony – I felt from the excerpts heard that even if we had a fairly complete score for the Finale it didn’t measure up to the compelling quality of the three movements with which we are familiar.
The main thrust of the new performing version of the symphony seems to be a return to what Bruckner originally envisioned, paring away the cuts and changes made by well-meaning conductors and others at Bruckner’s time and more recently to try to make the composer’s works more palatable to audiences of the time. The notes spend much time discussing the various Christian theological themes which the author finds so transparent in the music. For example, the frequent repeating dotted notes representing the flagellation of Christ. Others of us can just experience the music as the impressive final statement on symphony structure and harmony from one of the greatest symphonists ever. The live recording was made in the Large Festspiel House in Salzburg in 2002 and is a thrilling surround recording of this masterpiece.
– John Sunier