Is there a better opening in music than the mighty Feierlich, Misterioso of Bruckner’s final symphony? Like the start of most of his symphonies, a quiet tremolando in the strings makes way for the drama to follow, here in the superb key of D minor. Just to remind your ear, Bruckner plonks down a unison D in the oboes and bassoons' lowest registers, before the horn section commences its glorious climb toward heaven. It’s nobility personified.
Italian maestro Riccardo Muti is a master Bruckner conductor. Interestingly, he stays away from Mahler -- the two usually go hand in hand for many conductors. Before they became popular, mainstream composers, writers would often pair the two as the subjects of essays and books. I've had lots of arguments with my friends, family and colleagues why I think Bruckner the superior composer (in so many ways), though I do love Mahler, especially his very late masterpieces. This argument is almost as heated among musicians as the vinyl/digital debate is with audiophiles.
Anyway, enough of that. You're here because you're a Bruckner or Muti fan. Let me tell you why you can buy this Chicago Symphony Orchestra self release (its Resound label) with the utmost confidence.
Muti’s 9 is exceptionally well prepared and expansive. He uses the original version which is basically Nowak’s reworking of Bruckner’s original after the many editing atrocities foisted on the score by Löwe and others.
Each movement has great drama interspersed with the most beautiful moments of repose. Muti treasures the ends of phrases — everything has its place, nothing is rushed.
It’s a future reaching work considering all the ‘old man’ and ‘organ for orchestra’ epithets thrown at Bruckner by musical nincompoops. Harmonically, it is a bloody marvel — it also features some of his most elegiac melodies. It was left unfinished after Bruckner’s death (and better left that way, please). Considering its circumstances, what could follow that magnificent Adagio?
Muti’s merry Chicago band sound magnificent in a sumptuous recording. They played the first US performance in 1904 and own the piece — they’ve recorded it umpteen times. I love Guilini’s performance on EMI, Barenboim’s less so. Muti strikes a nice balance — well recorded with lots of inner detail and power when needed and phrasing that allows Bruckner’s orchestration its full measure. Very highly recommended.
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Riccardo Muti
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Recording Date: June, 2016
Recording Location: Chicago Orchestra Hall
Scherzo: Bewegt, lebhaft