Bruckner: Symphony 9

Album review
Bruckner: Symphony 9

Anton Bruckner

Bruckner: Symphony 9

Label: Gramola
Media: CD
Genre: Classical
Ratings:
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Conductors have long experimented with widely disparate tempos in Bruckner’s symphonies, perhaps because the music is so exalted that no one performance can ever fully encompass its dark mysteries and celestial heights. Rémy Ballot’s reading of Bruckner’s Ninth (and last) Symphony is the slowest yet on record: 77 minutes. Critical reactions have been mixed, some excoriating Ballot for letting its vast architecture collapse (perhaps true of the elephantine central scherzo), some extolling him for achieving an awesome grandeur that approaches ideal. I find Ballot’s Ninth riveting: listening to it sends chills up my spine, especially as Gramola’s magnificent surround-sound presentation conveys both the cavernous vastness and the granitic power of this (in concert) performance with stunning realism. Included also on a second disc is a two-piano arrangement of the symphony (here played by Matthias Giesen and Klaus Laczika). Though necessarily a sort of X-ray of the symphonic score, this is still massive in sonority while at the same time revealing all sorts of fascinating harmonic and polyphonic audacities submerged in the orchestral incarnation: an indispensable benefit for anyone who wishes to delve deeper into this ever-astonishing Austrian’s sonic cathedrals.

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Contributors:
  • composer, Anton Bruckner
  • conductor, Rémy Ballot

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