Andris Nelsons / Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 9; Wagner: Siegfried Idyll; Parsifal Prelude

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Andris Nelsons has emerged as one of the top conductors of big late Romantic repertory, and his cycle of Bruckner symphonies has contained some gems. Here, he pairs the Symphony No. 6 in A major, with the gigantic Symphony No. 9 in D minor, where the composer strove for the heights of Beethoven's Ninth, but didn't quite make it: he died before completing the work. Many completions have been offered, but Nelsons here performs only the first three movements, as completed by the composer before his death. In this case, the Adagio lives up to its "feierlich" (ceremonial, festive) marking despite its 24-plus minutes of slow movement, making for a satisfying finale. Nelsons' Symphony No. 9 in general is quite a strong one, and a good deal of the pleasure is down to the expertise of the venerable Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, which all around ranks among Europe's best. The brass execute flawlessly in the mighty fanfares of the Symphony No. 9, and they're matched by the strings in Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, and the Prelude to Parsifal. Sample the Siegfried Idyll for an example of central European orchestral playing at its absolute best. The Symphony No. 6 in A major is not quite as successful, although the orchestra's talents are undimmed. It's hard to get "feierlich" out of his slower-than-normal, rather lugubrious Adagio (the corresponding movement in the Symphony No. 9 is not so slow), and a sense of the larger line so crucial to Bruckner is lost. In general, however, this is a major release for Brucknerites, with Deutsche Grammophon, as with other releases in this series, furnishing excellent sound from the Gewandhaus.

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