Peter Jan Marthé

Anton Bruckner: Symphony 9 Reloaded

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Anton Bruckner: Symphony 9 Reloaded Review

by Blair Sanderson

Several attempts have been made to complete Anton Bruckner's unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor, notably with the 1984 Finale by leading Bruckner authority William Carragan, the 1992 completion by Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzuca, and further revisions by Samale and Mazzuca with John A. Phillips and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs -- all well-documented efforts that merit serious discussion. However, the version offered on this Preiser release is an independent project by conductor Peter Jan Marthé, who freely composed a new Finale based on Bruckner's fragments and relied a great deal on his own fervent imagination in concocting this enormous appendage. Not many listeners have access to Bruckner's sketches and few recordings have been made of the scholarly versions mentioned above, so there's no easy way to know how Marthé's Finale stacks up. But it can adequately be described as an exercise in bombast, with moments of clever mimicry of Bruckner's style (many ideas sound like near quotations from his other symphonies), but with long stretches of dullness that make this half-hour movement seem tiresome and needless. For many years it has been considered proper form to play the first three movements of the Symphony No. 9 as the authentic work, and many have regarded the Adagio as a perfectly satisfactory and even sublime ending. If that is desired, then Marthé and the European Philharmonic Orchestra deliver a by-the-book performance on disc 1 and the first track of disc 2, and the Finale can be skipped in good conscience. But beware Preiser's incredibly boosted sound, which is great for hearing all the details clearly but inordinately loud in the gigantic climaxes, of which there are many.

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