Franz Konwitschny

Bruckner: Sinfonie Nr. 9

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Bruckner: Sinfonie Nr. 9 Review

by James Leonard

During a rehearsal two months after this recording of Bruckner's Ninth was taped in June 1962, East German conductor Franz Konwitschny fell dead of a heart attack. This recording is an amazingly appropriate epitaph because in the solemn and mysterious music of Bruckner's unfinished Ninth, Konwitschny faced death: its fears in the opening movement and its terrors in the Scherzo, but also its consolation and even in the final pages of the Adagio, the peace that surpasseth all understanding. Although the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig is not really up to the demands of the music, Konwitschny pushes them to go beyond themselves, and in the act of striving to go beyond themselves, the Leipzig Radio orchestra embodies one of the crucial elements of the Ninth: its ineluctable longing for transcendence. Thus while their winds might weaken, their horns may crack and their strings might scrape, their performance achieves immortality precisely because it so very much wants to. Certainly, this should not be anyone's first Bruckner Ninth -- try the incandescent Furtwängler or the titanic Klemperer or the blessed Walter -- but it will astound and astonish those who already know and love the work.

Weitblick's gray, dry and hollow sound makes the performance seem decades older than its age.

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