Bruckner: Symphony No. 9

Carlo Maria Giulini / SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Carlo Maria Giulini recorded Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 in D minor no fewer than three times: in 1976 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in 1988 with the Vienna Philharmonic, and in 1996 with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. Each performance has its adherents, but all three are magnificent interpretations that die-hard Brucknerians should feel proud to own and newcomers should explore before any others. However, there is a minor disadvantage to the 1996 recording, reissued in 2006 by Hänssler, since some humming is noticeable and a little distracting, especially in the lyrical moments of the first movement. But this is the only serious flaw on this splendid live recording, and the majestic music more than compensates for the faint vocalizations and the occasional audience noises. Because Bruckner's final score is so profoundly moving in its dignity, mystery, violence, and ecstasy, and because Giulini's understanding of the music is so keen and serious, this performance of the symphony compels attentive listening and receptive emotions. Don't attempt this CD in a casual mood, because it demands full commitment to be appreciated properly and to pay out its rewards, which are many. The reproduction is exceptionally close up and clear, and the orchestra sounds amazingly lifelike, particularly in the vivid woodwinds and brass.

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