Bruckner: Symphony No. 9

Cristian Mandeal / Hallé Orchestra

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 Review

by Blair Sanderson

At the outset of this 2009 recording of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 in D minor by Cristian Mandeal and the Hallé, listeners may be prepared for a heavy-hitting, apocalyptic performance of this work, but they will find in short order one of the gentlest and most lyrical renditions on disc. There's no reason why Bruckner's final symphony has to be played as if it's a titanic struggle at the end of the world, and there's much quiet music of a soft and even poignant character in it to suggest a milder approach than is usually brought to bear. But there are many Brucknerians who will feel that the sound here is inadequate to the composer's orchestration and intentions, especially in passages where the brass really need to blaze, and that there is actual muting or muffling of the reproduction in several spots that accounts for the lower than expected volume or sudden drops in levels. To get the full effect of the orchestra, the volume does need to be kept fairly high, and the listener should expect a wide difference between the highs and lows. Because this recording presents the unnecessary difficulty of finding the proper volume adjustment -- as well as unwanted sounds of overexertion from the conductor -- it merits a lower rating than many other better-sounding performances on the market, despite the interesting lyrical interpretation.

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