Mariss Jansons / Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9

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The prolific Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons, despite his general orientation toward the late Romantics, rarely conducted Bruckner over most of his long career. That all changed in the late 2010s with a series of Bruckner recordings, including a cycle with Jansons' current band, the Sinfonieorchester des bayerischen Rundfunks (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra). Some believe that conductors should wait until late middle age before attempting Bruckner, and indeed they can point to this fine recording of the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, WAB 109, as evidence. The work was left unfinished at Bruckner's death; various completions of the partially finished finale exist, but Jansons makes a powerful case for performing only the torso. Sample the 22-minute finale, which seems to end on a mystical plane in Jansons' deliberate reading. Jansons actually recorded the Ninth just three years before the 2019 release of this album, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, but Bruckner lovers may wish to have both versions, for Jansons does not repeat himself. This reading is several minutes slower than the RCO version, as if Jansons wanted to broaden the scope of the earlier limpid, transparent reading. He keeps the transparency, though, and both of the 20-minute-plus outer movements unfold with a deep pulse that is essential to Bruckner. The music moves along in waves that may bring to mind the work of Jansons' first major teacher, Yevgeny Mravinsky. The Bavarian Radio players are native to the music of this period, and they realize Jansons' level of detail in a way that even other top-rank orchestras might not. Special praise must be directed toward the orchestra's house engineering staff (the album appears on the orchestra's own BR Klassik label), who separate out the various strands of this complex work with awesome clarity.

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