Bruckner: Symphony no. 9

Eschewing the
completions of the torso or attempts to include with the movements with another
composition by the composer to round out the program, the performance avoids
some of the overt attention to the fact that the work is unfinished and,
instead, provides a reading that treats the completed portion with

An important modern interpreter of Bruckner, Welser-Most leads the score
with authority and finesse. The phrasing and articulation of the phrase
structure stands out for the clarity Welser-Most delivers in this performance.
His sense of timing in the cadences allows the ideas flow naturally. Yet the
sound does not always serve the performance sufficiently to render some of the
details that are apparent visually from the gestures Welser-Most uses in this
performance. Not distorted, the sound is overly even, with the softer, thinner
passages in the first movement lacking the almost inaudible quality that is
part of some audio recordings. Likewise, the climactic points fail to deliver
the full textures that are part of the score and evident visually in
Welser-Most’s conducting. It is, nonetheless, a clean performance that
shows the precision of the Cleveland Orchestra, with good balances between the
sections of the orchestra, particularly the idiomatically solid brass sound
that never distorts the textures with the strings and woodwinds.

The first movement is nicely paced to enhance the sense mystery as the piece
unfolds and underscoring the composer’s initial marking “Feierlich,
misterioso.” Welser-Most offers a clear presentation of the sections of
the movement, with the exposition delineated effectively. At the same time, the
conductor does not give away the recapitulation prematurely, but blends the
reprise of the opening section convincingly into the structure, making the
architecture of the movement palpable.

Welser-Most gives a vivid reading of Scherzo that follows, with the
accompaniment nicely audible, and the percussive sonorities that character the
opening section appropriately for the acoustics of the hall. The antiphonal
passages have the proper resonance in this recording. This is an exemplary
treatment of the movement that lends itself to repeated hearings to review the
varied reprise Welser-Most achieves by bringing out the details of
articulations of inflection.

Yet the third (Adagio. Langsam feierlich) movement stands apart from the
others for Welser-Most’s convincing interpretation. It becomes a
convincing conclusion for the work, which benefits from the breadth the
conductor contributes to the score. Like other slow movements of
Bruckner’s symphonies, this one benefits from the details that emerge in
the thoughtful execution. The sustained pitches at the end offer a sense of
finality and, as an unfinished work that ends in medias res,
Welser-Most’s pause before bringing down his arms seems to pay tacit
homage to the composer who died while composing the work.

Visually, the clear images are welcome, especially the close-ups of the
various sections of the orchestra. At times, though, the shots suggest a large
ensemble on a crowded stage, an image that is at odds with the actual size of
the hall that generates the full sound Welser-Most draws from the Cleveland
Orchestra, as viewed at the end of the Scherzo and the conclusion of the last

James L. Zychowicz

image_description=Anton Bruckner: Symphony no. 9 in D minor
product_title=Anton Bruckner: Symphony no. 9 in D minor
product_by=Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Most, conductor.
product_id=Medici Arts 2056848 [DVD]