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Posted June 14, 2011
Bruckner's ninth is one of the great symphonies ever written. It has many recordings to its name, and while I haven't heard very many of them, this one is surely great. It just feels so right; Paavo chooses tempi and phrasing that are ideally balanced; neither too slow and melodramatic nor fast and cheapening. This music is profound, inward, soul-searching stuff, not to be taken either lightly or for granted, and the conductor finds it exactly.
The orchestra is marvelous as well, or course, for without it there would be no recording. The sections are wonderfully balanced; in my experience there are few other recordings that bring out the dissonant clash between brass and strings at the end of the first movement so well and so brutally--it's a genuine, guttural thrill.
The adagio is the highlight of this recording. The tempo is slightly broader than usual, but this is not to make it "more emotional" or "more profound" so much as it is to emphasize the space, the bareness of texture that Bruckner wrote into it. The melodic lines are painfully beautiful, the final "crisis" moment utterly terrifying, and the coda is indescribably sublime.
I remember hearing Paavo's recording of the 7th, and I couldn't understand it, partially indeed because I didn't know the symphony that well and still have no idea how to listen to it. Nevertheless, this recording more than makes up for any qualms from the previous installment in this Bruckner cycle. Bruckner is a composer worth listening to, and now this conductor is proving himself worth hearing as well.