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I've had similar thoughts to Chris's. Even lovers of Bruckner will admit that some movements are more successful than others. However, we don't deign to omit them from performances and recordings. The 9th finale is arguably not at the same brilliant standard as the preceding movements, but as it is, except for a few patches, the composer's own work, it should not be ignored.
(It's not just Bruckner. I feel in general that it is not for any of us to second-guess the artistic decisions of a genius.)
'Art doesn't need philosophers. It just needs to communicate from soul to soul.' Alejandro Jodorowsky
Thanks for your kind responses Parla, Eyeresist!
I have just been thinking: I've known the completed version of Mahler 10 for almost 50 years now! I remember hearing the broadcast talk and excerpts on the BBC Third Programme in 1964, bought the Ormandy recording in 1966, then Rattle's first, then Wyn Morris (very underrated), the Chailly and so on. So I think I'm getting used to it by now! Now I don't think about it any more: it just sounds like Mahler. I hope it will take me less time to fully adjust to the Bruckner 9th (or not). I wonder if other conductors will take it up. One problem, most of my favourite Bruckner conductors are dead. Who are the great living Bruckner conductors?
Chris, if you mean by "living" even those who are still alive, I could mention at least Haitink, Von Dohnanyi, Blomstedt, Maazel. From the not too old, at least Jansons, Barenboim and Rattle (with reservations) and from the newer generation the brilliant Simone Young, the exciting Jaap van Zweden and the effective P. Jarvi (in the few he has recorded).
However, I doubt anyone of them would embark on dealing with the "controversy" of this reconstruction of the Ninth. If one of the newer conductors might do it, it will be as a "bonus" to a cycle, i.e. for commercial reasons.
Parla wrote: "Chris, if you mean by 'living' even those who are still alive, I could mention at least Haitink, Von Dohnanyi, Blomstedt, Maazel."
Ha, ha, Parla, so politely put!
I'm not such a great admirer of most of the younger others' Bruckner. And you're probably right, most of them will probably not do the four movement ninth. If the Mahler is anything to go by it will be years before others take it up. Hmm. Probably too late for me! Barenboim just might I suppose.
I have to say that I don't really enjoy the swifter, leaner view of Bruckner, either. Celidibache is a bit much for me at the moment, but in general I prefer a slower tempo and a reading which emphasises the spiritual, meditative, weighty side of the composer. (Just as I do with late Beethoven).
As to whether "older" composers do better with Bruckner.......Who do you have in mind? Wand with BPO? Abbado at Lucerne?
Having attended many live Bruckner concerts with Celibidache I must say that the CDs appear to be much slower than the live events. He knew why he didn't want recordings of his concerts! The relationships don't work in a different acoustic of your room and limitations of speakers, you don't hear half of the notes, hence it appears too slow. This live-vs-disc "problem" is particular to his music making, the colours and overtones you could hear live were astonishing, unlike anything I have ever heard before or after, so live he did need the slower tempi, they seemed perfect then.
Interesting, Jane, and a very thoughtful choice. Wand and Abbado. I'd never heard Wand conduct, live or on record, before he was an old man. I suspect that applies to most of us too, unless you happened to live in Cologne. I heard him conduct Bruckner live several times, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, most notably a superb 8th at the Proms. What I've subsequently heard of his earlier recordings suggests that greatness came quite late for him. And yes, I do like his recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic.
With Abbado too, the transformation after his serious illness has been truly astonishing, and not only regarding Bruckner. I don't think he really had the key to Bruckner before then though.
Perhaps these two represent extreme cases, but in any event it's their Bruckner performances as 'old' men that are surely the memorable ones.
Ganymede, I can't quite agree with you about Celibidache. His reasons for not making records were complex, and certainly he was not at his best in the studio. I heard him 'live' several times, unfortunately never conducting Bruckner. But I find his late Munich (live) recordings of Bruckner very satisfying. Only the 9th and perhaps the finale of the 8th seem so slow as to be in danger of falling apart. I'm very much prepared to believe that they would have been even better heard live. Did you hear him in the Philharmonie am Gasteig in Munich? I've never been there but reports generally have been far from favourable about that hall.
I must say I've heard a lot of favourable reports about Simone Young. I've never heard her 'live', and I don't remember her conducting in London (still less in Athens). I'll be watching out.
Because of the chorale and fugue elements, I sometimes thought the ambitious model for this movement was the finale of Brucker's 5th Symphony. That would seemingly require an ending in major-key grandeur, even if the approach to this were to have an awesome, edge-of-the -abyss quality that's found near the end of the 8th Symphony. But the idea at the start of this thread--that Bruckner wanted the symphony to end in tranquility--isn't altogether unthinkable. There's no precedent for this in Bruckner's symphonic finales, but there is a quiet ending in at least the F Minor Mass. This mass was a critical piece for Bruckner (biographers describe it almost as healing from a nervous breakdown). Maybe his last critical piece, if completed, could have also ended quietly, while still being unlike the last quiet endings of Mahler of Tchaikovsky.
I finally had the opportunity to hear Rattle's reading of the Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs performing version yesterday, and I agree that the final peroration in the coda sounds unconvincing, a "Fremdkorper" as the OP put it. But I've been acquainted with the finale for several years via Eichhorn's interpretation of an earlier version of S/M/P/C. Now I sometimes cringe at this performance as it is taken so slowly that it loses musical tension in many places, but the final anguished outburst and sudden pianissimo/crescendo approach to the ending seemed just right to me, and something Bruckner would probably have done. It is similar to the climax of the Adagio, which sounds a similar note of anguish, after which in the earlier movement the storm clouds dissipate and we are gradually eased onto the serene last page. In the finale, it was like glimpsing the gates of Heaven at first from afar, and then in full glory as the symphony ended: a convincing sense of final arrival very much like the coda of Mahler's Third. But S/M/P/C say that this pianissimo was the main deletion they made for their 2012 version. My guess is that they made this change for the sake of authenticity, since the deleted material was undoubtedly of their own devising, Bruckner's sketches not having made it that far into the coda - but of course that's true of the last pages as well! The ending we hear to this work will always be a speculative one, with all respect to S/M/P/C's forensic musicology, without which we would not have the music in the form we do now. I just think that musically, the ending in their earlier version works much better, and I hope someone of Rattle's caliber eventually records it.
In all other respects though, this is the best performance and recording I have ever heard of the "completed" symphony, and I'm so thankful that we have it to hear and enjoy!
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