Day 58: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Barenboim)

This evening, I am listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (WAB 109), interpreted by Argentine-born pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim (1942-), whom I saw conduct the Staatskapelle Berlin in a performance of Bruckner’s Eighth at Carnegie Hall on January 28th of this year. (I’ll never stop bragging about that. It was one of the highlights of my life.)

NOTE: I have two Barenboim CD box sets for this leg of my Bruckner journey. The first (which I call the “Blue Box”) is on the Warner Classics label. The second (which I call the “Pink Box”) is on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The performances in the Blue Box were recorded in the 1990s. The performances in the Pink Box were recorded much more recently, 2012 and 2010.

So…alpha by conductor, then chronological by year recorded.

Because today’s recording comes from the Pink Blox, Barenboim’s orchestra for this performance is the Staatskapelle Berlin. And the music label is Deutsche Grammophon, one of my all-time favorite labels for Classical music.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s First with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 2.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Second with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 7.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Third with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 12.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Fourth with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 18.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Fifth with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 26.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Sixth with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 34.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Seventh with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 42.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Eighth with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 50.

If you don’t want to know what I thought about those previous performances, keep reading about today’s.

Here are the objective stats about today’s performance:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (WAB 109), composed 1887–1896
Daniel Barenboim conducts
Barenboim used the “original version – Leopold Nowak rev. edition 1951,” according to the liner notes
Staatskapelle Berlin plays
The symphony clocks in at 59:54
This was recorded in Berlin, Germany, in June of 2010
Barenboim was 68 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 72 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Peral Music label (licensed to Deutsche Grammophon)

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. He would have done so this time, as well, but he died before completing the Finale. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor), from this particular conductor (Barenboim) and this particular orchestra (Staatskapelle Berlin) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso………………………………………………………………………….24:25
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft; Trio. Schnell………………………………………………………………………………………………….10:25
III. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich………………………………………………………………………………………………..25:04
IV. Finale: None……………………………………………………………………………………00:00

Total Time: 59:54

Of the Nowak edition that Barenboim used, its entry on Wikipedia tells us,

Nowak edition (1951)
This is a corrected reprint of the Orel edition of 1932.

And the entry for the Orel edition tells us,

Orel edition (1932)
This was the first edition that attempted to reproduce what Bruckner actually wrote. This version was first performed in 1932 by Siegmund von Hausegger with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. In the concert, the symphony was performed twice, first in Löwe’s edition and then in the Orel version. It includes only the first three complete movements.

And now here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 3 (very thin booklet with a sparse essay about Bruckner, the orchestra, and Barenboim translated into English, German, and French)
How does this make me feel: 5

This is a spectacular performance, recorded well.

It begins with eight seconds of silence, which – unless you’re prepared for it – seems like there might be something wrong with the recording. As I sat waiting I thought, “Is this thing on? Did I click the button?”

Then I noticed that the “silence” was more like violins playing very softly. At the eight-second mark, the horns come in…and first movement begins.

From the get-go, I can tell this is recorded well. It has the “magic” that I require in my Classical music listening.

I’ve tried to analyze what this “magic” is. It comes down to how something is recorded. There’s a spaciousness between the instruments – a kind of three-dimensional quality – that enables me to hear all of the individual instruments rather than all of them as a whole.

Plus, the horns can’t dominate. When horns get too tinny or blat-y or piercing it turns me off. (Dixieland Jazz drives me nuts.)

So, a “magical” recording has to have depth and sizzle, but not be so closely mic’d that the horn section becomes an irritation.

Is that asking too much? 🙂

Another way a recording can be “magical” has nothing to do with the clarity of the sound. If a performance is historically important, or if it’s just so obviously amazing that even if it were recorded 70 years ago it still electrifies, then, sure. No expensive recording equipment or advanced degrees in sound reproduction needed.

Anyway, this Barenboim performance begins with an immensity, a depth and an expansiveness that drew me in from the start.

That “magic” carried through to the playful, powerful, Scherzo as well. Every instrument was clear and captivating. As always, I loved the pizzicato. That always sounds like a cartoon character sneaking up behind another character, on tip toes.

The Adagio was remarkably moving, right through to the very long notes and the pizzicato that seem to reach the heavens.

This was an amazing performance, highly recommended, that ends with applause that I believe (for once) is warranted.

A beautiful performance.

“Huzzah!”

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