Day 61: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Inbal)

My “office” this morning is a local Grand Coney restaurant where the coffee flows freely, the biscuits and gravy platter is the shit, and the tables are so wide I could lie on them.

And, really, isn’t that everything you look for in a restaurant?

Well, it is for me.

So here I am listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (WAB 109), interpreted by Israeli conductor Eliahu Inbal (1936-).

I heard Maestro Inbal on eight previous days:

On Day 3, Symphony No. 1.

And on Day 8, Symphony No. 2.

And on Day 14, Symphony No. 3.

And on Day 21, Symphony No. 4.

And again on Day 29, Symphony No. 5.

And again on Day 37, Symphony No. 6.

And again on Day 45, Symphony No. 7.

And again, most recently, on Day 53, Symphony No. 8.

If you want to read what I thought of his interpretations, have at it. If not, read on…

But before I get to the objective stats, I need to mention two things:

1. The Inbal interpretation includes a Finale – without explanation about where it came from, who edited it, which version…nothing. There’s just a fourth movement there: Poof! No information whatsoever about it. I’ve never heard the fourth movement to Bruckner’s Ninth. So I’m looking forward to it. Yet, at the same time, I’m pissed that the bozos at Warner Classics & Jazz didn’t think it important to provide information/explanation for this happenstance.

So I’m having to Google the hell out of the matter to find an explanation out there regarding Inbal’s Finale. (More about that down below in the “subjective” section of today’s post.)

2. I noticed last night that I’m up to Day 61 of my 63-day exploration. Yet, I have three box sets left. Oops. That means this leg of my journey into Bruckner Land should have been called 64 More Days With Bruckner And Me. The only way to fix that now is to declare Day 63 twice, call it Day 63 +1, Day 63 1/2, Day 63 B…I don’t know. All I do know for a certainty is that I have more performances left than I have days.

Okay, on to the objective aspect to today’s performance…

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (WAB 109), composed 1887–1896
Eliahu Inbal conducts
Inbal used the “Original version,” (whatever that means) according to the CD sleeve
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt plays
The symphony clocks in at 78:12
This was recorded in Frankfurt, Germany, in September of 1986, and October of 1987
Inbal was 50 and 51 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 72 when he died before finishing it
This recording was released on the Warner Classics & Jazz label/Teldec Classics label

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 (Inbal) and this particular orchestra (Frankfurt Radio Symphony) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso………………………………………………………………………….23:11
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft; Trio. Schnell………………………………………………………………………………………………….10:29
III. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich………………………………………………………………………………………………..23:47
IV. Finale………………………………………………………………………………………………20:44

Total Time: 78:12

Of the mysterious Finale, its entry on Wikipedia tells me which version Inbal likely used:

Samale/Mazzuca completion (1984, rev. 1985)
The team of Nicola Samale and Giuseppe Mazzuca put together a new realization from 1983 to 1985, which was recorded 1986 by Eliahu Inbal and fits in with Inbal’s recordings of early versions of Bruckner’s Symphonies. It was also included by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky in his recording of the different versions of Bruckner’s symphonies. The coda of the Samale & Mazzuca realization has more in common with the corresponding passage of the Eighth Symphony than it does with the later Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs realization. The authors, Samale and Mazzuca, do not wish this version to be performed any longer.


But without digging into who those people (Samale/Mazzuca) were/are, I still don’t know what version Inbal used here, how it was created.

Of even more interest is the next entry on Wikipedia about the Samale/Mazzuca version:

Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs completion (1992, rev. 1996, rev. 2005, rev. 2008, rev. 2011)

For this venture Samale and Mazzuca were joined by John A. Phillips and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs. This completion proposes one way to realize Bruckner’s intention to combine themes from all four movements. The 1996 revision has been recorded by Johannes Wildner for Naxos and also by Kurt Eichhorn, with the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, for the Camerata label.

A new, revised edition of this completion was published in 2005 by Nicola Samale and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs. Cohrs’ latest research made it also possible to recover the musical content of one missing bifolio in the Fugue fully from the particello-sketch. This new edition, in all 665 bars long, makes use of 569 bars from Bruckner himself. This version has been recorded by Marcus Bosch for the label Coviello Classics.

A revised reprint of this first revision was performed by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Harding, Stockholm, in November 2007. This revision was published in 2008 and was then recorded by conductor Friedemann Layer with the Musikalische Akademie des Nationaltheater-Orchesters Mannheim. Richard Lehnert explains the changes made for this version.

A final revision was made in 2011, in particular including an entirely new conception of the Coda. The world premiere of this new ending was given by the Dutch Brabants Orkest under the baton of Friedemann Layer in Breda (NL), 15 October 2011. It was performed in Berlin on 9 February 2012 by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic and can be watched on the Internet. This version was released on EMI Classics on 22 May 2012. Rattle conducted the American premiere at Carnegie Hall on 24 February 2012.

Here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (very thin booklet, sparse essay about Bruckner translated into English, German, and French; no information at all about Eliahu Inbal)
How does this make me feel: 4

First of all, I find it fascinating that Inbal’s interpretation – even with a fourth movement – is still shorter than Celibidache’s interpretation of only three movements.

Second, this Finale totally ruins the symphony for me. It’s meandering, unfocused. Doesn’t seem to fit with the previous three movements.

Third, I don’t even now what this Finale is. Is it Bruckner’s Te Deum, which I’ve never heard? Is it something else, Frankensteined together from a bunch of parts and pieces?

I’ve been Googling Inbal and the mystery finale and I haven’t found anything yet as to where Inbal got this. I tried the superb (Bruckner Society of America) site and I suppose the answer could be found there. But I wasn’t seeing it after a half hour or so of looking and reading. So I continued to Google it, eventually reading the entry on Wikipedia that I noted above.

Fourth, the best part of the Finale is from 15:23 onward, especially starting at 15:36 (until about 16:21 or so). That melody/counter-melody is stirring. It reminds me of a movie soundtrack, in particular the part in the Tom Hanks film version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Toward the end of the film, when Robert Langdon stands above the glass at the Louvre and realizes where Mary is buried, there’s a bit of music playing that reminds me of this piece from the Finale.

This is the piece of music I mean, one of the most powerful I’ve ever recorded for a movie.

That’s what the passage in the Finale reminded me of.

Overall, I don’t know what to make of this interpretation by Inbal. I don’t like the Finale stuck on without notice or explanation. I don’t like the Finale in general. Just the passage I noted above.

I prefer Bruckner’s Ninth to remain unfinished, without a fourth movement. The way it ends now, with the Adagio, is perfect.

As with other Inbal performances, this is very brassy. Lots of very loud horns.

I liked it better than other Inbal interpretations. But there’s still too much about it I didn’t like for me to give it a thumbs up.

This isn’t a bad recording or performance, by any means. In some ways, it’s quite stirring. But in the grand scheme of life, would I recommend this to someone? No.

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