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Symphony No.9 in D minor
Psalm 150*

Ruth Welting (Soprano)*
Chicago Symphony Chorus*
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Daniel Barenboim
Eloquence 469 667-2 [69.26]

This Bruckner Ninth from the complete cycle by Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on DG was recorded in 1976, three years after the Fourth Symphony that is reissued simultaneously on Eloquence and also reviewed this month. A better prospect for bargain collectors because in those three years Barenboim seems to have developed and grown both as a conductor and a Brucknerian. He is more flexible in the first movement than he was in the Fourth, for example, but not so much that he undermines the basic tensile strength that is needed in this movement which can, on occasions, sprawl and Barenboim certainly avoids that happening. I did rather feel that in the second movement Barenboim couldn't quite make up his mind whether to go for grandeur or brutality and so falls between the two. The main pounding rhythm surely needs a touch more weight but the strange little Trio section certainly finds him responding well to its change of mood. Most impressive of all, however, is the last movement where Barenboim and the orchestra bring an impressive level of concentration and, when necessary, heaven-storming power amid the spiritual repose with only the final dissonant climax lacking the shocking power of some other versions. The sound recording is, as ever with this cycle, very wide in dynamics and a little "toppy", especially in the brass. Generally I felt a little more involved with the performance than I did with the Fourth. The strings are especially well reproduced and as they respond lyrically to Barenboim's direction this is a considerable plus. He also manages to convey a good amount of inner string harmonies, violas and cellos especially, which when taken with a much more subtle response from the brass department here than in the Fourth makes the playing more distinguished too.

Even though it occupies less than nine minutes Psalm 150 is more than just a makeweight on this disc. This is a grand and fervent piece that Barenboim and his forces treat with all the care they might lavish on one of the great symphonies, and the choral singing is magnificent.

As with the Fourth, in this price range the version by Georg Tintner on Naxos (8.554268) remains the one to have for getting much deeper under the skin of the symphony. But Barenboim's Chicago performance is a welcome bargain alternative for those who want to hear one of the world's crack ensembles in the symphony and who might also need Psalm 150 in their collections.


Tony Duggan

Reviews from previous months

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