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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 9 (Nowak edition 1894) [59:56] Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)
Ceremonial. An Autumn Ode - for Orchestra with Sho (1992) [09:11]
Mayumi Miyata (Sho)
Tonkünstler Symphony Orchestra /Yutaka Sado
rec. live, 21-23 May 2017, Wiener Musikverein TONKÜNSTLER TON2004 SACD [69:20]
This is a magnificent account – mighty and mysterious, in majestic recorded sound with a slight, golden aureole around the acoustic. It is a live recording, but there is absolutely no audience noise; all that can be heard is the intake of the conductor’s breath before phrases, but the microphone placement is otherwise not too close.
Everything is perfected judged: tempi, dynamics and phrasing and the playing throughout is superb, without blemish; the soft playing of the horns is especially praiseworthy. The balance between orchestral sections is ideal, the timpani at times prominent, then rumbling like distant thunder. Sado has a wonderful way of leaning into those long phrases of the first subject, to which he applies subtle rubato. The familiar music unfolds effortlessly but there is no sense of routine; the great fanfare climaxes of the first movement are delivered with weight and power.
The Scherzo is menacing and insistent, the flutes and violins flickering demonically above the percussive, bass ostinato underlay. The Trio is fleet and mercurial, again, Sado again applying rubato judiciously.
Brucknerians are now so habituated to hearing a reconstructed finale that a new recording which concludes this unfinished symphony with “just” the sublime Adagio is a novelty, but this performance is so well judged that it re-asserts the wisdom of ending it here. The ascending figures on shimmering strings, ethereal flutes and hieratic horns confirm the Adagio as the eschatological consummation of a spiritual journey in three movements and the way the horn in the concluding bars subsides into infinity is over comforting pizzicato murmurs is wholly satisfying.
Takemitsu’s short “Ceremonial” is a rarity and a curiosity for Western audiences and by no means inappropriate as an appendage to the symphony. The keening harmonics of the tone clusters produced on the solo sho are suitably other-worldly and create an interesting and atmospheric aural texture.
There are far too many highly desirable recordings of the three movement version for this new release to be an automatic first choice but the combination of superb sound and ideal interpretation makes it an easy recommendation to either a newcomer or the seasoned collector.
[This review commissioned by, and reproduced by kind permission of, The Bruckner Journal]