Day 139: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Paternostro)

This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109 (dedicated “to the beloved God”) is Vienna-born Roberto Paternostro (1957?-).

I first heard the mysterious Mr. Paternostro (the box set contains zero information about him…and there’s scant info about him online) on Day 11, when he interpreted Symphony No. 1.

Then again on Day 27, Symphony No. 2.

Then again on Day 43, Symphony No. 3.

Then again on Day 59, Symphony NO. 4.

Then again on Day 75, Symphony No. 5.

Then again on Day 91, Symphony No. 6.

Then again on Day 107, Symphony No. 7.

Then again, most recently, on Day 123, Symphony No. 8.

Today is the ninth (and last) time I’m hearing Maestro Paternostro interpret a Bruckner symphony.

If you want to know what I thought of those previous symphonies, take a peek. Let your mouse do the clicking. Otherwise, keep reading. Here are the facts about today’s recording:

brucknerpaternostroboxBruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109, composed 1887-1896
Roberto Paternostro conducts
Paternostro used the ??? version, edited by ???
Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen plays
The symphony clocks in at hefty 62:08
This was recorded live at Basilika Weingarten, Germany, on July 23, 2005
Paternostro was 48 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 72 when he died before finishing the Ninth
This recording was released on the SWR/Membran label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. He would have this time, too. But he died before completing movement four. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor), from this particular conductor (Paternostro) and this particular orchestra (Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso (D minor)…………………………………………………………………25:47
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft (D minor); Trio. Schnell (F-sharp major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………10:57
II. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich (E major)……………………………………………………….25:25
IV. Finale. (D minor, incomplete)……………………………………………………………………0:00

Total running time: 62:08

And now for my subjective assessment:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 3
Overall musicianship: 3
CD liner notes: 0 (totally unacceptable)
How does this make me feel: 3

The Misterioso sounded different to me. Either some of the instruments were mic’d differently, or he was using a different version, or I was just hearing it differently. Something sounded different. I don’t know what. Can’t put my finger on it.

It happens around the 7:10 mark. I hear instruments I don’t remember hearing before. What are they – Clarinet? Oboe? I’m not saying other first movements didn’t have those instruments. I’m saying I don’t remember hearing them that prominently before. It’s possible I notice things about performances differently depending on the day or even time of day. This time, on this day, those instruments popped out at me.

It wasn’t a bad first movement. But it wasn’t holding my attention for some reason.

The Scherzo, on the other hand, features some truly prominent pizzicato at the outset. That always makes me smile.

Overall, the Scherzo is pretty darn good in this performance. But the Scherzo is almost always a hoot to me. This one was no exception. Punchy, powerful, and compelling. However, the horns are recorded in such a way that it sounds a little thin, kind of flimsy. The ending wasn’t a kick in the ass that I expected. It just sort of hiccuped along, ending with more of a whimper than a bang.

The horns. I think the horns sound brassy in this performance. I can hear it in the Adagio, for sure.

I measure the Adagio by the final minute or two. If that final long note on the horn and the gentle pizzicato give me the chills, I call it a great performance. This one didn’t. The final long horn note begins in a funny way at the 24:52 mark. It sounds like two horns trying to hit the same note. Or one horn trying to hit that final note. Whatever it is, it’s not a smooth transition.

I know what feels different about this performance. It sounds hesitant. Not confident. Like, I’m always on edge listening to it, waiting for something bold to happen…but it never does.

I know that’s probably not making sense. But between the different instrumentation (or how it was recorded) and the not quite bold musicianship, this performance leaves me wanting.

Your mileage may vary.

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