Day 141: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Skrowaczewski)

This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109 (dedicated “to the beloved God”) is Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (1923-), the famed Polish-born artist who even has a web site with a cool name: Seeking The Infinite, which is also the title of a very fine biography about him by Dr. Frederick Edward Harris Jr.

You can find the bio here.

I first experienced Maestro Skrowaczewski on Day 13 of my 144-day project. On that day, he conducted Symphony No. 1.

Then again on Day 29, Symphony No. 2.

Then again on Day 45, Symphony No. 3.

Then again on Day 61, Symphony No. 4.

Then again on Day 77, Symphony No. 5.

Then again on Day 93, Symphony No. 6.

Then again on Day 109, Symphony No. 7.

Then again, most recently, on Day 125, Symphony No. 8.

On to the facts of today’s recording…

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109, composed between 1887 and 1896
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducts
Skrowaczewski used the ??? version, edited by ???
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken plays
The symphony clocks in at 61:21
This was recorded January 12-18 2001, at Kongresshalle Saarbrucken, Germany
Skrowaczewski was 78 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 72 when he died before finishing the Ninth

brucknerskrowaczeskiboxThis recording was released on the OEHMS Classics 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 (Skrowaczewski) and this particular orchestra (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso (D minor)…………………………………………………………………23:25
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft (D minor); Trio. Schnell (F-sharp major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………10:09
II. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich (E major)……………………………………………………….27:46
IV. Finale. (D minor, incomplete)……………………………………………………………………0:00

Total running time: 61:21

From the liner notes by Barbara Dobretsberger,

Bruckner took seven years to write the opening movement, Scherzo, and Adagio alone. The finale of his opus ultimatum remained unfinished. This, coupled with the dedication of the work “to the Good Lord” gives it a mystical air. Conceived on the same grand lines as its predecessor, the form of the unfinished Finale reveals the composer’s intention of increasing the music’s intensity in a great build uop to the last movement…As Bruckner’s last will and testament, the Ninth Symphony bears witness to his determination to fuse form and content in a powerful synthesis.

And now for my subjective assessment:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (lengthy essays, but incomplete recording/version information)
How does this make me feel: 4

This was another very fine performance from Maestro Skrowaczewski and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken. It was big, bold, majestic, emotional, engaging…

But it wasn’t particularly energetic or lively. I wasn’t feeling the energy from this orchestra.

The Finale, however, was as big and bold and moving as it should be – especially that incredibly delicate and beautiful last 1-2 minutes.

When those horns reach and hold that note, and the strings are plucked, it’s stunning. One of the most moving and delicate and ethereal pieces of music I’ve ever heard in my life. And Skrowaczewski’s interpretation of it – in the Adagio – is extraordinary.

I’m tempted to give this a “Huzzah!” but I’m just not there with it. I think it falls just short of something I’d call tremendous, “Huzzah!” worthy.

That’s not to say this isn’t leagues above some other conductors I’ve heard play Bruckner’s Ninth. Skrowaczewski knows his Bruckner. And this performance is very good.

Just not “Huzzah!” good.

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