Bruckner: Symphony No 9 review – Claudio Abbado's great last testament

Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Abbado
(Deutsche Grammophon)

Claudio Abbado conducted his final concerts at the Lucerne festival in August last year. The programme consisted of two unfinished symphonies – Schubert's eighth and Bruckner's ninth – and this disc of the Bruckner, compiled from the whole series of performances, conveys some sense of just how special an occasion it was, and how those who were lucky enough to be there are unlikely ever to forget it. The Bruckner symphonies Abbado conducted with the fabulous Lucerne Festival Orchestra in the last decade of his life were very different from almost any other conductor's treatment of the composer, and also from his own earlier recordings. There was a transparency to them, which is beautifully captured again on this disc, especially in the great transfiguring adagio with which the torso of the ninth ends; it's a soundworld that belies all the cliches about Bruckner's scoring and the ponderousness of his symphonic thinking. By comparison Abbado's earlier version of this symphony, recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1996, seems mannered, and almost impatient; in this final musical testament, time seems infinitely elastic, and everything has all the space it needs.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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