Bruckner: Symphony No 9 in D minor

Reviewed on Tue 03 Oct, 2017

Muti makes each rallentando into an indulgence, but accelerandos are only followed reluctantly, often with a sudden gear shift at the last moment.

Bit of a non-starter this one. Riccardo Muti goes for grandeur, opting for slow, fluid tempos throughout. But the results are leaden, with the music lumbering from one stodgy climax to the next. Muti makes each rallentando into an indulgence, but accelerandos are only followed reluctantly, often with a sudden gear shift at the last moment. The Chicago players seem to be expecting something else, and the sluggish build-ups also regularly suffer from poor ensemble in the strings, while the tuttis lack agogic bite from the brass. The soloists fare better, the horn in the first movement, and the flute and oboe in the scherzo – its stately trio the highlight of this performance. The strings find their form in the Adagio, producing many moments of genuine beauty towards the end. But that’s a meagre compensation for an otherwise mediocre reading, especially given the competition on disc, not least from the Chicago Symphony itself.
–Gavin Dixon