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CD Review

Anton Bruckner

Naxos 8.554268

Symphony #9 in D minor (Unfinished; ed. Nowak)

Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Georg Tintner
Naxos 8.554268 DDD 60:02
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Early in October, conductor Georg Tintner died from injuries sustained in a fall from the eleventh story of his Nova Scotia home. Although this information has not been confirmed by Naxos, Tintner, 82 at the time, reportedly had been suffering from terminal cancer, and jumped from the balcony of his home rather than suffer the pain and disorientation associated with his disease and its treatment.

Tintner's Bruckner recordings for Naxos have been a remarkable success story. Normally standoffish music magazines dusted off their superlatives to describe the CDs that already have been released in this series. Only Symphonies #00, 1, and 3 remain to be released, and it is a gift that Tintner remained with us long enough to record all of them. This is a cycle worthy to stand beside Günter Wand's, and this is high praise indeed.

Tintner was born in Vienna in 1917, and he sang in the Vienna Boys Choir. He studied conducting and composing, and became Assistant Conductor of the Vienna Volksoper when he was 19. He escaped the horrors of the Anschluss and eventually came to New Zealand and Australia. Up until the mid-1980s, his career centered around those two countries, and the United Kingdom. In 1987, he came to Canada and assumed the role of Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia. The music of Anton Bruckner was his lifelong specialty, and it is fitting that Naxos asked him to record the complete symphonies.

It is also fitting that the unfinished Ninth was the last disc to be released before Tintner's death. Although this recording was made in 1997, it is difficult not to hear an even more strongly valedictory quality in the music than usual. Tintner's grasp on the music is unerring. He understands Bruckner's massive architecture from top to bottom, and his taste and sensitivity are beyond question. The most salient qualities in this Bruckner Ninth are strength, bathos-free emotion, and integrity. Tintner fearlessly scales its summits and explores its dark valleys without indulging himself. He was a formidable Bruckner scholar, and his annotations - not just for this disc but for others in this series - are tremendously instructive for Brucknerians at all levels of experience. His honesty about the music's weaknesses and his understanding of its strengths alone are worth the price of the CD.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra plays well for Tintner. Orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony obviously play with more impressive tone, but the RSNO's sound has a winning personality. There's nothing about this recording that is routine in any way. Anyone who loves Bruckner, and this symphony in particular, owes it to himself to get acquainted with this recording.

Copyright © 1999, Raymond Tuttle

Trumpet