Anton Bruckner · Symphony No. 9. Sympony No. 9, in D minor (60'02).. Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Georg Tintner, conductor. Naxos 8.554268-2.
As I was preparing this page, I received work from Naxos that Maestro Georg Tintner had died on October 2. He was 82 years old. He began his musical career as a singer in the Vienna Boys Choir and went on to study conducting with Felix Weingartner at the Vienna State Academy. At the age of nineteen he was named Assistant Conductor of the Vienna Volksoper. He fled Vienna in 1938 when the Nazis took control of Austria and settled in New Zealand. In 1954 he was named Music Director of the Australian National Opera. His career was concentrated in places like Australia, South Africa and Nova Scotia – not the locales one would expect to find a great Brucknerian conductor. But as the recent series of recordings on Naxos confirm, this was precisely the case.
According to Tintner, the Ninth contains Bruckner’s greatest music: “The mystery and horror of death permeates these three movements.” The first movement is punctuated by a series of “desperate outcries” in the horns while the strings calmly but relentlessly increase the intensity. One of the difficulties in performing Bruckner lies in maintaining this intensity through such long spans of time. The Scherzo and Trio, which constitute the second movement, are also a study in contrasts. The Scherzo proper contains pounding, furious music while the Trio, full of pizzicato strings, manages to be simultaneously “jolly” and “frightening” (the adjectives are Tintner’s).
In the Adagio, Tintner hears a “heartrending farewell to the world.” If one didn’t know how desperate Bruckner was to complete a finale, one could almost believe it. Quotations from earlier works rise up out of the soundscape and are subsumed. It is the musical equivalent of the last section of Hermann Broch’s Death of Virgil and it is equally ethereal. As Ethan Mordden writes, “All of Bruckner’s slow movements sound as if echoing from out of a cathedral. But here the walls and roof vanish...”
A few years ago another conductor at the end of his career, Kurt Eichhorn, undertook a Bruckner cycle and was celebrated as a master of this notoriously difficult to perform music. Unfortunately, he died before finishing the series. Tintner has been more fortunate and the rest of his Bruckner recordings will appear over the next six months.