Tonight’s concert features Bruckner’s ninth symphony. It represents the culmination of romanticism in all of its weird ways. Although it is the highlight of Bruckner’s output, it remained unfinished.
Bruckner was a deeply complex man: he was sexually frustrated (he had women problems); he had an obsession with numerology (he planned all his symphonic movements by bar numbers); he was a fantastic organist at St Florian in Austria; and he believed in his God and was devout enough to devote all his music to Him.
His ninth symphony is so enjoyable (the Scherzo for example), and yet so sad. It was unfinished at his death in 1896, leaving the last movement incomplete. And that’s how it should be, with the great slow movement ending with the Wagner tubas in the long E major chord at the end.
However, this performance uses the completion of the the sketches of the fourth movement by Benjamin-Gunner Cohrs. It refers to themes from the earlier movements (rather like Bruckner’s fifth) but it doesn’t quite work. The big chorale is exciting at the end, but it isn’t really what Bruckner imagined. However, the orchestra, with its huge brass section, are really on tip top form.
The Bruckner is preceded in the first half by Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 27 in B flat, played by Imogen Cooper. It is all good, but not quite good enough. One cannot fault Cooper’s technique, but it doesn’t shine as Mozart should. Indeed, this is actually a poor piece of programming: Mozart’s D minor concerto would have been a better choice, or music by Bach (whom Bruckner adored) or Liszt or Wagner.