For 100 years after Bruckner's death, it was assumed that the "sketches" of the 9th's fourth movement were the disjointed, disturbing scribblings of a desperate, arteriosclerotic mind. This misunderstanding was the result of Bruckner's feeble end-stage demeanor, as well as a musicological "perfect storm":
1) There was a long-standing "traditional" disinclination to grant this movement the attention it needed, borne of intellectual laziness as well as misguided "Beethovenian" romanticism as to the symphonic number "NINE". Never mind that the "9th" is actually Bruckner's 11th symphony - counting the early F minor & D minor symphonies ("00" & "0"). These may not be "canonical", but nevertheless they were preserved by Bruckner, in spite of his notorious self-doubts and revisionism.
2) In Bruckner's Belvedere cottage, immediately after his death, there was much, shameless scavenging of this movement's sketches and manuscripts. It took the better part of a century to bring enough of them together for cohesive analysis and reconstruction. Prior to this, any attempts at taking the true measure of the 4th movement were doomed to failure.
Benjamin Gunnar Cohrs writes that the 1934 Orel "study volume" for this movement "omitted several sources, scattered as they were to the four winds." Later attempts at "completing" the 4th movement foundered on the omission of "significant original passages....(and) a high proportion of 'free Brucknerian' writing...One arranger, for example, filled a demonstrably 16-measure-gap in the score with no less than 100 measures of his own composition!"
No wonder, then, that even the most erudite Brucknerians mis-read the 4th movement, finding it "unmotivated" and "momentumless". (Robert Simpson, after a painstaking attempt at open-mindedness, takes a dismissive line.) They were all looking at a puzzle with pieces missing and/or joined wrongly. It could not be otherwise, because the requisite "leg-work" and inter-textual research had just not been done, yet.
3) In a desperate moment, Bruckner himself suggested that if he did not realize the 4th movement, his Te Deum could be used in its place. (A variant of the falling "do-sol-sol-do" motiv, from the Te Deum, weaves in and out of this movement.) Of course, only the most casual musical "tourist" would overlook the paramount structural principle in any Bruckner symphony: TONAL PLANNING. That is: start in, say, the key of D; trek across the tonal spectrum or "world" - or, at least, "scale the mountain peak" ; and eventually "re-acquire" D, on a higher level. In all 11 Bruckner symphonies, THERE WAS NO EXCEPTION TO THIS...EVER. To carry out this "Te Deum" suggestion, one would have to
a) Tack a self-contained, C-major work onto the end of a vast structure which begins in D and cries out for a D ending. (Supposedly this would be done with a "clever" transition. )
b) Transpose the earlier movements DOWN a whole step, making them tonally "flush" with the Te Deum.
c) Transpose the Te Deum UP a whole step into D - which would be "moiduh" on the sopranos of the chorus - who, as it is, must end on a sustained, high C. Asking them to go up to a D, as a section, was (and is) unthinkable.
No, Bruckner made this desperate suggestion, assuming that he might not essentially realize the 4th movement. But if he HAD?....The facts indicate that, by the time of his death on October 11, 1896, he DID realize this movement. To the last measure, it was blocked out in ORCHESTRAL score (not only in piano sketches). True, the last 37 measures of the coda (i.e., the very end of the symphony) are conjectural. But even here, we have at least two clues which enabled a convincing reconstruction for a "performance edition." In those 37 measures there is a sustained D "pedal." And Bruckner told his doctor that he planned this passage as a kind of brief, orchestral "Te Deum" (or blaze of Thanksgiving). This is what we hear, with some "filling in," partly based on the "falling" Te Deum motiv; the ending of Bruckner's 1892 cantata "Helgoland" (his last "completed" work); as well as 9th's first-movement fanfare theme (which re-appears in this fourth movement, just prior to the coda). Given how close Bruckner was to completing the 4th movement, it would be pedantry, of the worst sort, to deprive listeners of a rounded-out, performable version. (In that case, while you're at it, ignore Mozart's Requiem, too.)
The "New Westphalia" play like gods, and seem to have an innate empathy with the contemplative core of Bruckner's spirit.
The first movement is truly cataclysmic and riveting. The Scherzo is successful, but some Brucknerians may object to Wildner's maintenance of a broadly common tempo between the Scherzo and Trio. (Jochum & Haitink took the Trio markedly faster, for contrast.) The Adagio is also deep and satisfying- although, some Brucknerians may find it has less "gravitas" than with Furtwangler, Karajan, Jochum or Haitink. This is partly true, since, with the 4th movement "realized," the Adagio no longer carries the burden of "ending" the symphony - and the entire output of Bruckner.
The recorded sound, while having great impact, isn't perfect. (A previous reviewer was right to mention the occasional loss of detail in the upper strings). Still, the performance comes off as "natural" and idiomatic.
For a "realized" vision of Bruckner's ideal 9th, this is as close as it gets.