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Reviews Written by
Kenji Fujishima (East Brunswick, NJ USA)

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Sym 2 Resurrection
Sym 2 Resurrection
Offered by MusicShoppingParty
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A notable "Resurrection," though perhaps not a first choice, July 18 2004
This review is from: Sym 2 Resurrection (Audio CD)
This performance of Mahler's epic Second Symphony, the "Resurrection," is often considered a classic. As a conception, it is certainly a notable one. If Leonard Bernstein, in his overwhelming DG recording of this piece, is sprawling and sentimental, Otto Klemperer is distinctly direct and unsentimental (full of "granite-like strength," as the booklet note terms it). Ultimately, I would not mark this above more emotionally imposing recordings like Bernstein's and (to a slightly lesser extent) Simon Rattle's. Those are arguably the performances you should seek out first if you want to investigate this monumental work. Still, this 1963 EMI recording is, all in all, a notable one, mostly worthy of its praise. Even if you don't agree with Klemperer's generally quick tempos for the first movement (hardly the epic counterbalance to the fifth movement that it is in many other performances), his relentlessly steady tempos for the second and third movements, or the very deliberate tread of the "March of the Dead" section of the fifth movement, there is no denying Klemperer's conviction throughout. In this performance, you sense a conductor whot knows what he is doing, who has a distinctive and coherent vision of this music and is successful at getting the Philharmonia Orchestra to realize it properly (if not always technically perfect). Overall, it might be an un-monumental and unsentimental reading, yet somehow the end result is no less moving (even if spirituality is kept somewhat at arm's length here compared to other performances). Perhaps it is the ideal performance of this piece for those who resist the effusive emotionalism of other, grander performances. Deserves to be heard by any serious Mahlerian. Recommended.

Robin Williams: Live On Broadway [Import]
Robin Williams: Live On Broadway [Import]
DVD ~ Robin Williams
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 11.80
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smart, sharp, hilarious, but overlong, July 18 2004
This was my first exposure to Robin Williams as a standup comic, and this "Live on Broadway" act certainly makes up for all those mushy sentimental movies that he had starred in before this special. He lets loose here in a sustained comic bout of Williams-style voice impressions and sharp observations and adult jokes that I've never had the pleasure of witnessing in any of his movies (except, maybe, in small spurts). As a standup comic, he might not as smooth a performer as George Carlin (my personal favorite) is onstage, but Williams' energy makes up for a lot, and even makes otherwise stupid jokes make you laugh hysterically. (You know how you can tell he is expending as much energy as humanly possible in this show? By the huge amount of water bottles he has on stage.) His material is not as focused as some of the best standup comics, but I rather liked his improvisatory style---he goes from one thing to another in record time, giving his performance a nicely chaotic feel. (A lot of his best bits, mostly dealing with politics, are delivered quickly and randomly and then dispensed with.) And yet all of it flows together nicely (even if some bits are inevitably better than others).
So what's the problem? I think perhaps 99 minutes or so of one man comically riffing about anything and everything is still perhaps a bit too long for its own good. I've watched this on more than one occasion, and by the hour mark I always feel myself getting rather exhausted by Williams' highly energetic schtick. It is not necessarily that his material starts to become significantly weaker or repetitive (although his French-bashing does get a little tiresome after a while), but while you still marvel at Williams' energy level...I dunno, I just kinda got tired of it on some level after a while. Williams' energy may not flag, but ours least until he rebounds at the end with some good bits about American sports and then about sex, particularly Viagra. Believe me, when you see his take on Viagra, you will laugh hysterically in spite of yourself.
In short, for me, "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" is a mostly brilliant but perhaps overlong standup comedy piece (a standup comedy "epic" if there ever was one). It would have gotten five stars as a more focused hourlong show; instead, this one sprawls until we in the audience start feeling a little exhausted by his endlessly energetic (and highly profane) style. And yet there is enough brilliant stuff here---his riffs about the war in Afghanistan and homeland security rival the best, and overall there are plenty of small but great bits here and there that will grab your attention---so that this is definitely worth seeing. Certainly you will be amazed that Robin Williams actually pulls the whole damned thing off at all. Recommended.
NOTE: I have seen "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" as it first premiered on HBO, and for some reason it is slightly longer than the program that appears on this DVD. It is beyond me why CMV Home Video thought it necessary to make some small cuts to the program for this DVD edition. (For instance, it cuts out a lines during the parts where he cracks humorously about Michael Jackson and the Enron scandal.) At least, though, the program is not significantly cut (it's only missing about a few seconds worth of material from the initial broadcast), and overall it is very much intact. (Besides, HBO and its other channels have been showing this marginally-cut version of the program on its stations ever since, anyway.) Just thought people would like to know, though.

Ikiru (Criterion Collection) (1952) (2 Discs)
Ikiru (Criterion Collection) (1952) (2 Discs)
DVD ~ Takashi Shimura
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Occasionally quite moving but a bit too sentimental, July 18 2004
I don't profess to be an expert on the films of acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, but I will say that, though I haven't seen a great many of his films, I've definitely admired the ones I have seen. Films like RASHOMON, THE SEVEN SAMURAI, and THRONE OF BLOOD show a director that not only has an acute visual sense---I have never seen equalled the unforgettable images of the moving trees and then Toshiro Mifune with all the arrows launched at him at the end of THRONE OF BLOOD---but also a human sensitivity that may be more flamboyant and theatrical in style than his Japanese counterpart Yasujiro Ozu, but is no less impressive. He is a true film artist, to be sure...but, though IKIRU is often called one of Kurosawa's most human film achievements, I personally would not quite put it in the same level as those aforementioned three.
Not that it's not moving. The first half of the film actually made me shed quite a few tears, watching poor Kanji Watanabe first find out he has stomach cancer, and then try to actually have some fun with his life. His attempts to do so are quite touching, even though it does not always work out---esp. with the girl that eventually gets annoyed with him b/c he insists on hanging out with her so much. Finally, he decides to do something noble for the people he works for, and thus we get to the second half of the film: Mr. Watanabe's wake, in which colleagues reminisce about the noble act he accomplished for a town before he died. His act---he steps over bureaucratic lines and gets built a children's park in an area where there was only a dirty pool of water previously---slowly inspires the others to perhaps break out of their bureaucratic mold...and perhaps will inspire you too, in a different way.
I dunno, though...I was inspired but only sometimes moved by this film. For me, I think Kurosawa's penchant for lack of subtlety and heavy-handed sentimentality sometimes mutes its power. Kurosawa, for example, is not content to simply allow us to visually observe how lifeless our hero truly is at the beginning: no, he must give us a voiceover that drums it into our head that "this man has not truly lived." And then there is the scene in the bar in the middle of the film, in which Watanabe sings, with tears coming out of his eyes, a mushy song that expresses his feelings of hopelessness and despair. If nothing else, though, the second half of the film seems to expose this unfortunate tendency---a very long scene, intercut with flashbacks, set in Watanabe's wake in which his fellow workers first try to deny Watanabe's deep heroism, but then eventually resolve to be as noble as he was in his last months of life. It is certainly intriguing structurally, as we see the effects of his death on fellow workers and the townspeople Watanabe helped so greatly. And yet I think, could this scene not have been just as effective as simply an epilogue rather than the focus of the entire second part of the film? I'm sure Kurosawa could have made his point---he is showing how one man's heroism can deeply affect other people---without becoming as repetitious and even preachy as this portion of the film sometimes seemed.
And yet, if IKIRU is a flawed film, at least its flaws always spring from an honest desire to lift up his audience in a way that SEVEN SAMURAI and THRONE OF BLOOD do not even try to do. It may be sentimental, but it is always honestly felt, and perhaps you might be much less resistant to Kurosawa's sentimental excesses than I occasionally was. As Watanabe, Takashi Shimura gives an unforgettable performance (esp. with that hauntingly raspy voice of his); and Kurosawa does create a final moving image of Watanabe swinging on the swing in the new park, singing that same song he sang at the bar, but in a different, perhaps more joyful manner.
That image just goes to show you that Kurosawa was, above all else, a masterly visual artist in his films. If he had relied more on his sense of powerful imagery to make his point, IKIRU might have been a truly great film, instead of one that perhaps tries too hard to be deeply moving. And yet I would be lying if I said that I wasn't affected by the film. Perhaps some of you might not mind the occasional preachiness in this film and will find this a truly transcendant film experience. For me, it almost got there, but not quite. Still, IKIRU is a good film that deserves to be seen for its powerful message, if nothing else. Maybe it will really change your life. Recommended (with some reservations).

Bruckner: Symphony No.8 / Herbert von Karajan, VPO
Bruckner: Symphony No.8 / Herbert von Karajan, VPO
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noble Bruckner Eighth, a worthy memorial for Karajan, July 17 2004
This was one of conductor Herbert von Karajan's last recordings before his death in 1989, and this was a glorious way to go out. Here is a Bruckner Eighth that bears the stamp of someone who has looked into the face of tragedy but still stands upright, intent on being a warrior and not admitting defeat. Thus, while the first movement portends possible tragedy with is quiet close, the sublime third movement Adagio refuses to indulge in tearful sentimentality, emphasizing nobility above all else. And of course the Finale: a heroic struggle to establish the home key, one which ends in a towering triumphant peroration of brass at the end.
In short, Karajan provides a more noble, perhaps even stoic alternative to the more spiritually searching recording conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, also on DG and also with the peerless (in Bruckner, at least) Vienna Philharmonic at his disposal. Objectively, Karajan's tempos for the first two movements are a bit too broad (although this was always the case in the first movement, even slower in his 1958 EMI recording of the piece with the Berlin Philharmonic), but in this case it hardly ever sounds heavy-handed. The first movement seems like an epic counterbalance to the fourth movement (and it has a particularly impressive tragic climax towards the end); and if the second movement hardly sounds like a real Scherzo (even Giulini, at a nearly comparable tempo, made it truly dance), the Vienna Philharmonic play impressively enough so that it doesn't matter (they esp. deliver with beautiful playing in the Trio). The third movement Adagio is quicker than Giulini's but no less moving, and the Finale truly delivers a battle of epic proportions (with the Vienna brass sounding out in heroic style in a way Bruckner would surely relish). The final peroration caps off a performance that will always stand as a worthy memorial for Karajan. Regardless of all the hype about this being one of his last recordings, though, this is still a very notable, and very noble and powerful, performance of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony, one of the great works of the symphonic literature. Other performances might be more spiritually affecting, but even if Karajan sometimes keeps spirituality at a distance here, there is still great beauty and an impressive epic grandeur to this performance that cannot fail to sway even Karajan's most vehement detractors. Not the only Eighth to listen to, but it certainly deserves to be heard. Recommended.

The Ring (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
The Ring (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Naomi Watts
Offered by Rarewaves-US
Price: CDN$ 8.48
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

3.0 out of 5 stars Viscerally creepy, but not a whole lot more than that, July 17 2004
Gore Verbinski's THE RING is the classic example of a film that is all style and very little, if any, substance. Verbinski certainly knows how to make a creepy horror film: this film is laced with atmosphere and dread and gray skies. Technically, it is quite impressive. It's too bad that all the skillful visuals are put in the service of a really dumb plot---or, at least, that's the way it turns out. Perhaps the idea of a videotape killing people could make a good horror film---but when the screenplay by Ehren Kruger starts trying to explain how the videotape was made and then how to dilute the videotape's power, this movie just became plain stupid for me. How could anyone be duped into blindly accepting this kind of silliness? I suppose, though, that that is a very subjective reaction and that some people might find its visuals and atmosphere effective enough to accept the film without a second thought. Still, I remember that John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN never really provided an explanation for Michael Myers' motives (except, of course, that "he's crazy"), and I think that perhaps horror movies shouldn't be so burdened with having to explain the horror in them---it should merely be felt, since film is such a visual medium anyway (leave explanations to writers, hehe). In the case of THE RING, we feel the horror, but we also feel a plot that strains to explain itself, and ends up merely being laughable instead (especially that final twist, which I had difficulty swallowing). If Kruger hadn't tried so hard, maybe this would have turned out to be a highly effective horror film instead one that made me wonder what the heck the horse in the middle of the film had to do with anything. I think THE RING is viscerally creepy enough that it earns its three stars here, but all of Verbinski's style cannot hide the fact that, plotwise, this film is a mess, and I certainly don't plan on seeing this film's intended sequel whenever it comes out.

The X-Files: The First Season [7 Discs] (Bilingual) [Import]
The X-Files: The First Season [7 Discs] (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ David Duchovny
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 81.23
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5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking first season of this classic TV series, July 16 2004
I caught up with the first season of THE X-FILES via these DVDs recently, and as ever I am struck by the freshness of the chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Mulder and Scully. Even in some of the lesser filler episodes you rarely get a sense of the two phoning in their performances like they were sometimes wont to do in later seasons. Already in the "Pilot," you sense these two clicking along wonderfully, and it continued on for quite a few more episodes afterwards. It's quite refreshing.
Overall, this first season was quite good. Inconsistent, maybe, but that can be forgiven as creator Chris Carter was still trying to find the show's distinctive voice. It may not be quite a match for the second or third seasons, which have many great moments and episodes among them, but there are still some very entertaining and creative episodes to be found here, most of which admirably emphasize intelligent horror over hollow shock value. As for the so-called "mythology" episodes of the season, they are quite refreshing to watch too: episodes during a time when the mythology wasn't so convoluted and overblown, when it was all simply a matter of touching upon our embedded paranoias about extraterrestrials or our government instead of degenerating into the bloated sci-fi soap opera it was to become in later seasons. Back then, the paranoia was fun, as you can probably sense in wonderful early episodes like "Deep Throat" and "E.B.E."
Thus, some highlights and other random comments on this first season:
The first four episodes of the show really set the wheels in motion for THE X-FILES. The "Pilot" skillfully introduced us to our two main characters, and "Deep Throat" went further with themes touched upon in the previous episode (as well as introducing Mulder's first secret source in Deep Throat). "Squeeze" was the first "standalone" X-FILES mystery, and it set an early standard for creepy effectiveness and sheer creativity of concept (admit it, the idea of a genetic mutant who can squeeze through almost anything is kinda scary). And "Conduit" was an emotional mystery that showed us just how much Mulder's experience as a witness to his sister's abduction had truly affected him. All four were near-great episodes that set the show up quite nicely.
I am going to respectfully dissent with those who bash "Ghost in the Machine" as one of this season's lowlights (although I won't extend the same empathy for the truly lame "Space"). It is by no means great (it has its unintentionally funny aspects, like the computer program itself, a poor man's HAL 9000), but it's hardly as bad as others might lead you to believe. It has a good, creepy premise---in which a computer program suddenly gains human consciousness and starts trying to preserve itself---and at least it shows an attempt by the writers to craft good, intelligent horror instead of yet another sci-fi retread. I think it works, in parts.
Writers Glen Morgan and James Wong really distinguished themselves in this season as the best writers on the show. Their first collaboration was the chilling "Squeeze," and if their subsequent "Shadows" was not on the same plane (a little too soapy for my taste), they came back brilliantly with the classic "Ice," which truly put Mulder and Scully's relationship to the test as a parasite threatens to destroy them both. In later episodes such as the powerful "Beyond the Sea" and "E.B.E." they showed an attention to character detail that really made their scripts stand out among the pack (although "Tooms" was not quite successful at matching "Squeeze" for creepily effective scares). With one or two exceptions, Morgan and Wong crafted episodes that were not to be missed.
And of course the season finale, "The Erlenmeyer Flask," which insinuated that the government might have a bigger role in things than previously believed, and set things up nicely for a new season.
Thus the first season of the X-FILES, not the show's greatest (the next two seasons qualify strongly for that honor), but a wonderful reminder of how new this show must have felt to many who first tuned in, if more in execution than in concept. Of course other sci-fi TV shows had shown us aliens and government conspiracies before, but never with this degree of intelligence and attention to scientific detail. This first season truly set the tone for the show that Chris Carter sustained remarkably in most of the later seasons, and for that reason alone this is the place to start if you want to get into this wonderful series. Recommended.

Under Siege (Widescreen/Full Screen)
Under Siege (Widescreen/Full Screen)
DVD ~ Steven Seagal
Offered by vidco
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3.0 out of 5 stars Merely average DIE HARD retread, July 15 2004
This may be Steven Seagal's best film, but as an action film UNDER SIEGE is very average. It borrows its basic plot structure from the vastly superior DIE HARD, but while DIE HARD had a believably human and vulnerable hero in Bruce Willis' John McClane, UNDER SIEGE simply has the wooden Steven Seagal as the near-invincible Casey Ryback, the cook onboard the USS Missouri who happens to be a former Navy SEAL who has a lot of weapons expertise and the like. While McClane spent most of DIE HARD trying to get in and out of trouble with terrorists, Ryback basically spends a good majority of UNDER SIEGE simply killing them one by one in various "cool" ways. You never feel that Ryback's life is truly threatened by the bad guys---he's just a killing machine, and only head baddie William Stranix (Tommy Lee Jones, in a highly entertaining performance that brings slightly more interest than this movie deserves) truly matches up to him---and thus you never really get involved in the hero or this movie like you do in DIE HARD. You simply watch Ryback cut his path of righteous destruction in a brain-dead, gaga state (and occasionally laugh at some of Seagal's line readings), and while you are occasionally entertained, you might realize how dumb this movie truly is.
Some people, of course, don't mind occasional no-brainer entertainment like this. Believe me, I enjoy the occasional brainless action film, just as long as it has an involving plot, entertaining characters, and good action scenes. UNDER SIEGE only half-delivers---its plot never truly involved me; the main bad guys (Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey) are a lot more entertaining than its hero; and the action scenes, for the most part, are just average (except for that marvelous knife fight at the end). In short, UNDER SIEGE is a pretty stupid movie, and if you're looking for truly great, even intelligent action entertainment, you would do best to look elsewhere. Heck, even this film's sequel, UNDER SIEGE 2, is slightly more entertaining than this! Skip it.

Symphony No. 8 in C Minor
Symphony No. 8 in C Minor
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 56.23
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5.0 out of 5 stars Justly acclaimed recording of Bruckner's mighty Eighth, July 14 2004
Having heard Giulini's fantastic DG recording of Bruckner's Ninth Symphony, I looked forward to hearing his similarly majestic way with what is arguably Bruckner's greatest finished symphony, the mighty Eighth.
Other than Bruckner's Fifth, his Eighth is perhaps his most completely successful symphonic utterance. If the Adagio is not necessarily his best slow movement, it certainly comes very close (that powerful Adagio of his Ninth is pretty hard to beat). But there can be no doubt that, for his Eighth Symphony, Bruckner never wrote a greater Finale---episodic, maybe, but still one of his most thrilling, with a towering coda that counts as one of Bruckner's mightiest symphonic moments.
In short, I find Bruckner's Eighth to be one of the great works of the symphonic literature, and Carlo Maria Giulini and the Vienna Philharmonic on this two-disc recording come near doing it full justice. It is a performance of truly epic proportions, with the VPO playing with their usual technical brilliance and creating some grand and glorious sounds, particularly the brass. Despite the slow tempos of the first two movements, they never drag (the Scherzo always feels like a true scherzo in its outer sections); the Adagio is second to none, marvelously played and conducted, with Giulini once again choosing a very slow tempo but sustaining it near-miraculously (it truly sounds as spiritual as Bruckner must have intended); and the Finale is a truly grand summation of all that has come before, with a coda that is truly majestic in this performance.
Overall, I think this oft-acclaimed Giulini Eighth is worth the hype as one of the great recorded accounts of this symphony. For those, though, who only want to have one recording of this work for their shelves---well, that is quite a decision to make. For me, it comes down to this Giulini recording and Herbert von Karajan's equally powerful DG recording with the same orchestra released about five years later. I dunno...both have their really good points, making choice difficult. I like Giulini's first and second movements slightly better than Karajan's, who is, I think, a little too heavy-handed in both movements. (Giulini's reading of the Scherzo, for instance, seems much more like an actual scherzo than Karajan's does.) Both have equally moving readings of the Adagio, Karajan's just as moving as Giulini's even with a quicker tempo. It is with the Finale, though, that I rather prefer Karajan's reading over Giulini's---the former conductor effortlessly binds the whole big structure together into a fiery symphonic whole, whereas Giulini sometimes comes off as slightly more disjointed and episodic by comparison.
So, for those who are looking only for one version of this symphony to own, it's a tough call between Giulini and Karajan. Ideally, though, you should own both: both conductors may use different editions of the score (I will not get into discussion about the whole argument about various extant editions regarding this symphony), but both will convince you of this music's greatness. Any recording of this mighty piece that accomplishes that must be counted as a success, and Giulini's performance, like Karajan's, is surely that. Recommended.

On the Waterfront (Bilingual) (Special Edition)
On the Waterfront (Bilingual) (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Marlon Brando
Price: CDN$ 19.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat dated but still compelling classic drama, July 13 2004
I recently re-watched Elia Kazan's ON THE WATERFRONT in honor of its late star, Marlon Brando. His performance as Terry Malloy is often considered one of his greatest (and he won an Oscar for it to back it up), and there is no doubt that this is a performance of spontaneity and great emotional realism that must have awed a generation of filmgoers who watched him. He truly brings his character---a former boxing champ tortured by pangs of conscience as well as disappointment---to authentic life in a way that is somewhat heightened yet always convincingly down-to-earth.
As for the film surrounding this great performance, it has inevitably lost some of its power since it made a splash in the '50s (during the height of McCarthyism, and during which Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and named names), but it still offers an emotionally compelling experience overall. If sometimes Budd Schulberg's screenplay seems a tad too overwrought (particularly in the final scene, too overtly symbolic), Kazan and his cast never allow it disintegrate into tiresome preachiness. If Brando's performance can be said to be "extraordinary" (and it is certainly something to watch), the other actors are hardly upstaged. I don't know if Eva Marie Saint really deserved an Oscar for her performance here, but perhaps that has more to do with her more conventional character than with her performance, which is good enough. Karl Malden, as the activist Father Barry, fares better: he is convincingly noble and impassioned in his role as, arguably, Malloy's conscience. And Lee J. Cobb is also good as the corrupt Johnny Friendly: while the script does not necessarily develop human sides to the character, Cobb admirably makes him convincing nevertheless rather than merely a one-note snarling villain.
Despite its topical origins---this film is often seen as Kazan's justification for testifying at the HUAC---the plot still resonates pretty strongly today. I mean, who wouldn't feel the same internal dilemma in the same kind of situations that Malloy gets into in this film? Feeling like you should do your duty as a citizen in the face of great corruption, and yet afraid of what might happen to you if you do? I think everyone can at least understand Malloy's tortured conscience in this movie---maybe, other than Kazan himself, Marlon Brando understood it most of all---and perhaps that is why, despite some of its more dated elements, this film continues to endure. Notwithstanding its political background, ON THE WATERFRONT remains a gripping drama to this day.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious performance of Bruckner's great unfinished 9th, July 13 2004
This review is from: SYMPHONY NO.9 (Audio CD)
The fact that Bruckner never completed his Ninth Symphony never stopped any maestro and orchestra from attempting to master what is perhaps one of the composer's greastest works. The three movements that Bruckner completed are just so magnificent, and the Adagio so ethereal and satisfying at its close, that it seems spiritually complete despite its technically unfinished nature. I have not personally heard any of the sketches and attempted completions of the fourth movement; nor do I necessarily want to. This great symphonic torso stands on its own quite well, I think, and many conductors and music lovers seem to agree with that assessment as well.
I will not admit to having heard a great many recordings of this piece. Eugen Jochum's EMI performance was my first exposure to the piece, and Bernard Haitink's 1965 Phillips performance my second. Both were good performances, very dramatic and quite satisfying, but I was always curious about this particular DG recording, especially having heard so many complimentary things about Carlo Maria Giulini's extremely long-breathed interpretation of the work.
Well, as it turns out, the hype is richly deserved. This is a glorious performance of Bruckner's great unfinished Ninth, marvelously played by the Vienna Philharmonic (always so good in Bruckner) and conducted by Giulini with great sensitivity and grand vision. His tempos are sometimes slower-than-usual, and yet he hardly ever allows the piece to drag. More importantly, though, Giulini shapes this to be powerfully dark, brooding, but ultimately uplifting work that Bruckner's Ninth must be. The close of the first movement is grandly stark and tragic, the Scherzo (one of Bruckner's most dissonant and savage dances) almost demonic in its power, and the Adagio properly anguished and lamenting until the end, when the Vienna strings and horns lift this music up to the figurative heavens. Maybe you'll even feel lifted up as well.
I have no qualms about recommending this disc to anyone who is even remotely interested in this piece. Bruckner's Ninth, though incomplete, is one of the great works of the symphonic literature, and Giulini and the Vienna Philharmonic do it full justice.

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