C1703. YEVGENY MRAVINSKY Cond. Leningrad Phil.: Symphony #9 in d [Original Edition] (Bruckner). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-787, Live Performance, 28 Feb., 1968, Great Hall of the Leningrad Conservatory. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“The music of Anton Bruckner was introduced to Russia by Yevgeny Mravinsky who began conducting his symphonies in Leningrad as early as the 1930s and continued to exhibit his belief in the composer until the end of his career. His 1980 stereo recording for Melodiya of the Ninth Symphony has been prized by collectors since it was introduced. It was enthusiastically reviewed in FANFARE 19:1 by Raymond Tuttle. That 1980 recording has appeared on many Melodiya-related labels over the years, as well as on Vox/Turnabout and Olympia. It would be easy to assume that the present release is another reissue, but it is not.
This is a live-performance broadcast in mono from 12 years earlier that, according to abruckner.com, has never been previously issued. While it follows the same interpretive lines as the later recording, it is faster in the first two movements and more intense throughout. Mravinsky’s style in Bruckner and also in a wide range of repertoire can be described as clear-headed, energetic, and rhythmically taut. The flexibility and romantic sensibilities of other conductors who were his contemporaries (Furtwängler, for example, or Svetlanov in Russia) were not Mravinsky’s. He was closer to Toscanini in outlook, although I do find Mravinsky more willing to explore a range of orchestral colors.
Tuttle described Mravinsky’s Bruckner as ‘rough-edged’, which is a fair observation. Attacks are sharp, brass is cutting (perhaps amplified by Russian recording techniques), and the orchestral sonority is brighter than one would hear from most Austrian or German conductors. But he doesn’t drive the music harder than it can take. The Scherzo benefits in particular from the conductor’s care with balance and color, so that its macabre character is made very clear. But it is in the final Adagio that Mravinsky confounds expectations, with a feeling for Bruckner’s long phrases shaped here with suppleness. The music breathes naturally and expansively. The harmonic crisis near the conclusion is shattering in its intensity. Most importantly, throughout this performance we hear orchestral playing of commitment and passion, so much so that we cannot help but be engaged.
St. Laurent Studio has done a good job in transferring the Russian broadcast sound, though there is dynamic compression in the original that is probably undefeatable, and the orchestra is more closely miked than would be ideal. This is a valuable and excitingly dramatic Bruckner recording, and it is recommended to collectors of both the composer and the conductor.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"People will always be in need for the art of Yevgeny Alexandrovich Mravinsky for it is warmed with the sacred fire of selfless devotion to the ideal, it knows no compromise, and that's what its principal value is all about."
- Gennady Rozhdestvensky
"Readings of the utmost intensity; no one else has had the nerve, or ability, to play the music this way. The treatment is very Russian: the passions more feverish, the melancholy darker, the climaxes louder.
It has been said that the string musicians played as if their lives depended on it. Equally distinctive are the wind and brass timbres; those who heard the Leningrad Philharmonic in performance under Mravinsky say that no other ensemble sounded remotely like it in pianissimo or fortissimo. The sonics are remarkably strong for the time, though a little edgy in the loudest pages. These accounts leap out of the speakers as if they were being played in the here and now."
- Ted Libbey, NPR Classical, 25 Aug., 2009