Bruckner's early string quartet is more a composition exercise than a full-fledged work of art, but the quintet is something else entirely: a chamber music masterpiece to rank with the great symphonies in expressive intensity and sheer musical grandeur. Indeed, there are a few places where Bruckner seems to demand an almost orchestral volume of tone, and the slow movement has been successful performed (and recorded) by a full string orchestra. The Intermezzo is none other than an alternative scherzo for the quintet, composed because the original players at the premier found Bruckner's first thoughts too difficult. Well, the members of L'Archibudelli certainly don't find the music too difficult–you won't find better performances anywhere.
For this 2017 CSO-Resound release, Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra present Anton Bruckner's unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor in a monumental performance that impresses with its marmoreal weight, poignant lyricism, and brutal volatility. Not widely known for his few Bruckner recordings, Muti nonetheless delivers this symphony with the passion and sensitivity of an experienced Brucknerian, and possibly because he hasn't recorded it before, this live rendition of the Ninth seems like an attempt to make up for lost time. Muti's intensity and the orchestra's ferocious power combine to make a memorable reading that may remind listeners of performances by such greats as Günter Wand, Eugen Jochum, and particularly Carlo Maria Giulini, whose recordings of the Ninth are recognized benchmarks. While Muti only performs the three completed movements, and eschews any attempted reconstructions of the surviving Finale sketches, the performance has a genuine feeling of wholeness, and the Adagio particularly has the grandeur and pathos that make it feel like a convincing ending, albeit one that the composer did not intend.
Second in popularity only to the Ninth Symphony "From the New World," Dvorák's Twelfth String Quartet – which was dubbed the "American" Quartet by the public and media rather than the composer himself – is a work nearly synonymous with the composer's tenure in the United States. These were not the only two works inspired by his cross-sea voyage, however. The Thirteenth String Quartet in G major, Op. 106, though not imbued with the same folkloric characteristics, also came about following the composer's return from the States. The popularity of the "American" Quartet has resulted in a work that is arguably overplayed, making it difficult for new ensembles to find anything new or unique to say about it.
Classical music listeners resort to ethnic and national generalizations too often. Some of the most insightful Beethoven interpreters were French, and there are plenty of classic non-Czech recordings of Dvorák. Yet there's something uniquely satisfying about this version of the much-recorded Slavonic Dances (both sets, Op. 46 and Op. 72), and the satisfaction has something to do with the all-Czech origins. Take for example the match between the superb sound, recorded in Prague's Rudolfinium hall, and the texture of Jirí Belohlávek's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, an ensemble he has molded into his own.