With their gigantic masses that shift almost as slowly and as inexorably as tectonic plates, Bruckner's symphonies are the most dangerous Fafnirs in the repertory. Play a Mahler symphony poorly, and it's bad; play one by Bruckner badly, and it's also boring.
The performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 by the Baltimore Symphony last night in Meyerhoff Hall was neither bad nor boring, but it was ordinary. This was probably conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski's fault. The BSO does not play much Bruckner, but it gave a great performance of the Sixth Symphony a few seasons back under Gunter Herbig. Last night they played all of Bruckner's notes at Skrowaczewski's tempos. It often seemed -- particularly in the first two movements -- that nothing was happening.
Some of the conductor's ideas sounded peculiar. He took the scherzo, for example, too quickly. The musicians were able to play the notes. What they weren't able to do at that speed was to pound out the Brucknerian fury with sufficient emphasis to create a sense of irony and evil.