Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 (DVD)

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Accentus
WORKS: Symphony No. 8
PERFORMER: Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 202178

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Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony is an immense and complex work, so it’s remarkable that there are so many fine recordings of it. Wilhelm Furtwängler’s apocalyptic reading from 1944 was followed by at least 30 extraordinary accounts, and now we have this stupendous, magnificent account from Daniel Barenboim and his Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra given in the Philharmonie in 2010. The work, the conductor, the orchestra are all shown in the best light. It is the kind of experience that has you sitting afterwards, for a long time, wondering at the greatness of what you have just heard – and seen.

Brilliantly, inconspicuously filmed, one registers the extraordinary and selfless virtuosity of the players in this great orchestra. The first hornist, Patricia Gerstenberger, plays her incessant and demanding part with apparent effortlessness, but all the wind players are superb – there are far fewer solos for the strings, so one is less likely to notice that they are on an equally exalted level. And Barenboim seems to have the full measure of the work, if that is possible, and to let it flow, with some pretty extreme fluctuations of tempo. The cumulative power of this, for me the greatest of all symphonic works, is something that in this account takes one to the limit of intensity, and though there are many other accounts of the work I shall go on listening to, this will always rank with the top two or three.

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Michael Tanner