Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
PERFORMER: Saarbrücken RSO/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 34016 2
In a world that increasingly espouses the superficial, the meretricious and the easily achieved, Günter Wand and his Bruckner recordings stand out as a glorious anachronism. The legendary German conductor, now 90 years old, demands (and receives) as much rehearsal time as he requires to produce the most awe-inspiring and certainly most meticulously prepared Bruckner recordings ever made.

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Three Bruckner Eights of Wand’s already exist in the catalogue: his original Cologne recording of the complete set, begun in 1977, plus live recordings with the NDR SO made in 1987 and 1993. His latest cycle, with the Berlin Philharmonic, offers not only the finest orchestra of all but ever-deepening interpretative insights. Where Skrowaczewski’s Eighth – a 1993 recording with the Saarbrücken Radio SO – presents Bruckner in more humanist, flesh-and-blood terms, with powerful rhythmic thrust and palpable shaping of phrase in the Scherzo, Wand’s view is Olympian. Standing above the fray, he projects the spiritual grandeur inherent in the traditional approach to Bruckner better than anybody.

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Karajan, in various recordings, also achieved a sense of the numinous and Harnoncourt’s version for Teldec (of the Nowak edition) is characteristically penetrating and thought-provoking. But the new Wand is the one to go for. Though made under the supervision of the same producer responsible for his 1993 version, the new recording has more depth, more bloom and is a fitting vehicle for this majestic reading. With an Adagio that is ineffably moving and reaching a climax not so much thrilling as apocalyptic, Wand’s Eighth stands testimony to a world order that can no longer be taken for granted.