Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 in D minor; Symphony No. 8 in C minor

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in D minor; Symphony No. 8 in C minor
PERFORMER: Cleveland Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi
CATALOGUE NO: 443 753-2 DDD
The Third was the symphony Bruckner dedicated to Wagner, and it originally contained reverential quotations from The Ring. These were largely excised in the revised version Bruckner himself conducted in 1877, but this premiere was the most humiliating fiasco of his career, and in the late 1880s he modified the work yet again. Most conductors opt for this last revision, but there is no doubt that the large cuts that the composer was persuaded to make did irreparable damage to the music’s structure; and Dohnányi – like Haitink and Solti – sensibly chooses the first revised version. So far so good; but the performance itself, alas, is seriously lacking in warmth and mystery, and Decca’s rather analytical recording does little to help.

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Dohnányi sounds more at home in No. 8, and he produces a particularly impressive account of the finale. The great Adagio is beautifully played, too, yet it is difficult not to feel that it drags at Dohnányi’s very slow tempo. In this, he is certainly not alone: in my experience, only Karajan managed to allow the music to flow as it should, while at the same time plumbing its emotional depths to the full.

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A black mark to Decca for wholly inadequate pauses between movements, and a gap of only seven seconds separating the two symphonies. Misha Donat