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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Unitel Classica
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
WORKS: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
PERFORMER: Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 716108; Blu-ray: 716204


During the last half century, Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony has gone from being a rarity to being – for many people, including me – the greatest of all symphonies. It’s now available in a scarcely credible number of recordings, both audio and on DVD. This latest, in both DVD and Blu-ray formats, is in staggeringly fine sound and displays the superb Dresden Staatskapelle, of which Christian Thielemann is the chief conductor. Without doubt, and this DVD offers further proof, this is one of the world’s leading orchestras. Listening twice – and I must say that I could see and hear very little difference between the two formats – I was not only stunned by the immense climaxes, with their impressive burnished brass, but also delighted by the individual qualities that members of the orchestra elicit from their instruments. As with all the finest orchestras, you can see they are listening to one another, intent on making music together.

The fly in the ointment, for me, is Thielemann. You can’t help being impressed by his control of his forces, but as with Karajan, with whom he worked as an assistant in his last years, you wish he wasn’t so evidently managing everything that happens. He admires Wilhelm Furtwängler and Hans Knappertsbusch, but he is the antithesis of both of them, different as they are from one another. Each of those masters still arrests you when you listen to their recordings; you can’t help but be struck by the freshness and at least apparent spontaneity of their performances. With Thielemann, on the other hand, everything seems to be set in stone, as if this performance were a stupefying unveiling of something that is already finished in every detail. Yet as soon as you start listening, you can’t help but find it irresistible.


Michael Tanner