Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
 (BR Klassik)

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CD_900165_Bruckner_cmyk

Bruckner Symphony No. 8 (1890 version)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
BR Klassik 900165 80:07 mins

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Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony is for me the greatest of all orchestral works, symphonic or otherwise; one of the pinnacles of artistic expression, perpetually astonishing in its perfection and its completeness. Claims of this sort are usually taken to be ridiculous, but I challenge anyone, listening to a performance/recording of the Eighth as fine as this new one, to deny that such an immense synthesis of mood, structure, depth and splendour has one marvelling at what one person, however impressive the tradition in which he is working, can achieve.

Reading the excellent notes to this recording is to be reminded that this symphony, almost as much as any of Bruckner’s symphonies, was a child of anxiety and hesitation, and that what we hear is only one of several versions of the work. It is clear, surely, that this one, the so-called 1890 version, radically revised by the composer from the first version, but without interferences from well-meaning friends and editors, is the best.

There are many wonderful recordings of the Eighth, surprising given its difficulties. This one, with the rich-toned Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, deserves a place with all but the very greatest. Mariss Jansons’s eye for balance and detail is prodigious: even in the grandest, loudest passages the clarity he achieves is extraordinary, perhaps above all in the last movement, where for once Bruckner’s need to crown the work with something worthy of the first three movements is satisfied. No lover of this symphony will be content with less than half a dozen recordings, and this should undoubtedly be among them.

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Michael Tanner