Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 6
Sound Quality: 7
Bruckner’s symphonies are the classical music equivalent of scientology: just the thing if you’re thinking of joining some mind-numbing cult. Too many conductors slog through the music in a way that seems designed to draw attention to their own pseudo-profound, faux-spiritual pretensions (note the cover art), with scant concern for the music’s intensity and potential for drama. There is also a zombie-like breed of Bruckner fan, with a fetishistic craving for endlessly revised versions of each symphony. In order to meet this perceived demand, the Church of St. Anton (a.k.a. The International Bruckner Society of Vienna) is always ready to sanctify a new “critical edition” of some alternate text as an offering to the cult.
This is a typically orthodox performance of the Eighth Symphony, in the sense that it pushes all the right buttons without offering a particularly compelling vision of the work. The slow movement is really, really slow (27-plus minutes), which is understandable, but then so is the first movement, which is less so. It renders some of Bruckner’s most angst-filled music almost serene. Jaap van Zweden isn’t helped by cavernous SACD multi-channnel sound and overly blended, often timid brass playing. The scherzo is fleet but so lacking in impact that it sounds pointlessly repetitious, while the finale similarly starts out quickly, but this only diminishes its grandeur without offering excitement in exchange. The coda, though, is predictably slow and “spiritual”. There was a time when Bruckner was special. He is special. Not now, and not here.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Karajan/Vienna (DG)
- BRUCKNER, ANTON:Symphony No. 8