With its majestic themes soaring upwards like gothic pillars and its brilliant chorales and fanfares glowing like stained – glass windows, Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 is the most monumental of his orchestral works, a cathedral in sound that grows out of pianissimo murmurs. Coming after the triumphs celebrated by the composer’s Seventh Symphony and Te Deum, the Eight was considered by Bruckner as the artistic climax of his career. Cleveland‘s Severance Hall is the venue for this performance. This hall, an eclectic yet elegant mix of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classicism, Egyptian Revival and Modernism was inaugurated in 1931 and is still hailed today as one of the world‘s most beautiful concert halls. The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, began its ascent to the upper ranks of the world‘s ensembles after it moved to Severance Hall in 1931.
For his project of recording the complete symphonies of Anton Bruckner on CPO, Mario Venzago has chosen to record each symphony with a different orchestra to re-create the sounds that Bruckner would have heard. Considering that Bruckner's experiences with orchestras spanned three decades, he would have witnessed growth of the orchestra's size and the introduction of new instruments, which clearly influenced his decisions when he composed and revised each work. Venzago performs the Symphony No. 8 in C minor with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, following the 1890 version and employing the same instrumentation and ensemble scale, as well as traditional practices that are documented in performances from that period. The result is an Eighth that sounds strikingly different from the other symphonies, quite far removed from the early Romantic orchestra he used in the First, and considerably expanded from the ensembles he would have expected for the Fourth or even the Seventh symphonies.
Bruckner’s majestic Symphony No. 8 overflows with lavish themes and rich sonorities, representing the composer at his grandest, whilst the Symphony’s occasional title ‘Apocalyptic’ alludes to an underlying tone of solemnity. This strong and idiomatic reading comes from a live-to-air BBC recording dating from October 1981. This is very early days in the Orchestra’s long association with Tennstedt. In true Tennstedt fashion, the sheer beauty of the sound and opulence of the textures are awe-inspiring in this triumphant interpretation. Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 29 October 1981.
Few conductors have made a greater contribution to our present-day understanding of Bruckner than Günter Wand (1912-2002).
This first box includes Bruckner symphonies nos. 5, 6 and 8 in their original or restored versions as well as an elegant, but rarely performed Haydn Symphony and the "Unfinished" symphonies by Bruckner and Schubert. Later, TDK released the second box of 4 DVDs including the popular Bruckner Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 and symphonic works by Brahms and Schubert.
With the exception of the Fourth Symphony, Gunter Wand's Berlin Bruckner remakes have not surpassed their NDR predecessors. The reason isn't hard to fathom: NDR is the better of the two orchestras in this music at present, and the evidence is right there on the discs themselves. During his tenure as music director, Claudio Abbado has replaced approximately two-thirds of the Philharmonic's personnel, and however fine these newcomers may be individually, as an ensemble the Berlin Philharmonic is a young group that has not yet found its corporate voice. Contrast this to Wand's years of work at NDR almost exclusively in the Brahms/Bruckner/Beethoven core German repertoire, and it should come as no surprise that his earlier efforts supercede a one-off guest gig in Berlin, however much rehearsal time he might have had. Still, this being Wand and Bruckner, the results are bound to be at least good, so when reading the following comments please insert the adverb "comparatively" before every descriptive adjective.