When conductors choose to perform a Bruckner symphony, they either use the original version, in the belief that it reflects the composer's true intentions, or select one of the later revisions, which are solidly established in the repertoire. For this 2016 Profil release, Jukka-Pekka Saraste has made an interesting compromise by choosing Robert Haas' edition of the 1890 revision of the Symphony No. 8 in C minor, which avoids the awkward moments in the original 1887 version, yet preserves some felicities that Bruckner omitted in subsequent versions.
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.
This recording gives a fascinating portrait of the approach to Bruckner’s music developed by Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra over their many years of working together.
Jaap van Zweden is currently releasing the cycle of Bruckner symphonies with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic for Octavia and Challenge Records International, with symphonies 2, 4, 5, 7 and 9 already released to great critical acclaim. This is the 8th Symphony!
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.