Bruckner Symphony no. 8 Review

Live. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

The fabulous Concertgebouw acoustic has been beautifully captured, and new details can...

Matt Fernand 2002

Suddenly we're doing very well for Bruckner 8's. New ones, that is, never mind the reissues, the boxed sets and the historic recordings. A decade ago the catalogue listed twenty Bruckner 8's; today there are well over fifty available. Where once every conductor with a record contract had to have a Beethoven and Brahms symphonic cycle, today it seems you're nothing without your complete Bruckner and Mahler. When did we become so symphonically long-winded?!

Mind you, at the Concertgebouw there's no choice. You have to do Mahler and Bruckner: that's just the way it is, the tradition in its 115 year history, from Mengelberg and van Beinum through Haitink, and now Chailly. He had no real form in Bruckner when he arrived in Amsterdam in the late 80s, but boy has he learned the ropes. But then I suppose this great Brucknerian orchestra is a fine teacher, and Chailly's 8th is quite an achievement, and one which might bring the shorter Nowak version of the score a few more admirers. It also allows Chailly to fit this huge odyssey onto a single cd without ever feeling as though he's had to rush.

No, you don't get that sense of architectural immensity that late Haitink (with the Vienna Philharmonic rather than the Concertgebouw) or Karajan afford; instead of their comparative ruggedness there's unusual gentleness and sensitivity, and a warmth that's quite unexpected. The recording is a tremendous help: the fabulous Concertgebouw acoustic has been beautifully captured, and new details can be heard as layer upon layer of sound is rolled out in front of you. This might not be the right first choice if you want just a single representative recording of Brucker's Eighth Symphony, but if you want to be moved by its emotional warmth and not just its size and impact, you ought to hear Chailly.

Andrew McGregor - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3

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