|Bruckner: Symphony 8
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When word got out that Pierre Boulez was planning to record the mammoth Eighth Symphony of Anton Bruckner, the reaction in some quarters was akin to the announcement that a leading Marxist intellectual had accepted the CEO position at General Motors. While Boulez has already acclimated the music world to his latter-day interest in the core symphonic repertory with his recent performances of Mahler, the sense of incongruity with Bruckner's mystical solemnity seemed too great a leap to expect from the famous apostle of the avant-garde.
Forget about those prejudices--Boulez's accomplishment here is arguably even more successful than his accounts of Mahler. It also offers a fascinatingly fresh view of the great symphonist, who some feel will finally come into his own in the 21st century. Stereotypes of Boulez's razor-sharp, "cerebral" bias don't do justice to the sensuous pleasure he can elicit from the Vienna Philharmonic's musicians, a detailed alertness to Bruckner's instrumental touches that are too often overshadowed by focus on his architectonics. Boulez, of course, has a command of the latter as well, and his brisk pacing of the Robert Haas compilation/edition creates a sense of momentum and flow that's particularly striking in his brilliant realization of the Scherzo and the Finale.
True, there's less of the "apocalyptic" (an epithet sometimes given to this symphony), of the crushing tragedy, one hears in Karajan's canonical interpretation or the fine version by Skrowaczewski, and Boulez's chary avoidance of pauses in the celestial Adagio cheats us of the near-death-experience-in-music that comes through in Celibidache's glacial but visionary concert recording. But that sense of detail--witness the balance of horns and strings in the Adagio's closing pages--counts for much. Moreover, this live recording gains warmth from the acoustics of the Abbey Church of St. Florian--where Bruckner served as organist, and where his body is buried--and benefits from excellent engineering. Ironic as it might seem, Boulez may indeed win new converts to Bruckner with this performance. --Thomas May
- At last, a definative Bruckner Eight
The days are gone when recordings of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony were a rarity, but despite that great recordings have remained elusive. Haitink was too dour and the normally relaiable Gunter Wand got into quite a mess on his RCA recording. Karajan's mid 70's version was probably the only reliable choice and his tended towards the rhetorical. Not so with this new Boulez recording. Every detail is carefully thought out but never do you feel Boulez gets in the way of the music. Unlike almost all other recordings, the double-dotted rhythm of the first movement is correct and played naturally. Boulez resists the temptation to overstate the conclusion of the short first movement, realising there is still much further to go, placing the emphasis instead on the third movement and the finale which is surely what Bruckner intended. The third movement with that yearning melody in D flat is here played with such poingency and feeling that you immediately sense this is where Bruckner intended the heart of his greatest symphony.
Boulez's judging of tempos of each movement is exceptional throughout, broadening out at the big climaxes and pushing the tempo in the build ups. Never is there a feeling the music has lost direction, the big problem with Guilini, also on DG. The Vienna Philharmonic know this work possibly better than any other orchestra and here they play it with an intensity that they lack for Guilini. Boulez is prepared to honour Bruckner's dynamics to the letter, avoiding the temptation of others, including Haitink, to 'edit' the big brass tuttis. In this performance they shine out in their full glory. The strings have that famous polish of the VPO and the quality of their tone will rank alongside the finest work they have committed to disk.
The venue for the recording was the Bruckner Church in Linz. Boulez voiced some reasonable concerns about the possible acoustic problems. He need not have worried. The DG engineers have worked wonders and every detail of this recording is clear and vivid. At high volume, the power of this recording is quite breath-taking, but it works at lower volumes as well. The quality of the recording is splendid. It must go down as one of the finest recordings to come from DG and that is no mean achievement in itself, considering the high standards of so much of DG's output. Here though they have truly excelled themselves. Boulez uses the original Hass edition of the score, complete in every detail. This is infinately preferable to Novak; those cuts still feel wrong no matter how many times you hear them. Far better to hear Bruckner as he intended his works to sound rather than through one of his numerous editors who cut large chunks out often without reference to Bruckner himself.
For those who may be wary of Boulez in German and Austrian music, here you need have no fear. This is certainly one of the finest recordings Boulez has ever done....more info
- Interesting but not mandatory listening
The intriguing combination of Boulez and Bruckner (not quite as unlikely as it may sound given the conductor's credentials in Wagner) yields and Eighth of undoubted interest, though in the final reckoning not one that quite matches the crowning achievements by Giulini, Wand or even Chailly. In the first three movements Boulez offers his signature clarity, and a firm hand on the tiller without unduly subduing the powerful moments. His attention to middle voices is extraordinary; despite the unhelpful acoustics of Sankt Florian church, and without any deliberate spotlighting, he draws your attention to busy harmonic figuration in the violas or second violins. There is a deep sense of the multi-layered canvas that this work is, and rewards are plenty. Nor is the conductor insensitive to the strange, twilit moods Bruckner can conjure up, especially when moving from one theme to another or at the start of a development section. This orchestra is of course naturally attuned to this music, and the solo playing is sensitive and beautiful throughout.
The tight rhythmic control makes the first movement sound more purposeful than in some other readings, and the Scherzo has plenty of energy, even if it lacks the last ounce of bucolic exuberance. The complex rhythm that accompanies the Adagio main theme is again articulated clearly and with confidence rather than glossed over as happens too often. Unfortunately, though, Boulez shows little sense of mystery when his violins climb to crystalline spheres - the result sounds too matter of fact. The somewhat glassy-sounding harp doesn't help (much as it didn't in Karajan's famous recording with the same orchestra).
It is the finale where the reading falters. The tempo is simply too fast ("Solemnly, not fast" is Bruckner's indication), and fluctuates too much along the way. The spectacular "battle music", where the main theme is propelled along by inexorable timpani, apart from being too fast to begin with, is even given an unmarked accelerando, as if Boulez has his mind set on turning the music into Mahler. The final peroration, one of the great goose pimple moments in music, is undone by the unsuitable church acoustics, and comes off like a big, booming blur. Weirdly, the liner notes claim that while church acoustics are often very troublesome, they aren't in this case, because after all Bruckner himself played the organ at Sankt Florian. As if that has got anything to do with it! In all, it is very unfortunate, because here in particular perfect balance is essential to make audible how Bruckner achieved the non plus ultra of the cyclical principle: while Beethoven in his Ninth was content to recall the themes from earlier movements successively, Bruckner has them sound simultaneously. You can hardly hear that in this recording, nor do the trumpets succeed to realize their "hervortretend" and punctuate the clamour with their jubilant fanfares.
I've detected no audience noise in this live recording, but did notice occasional rough edges to the VPO's ensemble playing. The recorded sound is not at all bad overall, quite warm and surprisingly detailed in softer passages - though the bass is a bit thick and lacks clear definition.
- It's not nice to carp, but..
...the reviewer who gave this astonishing performance three stars because the Adagio movement lacked mystique may lead one to think that Boulez has replace Bruckner's spirit with his own. Actually, that's true, for his version of the Adagio is strcutrually clear, precise, and without much rubato to underline emotion. But for some reason this turns out to be alchemy--the Adagio is one of the greatest things about Boulez's reading.
But, then, I should disclose that my Bruckner collection is full of Karajan and Giulini and bare of Wand, Jochum, or Hiatink, all of whome this reviewer extols for mystrique. I find all three flat (even though Haitink performed a wonderful Bruckner Seventh with the BSO in recent seasons and an equaly superb Eighth with the Vinnea Phil in Carnegie Hall)....more info
- Boulez: the Greatest Conductor since Karajan...
Everyone was totally blown-away when Boulez decided to conduct Bruckner's 8th: I don't know why, because Boulez is our greatest conductor in the world since the death of von Karajan; moreover, Boulez is an expert in Mahler and Schoenberg--Bruckner being their immediate predecessor, it stands to reason that Boulez should bring a similar insight to his oeuvre.
This is a great realizaton, and a great disc since it manages to squeeze the mighty 8th on one CD without feeling at all "squeezed."
I can hardly wait for Boulez to do Bruckner's 9th--his truly greatest work!...more info
- Boulez's Unique Interpretation of Bruckner's 8th Symphony
Once more Pierre Boulez opts for a clinical approach to late 19th Century German symphonic music, conducting Bruckner's 8th Symphony with the same keen attention to detail which he's lavished on his ongoing Mahler symphony cycle. But here he's able to coax the Vienna Philharmonic into lush, rhapsodic playing which emphasizes the melodic qualities of Bruckner's score, at the expense of some of the dramatics. The orchestra's sound is enriched immensely by the warmth of the church of Saint Florian, where Bruckner served as organist and now lies buried. To my amazement he keeps everything flowing at a rather brisk tempo, making this interpretation among the swiftest I've heard. Purists may decry the fact that Boulez has deemphasized the dramatic aspects of Bruckner's score, especially in the closing measures of the Adagio, which is an approach favored by most conductors, most notably by Herbert von Karajan in his definitive Deutsche Grammophon recording with the Berlin Philharmonic. However, those open to a different, indeed, fresh look at Bruckner will no doubt want this recording. For a live recording made during the international Bruckner festival held to commemorate the centennial of his death, Deutsche Grammophon's sound engineers have done a fine job in producing an extremely well-balanced recording....more info
- no mystique
Many reviews have already been written so I shall make it short.
For me the most beautiful piece written by Bruckner, next to his glorious and spiritual adagio of the 5th, is the adagio from his 8th symphony.
This piece has in the right hands an authentic mystique quality in sound and feel.
Boulez doesn't come close to it and that's a pity because the other movements are superb.
The first movement, for instance, gets the right brisk speed and is lyrical without being ponderous.
Well I can go on and praise Boulez for these movements.
The orchestral playing, his excellent phrasing and the natural flow as ever.
But that doesn't take away my impression that the adagio, how beautiful and intense it is played, lacks just that crucial element which makes Bruckner's music special and which makes up for the somewhat weak and fragmented structure of his music: the genuine mystical atmosphere.
Gunther Wand, Jochum and Haitink handle this movement (this music in general) the best I think
Wand especially in his NDR symph.recording of the 8th and without doing anything special really, that's so amazing.
Overal a very good performance, but without that specific character Bruckner's music (to my ears) desperately needs.
Three stars...more info
- Not Your Father's Bruckner
If you're acquainted with Bruckner's Eighth, and very much like hearing it the way you're used to, this is not the album for you. In trying to take a different approach to this much-recorded work, Pierre Boulez has given us what one reviewer calls a Strauss-like Bruckner. He has leveled off a lot of the stark Bruckner contrasts, but in doing so, has lost much of Bruckner's power.
I remember decades ago, when the favorite analogy to describe Bruckner's symphonies was "towering cathedrals in the clouds." Boulez appears to have planted the cathedrals in the middle of a Johann Strauss orchestra. Now, that's not all bad. It gives us a fresh interpretation of this work and still retains memories of the original.
If you haven't enjoyed Bruckner, this might be just the thing to pique your interest. It's not your father's Bruckner....more info
- A Pleasant Surprise
First, the bad news, which you have probably already heard:
Boulez does not give you the majestic bowl-you-over power one often associates with Bruckner's music, especially when conducted by someone like von Karajan. If you want to experience why this symphony is sometimes referred to as the "Apocalyptic", this is not the recording for you.
On the other hand, Boulez reads this score with sensitivity and attention to detail, which are well-brought-out in the crystal-clear sound of this recording. The Vienna Philharmonic, as so often when playing Bruckner, is wonderful.
I like the somewhat faster tempos, not least of all because it enables the recording to fit on one disc. I have always thought the first two movements did better when played at faster tempos; I almost never listened to the 2nd-4th movements of Giulini's great recording on DG with the VPO because I found his first movement so trying.
That being said, I didn't find Boulez's first movement entirely satisfying; it *does* lose something when the climaxes are not performed with the accustomed Bruckner "umph". I liked the second movement a lot; "deutscher Michel" or no, I think it comes off better with Boulez's lighter-footed interpretation than most other performances I've heard.
I actually enjoyed the slow movement. Boulez opens with a mood that is restrained and contemplative rather than brooding and tragic, then allows the emotion and profundity of this great movement to unfold naturally, rather than straining to drag greatness out of every bar. In spite of the short timing (less than 25 minutes), the music did not sound rushed at all to me.
I run hot and cold on the Finale. Again, it lacks the colossal power one hopes for in an epic Bruckner movement, but as Boulez takes this away with one hand, he gives you clarity construction and sensitivity to nuance on the other.
All in all, this recording is well worth getting if you think you'd like to hear something different in Bruckner, or if you are a little put off by the sound and fury that so often plagues a typical performance of one of his symphonies....more info
- The Richard Strauss Version.
Boulez brings us a version of Bruckner's Eighth that sounds more like the neat web of complex rhythms and melodies of late Richard Strauss than Wagner (of whom Bruckner is mistakenly labeled as a knock-off). The big climactic moments are downplayed and the tiny chamber-like phrases are emphasized, with all their detail brought out for the first time here on this recording.
However, there is a lack of all things grotesque. This version tends to smooth out the VU meters. Instead of going from silent to bombastic and back again, we get a lot more consistency of sound. One can't imagine Anton approving of the style and execution here... However, he is long gone and the rest of us have to decide what to do with the score.
Along side his Mahler, Boulez seeks to take a fresh approach in this interpretation of another great Viennese symphonist who, like Mahler, also wrote to nine. He succeeds in taking yet again a fresh approach. Gone are the organ-like orgiastic highs on horns. Gone are the long silences and the nail biting buildups to nirvana. Gone is the brass hair-raising that makes the windows rattle. Besides, you won't find anything sinister lurking behind one of these buildups. Instead, this is Bruckner for those who don't really care for Bruckner. Its as if Haydn himself got hold of the score and rewrote it for the occasion of this recording, adding little insights here, comedy there. Has anyone ever heard Bruckner like this in the concert hall?
The Sound: The timpani are boomy and muddy by contrast and the brass is strangely constrained. The interplay of the timpani in the Scherzo with the strings is highly irregular. In some cases it's as though the timpani and brass are off stage as in Holst's final movement of The Planets. In addition, someone at the mixing desk left for lunch without turning up the strings to where we can hear them when they mixed this recording down to master. I hope he had a good bottle of wine, because we missed him.
In the entire 76'14, the strings are always reaching for more airtime to break away from the other instruments, so we strain to hear them. Their absence reduces the tension of the piece in a significant way. After all, the Finale sounds like it belongs in a Batman movie, not a Bruckner symphony recording from DG.
One of the clear advantages of this recording is fitting on to a single disk. Grab it, take it in your car, and shove it in the player and you're done. Lots to be said for simplicity.
However, when you compare the 8ths on hand in your cupboard, it is to the 1st von Karajan recording or the EMI Celibidache you will return for ultimate satisfaction without a doubt.
So where are we left with the current recording courtesy of Boulez? The usual place when a conductor comes along and challenges our notion of what a piece is all about. We have to give it some time, consider the approach and render a final decision. In this case, that may take a while......more info
- Like a dog standing on its hind legs
To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, Boulez conducting Bruckner is like a dog standing on its hind legs: it isn't done very well, but you are surprised that it is done at all. Actually, this isn't a bad performance or even an unfeeling one. It would prabably make a good introduction to the score. But to those familiar with the great von Karajan performance, or the fascinating one by Guilini for that matter, it's pretty small potatoes. A lot seems to depend on just how much Boulez is interested at any given point. The exposition and recapitulation sections of the first movement slip by with little notice taken of anything, but the development section is quite fine and atmospheric, the dialogue between oboe and horn quite hypnotic. The "scherzo" part of the scherzo is very light and flippant, almost Mendelssohnian in its gossamer lightness, not at all what this great movement needs (Karajan is wonderfully earthy here), but the trio is beautifully handled (no match for Guilini, though). It's the slow movement that is most disappointing--slack and tensionless, with little sense of struggle. In the gorgeous "celestial" theme (the one with the harp), the strings are weak and colorless, utterly lacking the otherworldly beauty this passage can suggest. On the other hand, the harp is more audible than in most performances. Worst of all, the series of anticlimaxes that lead to the great climax are performed with little intensity and no sense of struggle at all, making the climax itself noisy rather than triumphant. I would also add that the sound itself is mediocre--clear but constrained, lacking the dynamic range and depth of Karajan's. The difficult finale is well done, but only Karajan captures the stormtrooper terror of the opening theme and the heroic/tragic dimensions of the movement as a whole. All of this makes the performance sound worse than it is, but there's really no middle ground with a Bruckner Eighth. Ultimately, I'd say of this performance what Gertrude Stein said of Oakland: There's no 'there' there....more info
- Best since Furtwangler?
I first heard Bruckner's 8th in a live Furtwangler recording. I was particularly drawn to the scherzo which had an unbelievable diabolic taut energy. All of Furtwangler's performances from the 40's are great, but the sound isn't very good, and I have been looking for a more modern recording with similar energy. Everybody raves about Karajan's digital recording but it left me cold -- boring! Boulez turns in the most satisfying version of this symphony I've heard in modern sound. Not quite as much energy as Furtwangler, but very very beautiful and keeps moving on waves of glorious sound....more info
- An Epiphany Experience
If you believe you understand the power of music to speak in spiritual language then prepare yourself. Boulez and the Vienna Philharmonic have approached the altar of the Bruckner Symphony No. 8 in a way that brings to mind all of the master conductors of the past century and for me he supercedes all other standards in this energizing, uplifting, transcendental recording. Repeated hearings only open new windows of understanding about how Bruckner approached the Sacred Ideal in this organ-like symphonic architectural wonder. The clarity we have come to expect from Boulez is keenly present to uncover lines hidden by other conductors' lack of vision. This is a mighty and magnificent performance that deserves every honor it is gathering. Celebrate yourself and buy it to play whenever the world is too much with you!...more info
- Massive, detailed, but not mythic
First things first: the Vienna Philharmonic pretty much owns this symphony on records, and they play with their accustomed brilliance here. That said, Boulez's microscopic tendencies are useful at all times; the structure of this symphony comes through as perhaps on no other recording. This is of value, as Bruckner can sprawl in less exacting hands. But there is missing in this performance the kind of visionary eternalism that Giulini, Furtwangler and Horenstein have brought to it in the past. Without that quality this becomes a very good but unfocused performance. My own recommendation for anyone wanting the depth and breadth of this music would be Giulini's DG recording with the same orchestra, which has only been bettered once in my experience, and that was Giulini's valedictory performance as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who played that night as if they were possessed....more info
- Bruckner Surprise
I bought this with some reservation. My opinion of Boulez as a clinical conductor altered when I bought some of his Mahler performances which have shaken much of the dust out of symphonies such as the 7th - and this Bruckner is superb. It is rather like Klemperer's structured view but faster than he would ever have conducted it. The orchestra is ideal and I look forward to more Boulez Bruckner revelations....more info
- Dismal rather than Cataclysmal.
Boulez is'nt cold, really, he's just detached; and there's nothing wrong with detachment, if you're an amputee. The main problem with objective interpretation, of which so many of today's non-inspired seem very fond, is that it never allows the subject--or audience--to be involved. As written, Bruckner's Eight is a glorious cathedral, but here, forget about sentiment, personal transcendence, religious experience, finding the meaning to life, or an adventure to Valhalla, it's little more than a study in architecture....more info
- Boulez' Bruckner a spectacular surprise
This recording of Anton Bruckner's biggest, most complex and prodigious symphony, by a conductor known for his dispassionate approach and disdain for the grand Romantic gesture, came as a complete surprise. It's a stunning performance, one of the very best I've heard. He clocks in -- at 76 minutes -- on one disk, but like most conductors who manage this feat (Klaus Tennstedt excepted), he doesn't give the least impression of being in a rush or short-changing Brucknerian majesty. Perhaps he's at his most distinctive in the transitional passages; too often, they become mere note-spinning, when Bruckner obviously lavished them with as much love as on his massive climaxes. Boulez gives them shape and makes them sing. Always the most erratic of conductors, does Boulez lose interest during the rehearsal period, or what? But this issue justifies his reputation. I'm looking forward to more of his Bruckner, and am especially eager to hear what this French intellectual hears in the prescient Ninth....more info
- It doesn't help to over-analyse!
Listening to Bruckner, or being an honest "Brucknerian", is one thing. Commenting on a new interpretation or performance in a manner that is more demonstrative of one's personal musical knowledge rather than expressive of the work itself, is quite another.
The new Boulez interpretation, as well as the Vienna Philharmonic performance and the sound enginnering and recording, are absolutely fantastic. Yes, the Haas version is a little different from the, for my taste, overpopular Nowak variance. They are both worth listening to, as are most performances by the Karajans, Barenboims, Walters, etc. This release is absolutely a MUST in any Bruckner fan's collection (and there is nothing wrong with owning four, five or six renditions of the same piece). Sometimes over-analysing works of art, especially the kinetic variety like music, borders on over-analyzing!
Buy the disc and play the hell of it, and enjoy!...more info
- Exciting Bruckner, if lacking a little in grandeur
I very much enjoyed this CD, although some of Boulez's tempi are faster than I would have liked: the second subject of the finale for example goes at a tremendous clip, and I'm not sure it respects the composer's 'nicht schnell' marking. Similarly the slow movement presses ahead a little too much at times.
Still this is a fine interpretation and one which I would recommend to all Brucknerians.
Don't worry if you've been put off by Boulez's Mahler (as I have), as this performance is not lacking in emotion, and is superbly played (especially by the brass and lower strings) and wonderfully recorded.
Sinopoli on DG would be my first choice, but this CD has given me a lot of pleasure: the finale is perhaps the most exciting on record!...more info
- tremendous clarity and vision through timbre
I never liked Bruckner I thought he was too simpleminded with his penchant for the spiritual and his mindless infatuation with Wagner. But here Boulez reveals another side to Bruckner the labyrinth-like scheme of harmonies which seem to re-emerge in forever new configurations.He treats the Bruckner sound as one monolith on a single canvas,intensily controlled and attenuated, with a seamless timbral body of sound,always with the strings ion the forefront dominating, yet balanced the sound. The other way around with the winds as you might find in Wand or Karajan, you find there an ugly organ-like massive sonority with the winds directing the sound upwards into halting gestures. You find this in Brahms's orchestrations as well. The Romantic imagination had little to contribute to the art of orchestration,their feel for sound was fairly basic,with a constitution of families of sound,divided and domesticated. Today with a modernist sensibility to timbre you find these problems to resolve as Boulez so admirably does as the organ timbre I mentioned also the bottom heavy configurations of sound,balance and the brass as in Mahler and here in Bruckner need special care. Boulez knows all this, and the sound he is able to coax out of Vienna is inspiring, and worth repeated hearing. Boulez's passiveness is a misnomer and is not an inferior aspect of the Boulez interpretive aesthetic.His penchant for clarity and timbre is what imparts another vision here.You find this in Abbado and Eotvos.They make us listen more. The overbearing Karajan or Solti,or Barenboim interpretations many times goes for the juggler with direct emphasis on the graphic elements in Bruckner, the reiterations in the brass, an the overbearing sound that you can only give in and submit to. There is no room there for contemplation.So our listening experiences there are well taxed,draining ourselves. Here Boulez sweeps the brass sonorities into the overall sound,simply as an unknown buttress of the sound, similar to the beams and supports we never see within the bowels of the great cathedrals. There are also wonderful chamber like moments, with the horn, harp and strings alternating their entrances.Boulez also allows the solo moments as the clarinet and oboe emerge from this labyrinth sound,pitting the solo lone voice against the masses. This creates a tension never heard before in Bruckner,where before solo voices seem to be enveloped and dominated. I also thought Boulez brought a razor sharp sound here, very strident and piercing, again this emanates from a direct emphasis on the string body. This sound also creates a tension which propells the work forward, without the necessity of emphasis of certain harmonic tension. There is also a very real immediacy of expression from moment to moment which compells the work forward,as if Boulez wants us to listen on a localized pallette, rather than simply waiting for the violence of the brass entrances coming from the hinterlands as we have found with other interpreters. I also found never heard before pianissimos, the various string tremoli I could listen to again and again. Boulez makes Bruckner almost into a modernist....more info
- A Highly Spirited Performance, not as majestic as in Karajan
One may be shocked after realizing that Pierre Boulez' recording of Anton Bruckner's Eighth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO) clocked at 76 minutes (and under the Robert Hass edition of the score). Yet, on the other hand, we find Carlo Maria Guilini's recording of the same work, with the same VPO, & under the same Deutsche Grammophon recording clocked at 87 minutes, but using the Leopold Novak edition. The former too fast, the latter too slow? To those acquainted with other recordings of the masterpiece under both editions (especially of Karajan, Wand, Tennstedt, Horenstein), perhaps.
Yet, Guilini's recording of Bruckner's Eighth never fell short of being draggy & tearing the music apart. Guilini keep the orchestra firmly on their toes, and his approach & architecture of the work is highly euphoneous & never quite onerous. Boulez' approach of the work using the Hass edition is surprisingly dramatic, though not necessarily "hurried", especially in the first two movements and to some extent in the Finale. The Trio section of the Scherzo movement & the Adagio are beautifully shaped, however, with the strings rather smooth & silky, the woodwinds crisp & eloquent, and the harp being so much of a wonderful presence. The brass is not as imposing as it was in the recordings with Karajan, Giulini, or Tennstedt (with the London Philharmonic). There were places where the brass (especially the four Wagner tubas/eight horns) were on the thinnish side, especially in the beginning bars of the Finale. The infamous Climax in the Adagio was also well paced by Boulez although the cymbal clashes were hardly audible.
To celebrate the centenary of Bruckner's death, Boulez & the VPO decided to perform & record the Eighth in St. Florian during the International Bruckner Festival (St. Florian is near Linz-where Bruckner was a famous organist before his move to Vienna by 1874). Many church acoustics tend to be atmospheric, with the sound dying in its long, natural death (as in Wand's recording under BMG/Red Seal). On the other hand, some church acoustics tend to rob the sound of its natural richness & blend as in the case of this recording. The sound overall is accurate (and the dynamic range appreciable), but noticably recessed & congested. Therefore, Boulez choice of tempi is rather logical under the circumstances & the power & nobleness of Bruckner's symphonic writing remained firmly intact. Well done.
As in Horenstein's reading, Boulez' generates warmth & dynamicism though fallen short of the Cathedral-type majesty & architecture of Karajan & Wand. Karajan's reading is more beautifully shaped. But Boulez' approach is refreshingly idiomatic & he definitely showed sympathy & admiration towards this great Austrian composer. Furthermore, Boulez' recording is more balanced than Karajan's, Horenstein, or Guilini's, depite the brass lacking greater imposition in places. Meanwhile, as always, the Vienna Philharmonic performed with great commitment, passion, & authority & their love for Bruckner is all but dismissible here.
This recording is ideally a point of future references & is therefore highly Recommendable....more info