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Sym 8

Anton Bruckner Audio CD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 16.31 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. Symphony No. 8 In C Minor: 1. Allegro Moderato
2. Symphony No. 8 In C Minor: 2. Scherzo. Allegro Moderato - Trio. Langsam - Scherzo da Capo
3. Symphony No. 8 In C Minor: 3. Adagio. Feierlich langsam, doch nicht schleppend
4. Symphony No. 8 In C Minor: 4. Finale. Feierlich, nicht schnell

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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

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant Surprise Aug. 13 2002
Format:Audio CD
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Richard Strauss Version. June 13 2002
Format:Audio CD
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Boulez and Bruckner-Not as surprising as it sounds. Sept. 18 2000
By NNNNN
Format:Audio CD
The idea of Boulez taking on Bruckner's most monumental symphony should not surprise anyone who has followed his career. He was after all invited by the Wagners to conduct the RING and PARSIFAl at Bayreuth in the 1970's. Since the late 1960's he has written several articles and given numerous interviews taking French audiences to task for neglecting Bruckner. Boulez fell in love with Bruckner after hearing Klemperer conduct him and a love affair is what we have in this performance. The massive cathedral of sound that Bruckner often constructs is rock solid in Boulez's hands.He often adds to the structure by letting us hear things that in less expierenced hands are a blur. The opening brass fanfares are underlined by the cellos and bass' but you would be hard pressed to know that from most performances. You will hear it here with the result of an added grandeur to Bruckners already majestic fanfares. Fresh deatails like that abound throughout the performance. The symphony by the way is recorded in concert at the Austrian monastery of St. Florian where Bruckner was student and organist and where he is buried.A pleasent surprise perhaps but also a hope that Boulez will record more Bruckner.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Boulez' Bruckner a spectacular surprise Sept. 12 2000
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars 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... Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2003 by Arnout Koeneman
4.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published on April 3 2003 by Mr John Haueisen
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine CD
I have Giulini's 1980's version also on the DG yellow record label and I found that performance to be a bit more fierce, even with the somewhat slower tempos. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2001 by Richard Steiger
5.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published on April 12 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars An Epiphany Experience
If you believe you understand the power of music to speak in spiritual language then prepare yourself. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2001 by Grady Harp
4.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2001 by Gene Bivins
5.0 out of 5 stars 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... Read more
Published on Nov. 24 2000 by Russell Jackson
1.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2000 by offeck
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