> Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 8 [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No 8
Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Rudolf Kempe
Recorded Tonhalle Zurich Studio November 1971
SOMM CD 016-2 [2 CDs 82í02]


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Kempe became director of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra in 1965 and this recording of Brucknerís Eighth Symphony dates from the final period that came to an end in 1972. He uses the Haas edition. There is no doubt about it. This is a lucid, natural performance with considerable momentum and one apparently unconstrained by the studio red light. Flexibility coexists with that Kempe feeling for direction to sure effect. Frequently incisive and with often well-prepared climaxes the contours of the movements emerge in strong relief. And yet something is missing.

There is subtlety of rubato in the first movement but the strings donít really sing out to full effect. The preparation for the trumpets at 8í40 is fine with malleably forward pressure but the brass themselves, here and elsewhere, are not optimally blended and lack finesse. The recording tends also to highlight the relative brazenness of their attack. But at 11í30 the reduced dynamics and affectionate string moulding is undeniably moving and Kempe shapes this and the succeeding paragraphs with real insight and imagination. In the Scherzo he is two minutes quicker than, say, the recent recording by Skrowaczewski (Arte Nova 74321340162) but he is intelligently alert to the importance of the trio section and nothing sounds unduly rushed. The Adagio encourages depth of string tone, burnished and lyrical, without saturation. The gradients are powerful as are the gradations of the climaxes. I admired the cushion of string tone after the brass perorations and the sure balancing of the harp. The orchestral near stasis at 16í02 is followed by a sure instinct for forward motion though Brucknerians of a more seasoned nature will probably have preferred a less energetic view of the adagio. Kempeís way with the finale is best exemplified by the brass outburst at 6í30. Itís rather too raucous and insistent for my liking and I felt the finale suffered, cumulatively, from too much insistence generally. Itís good to have Kempeís Bruckner available but itís not a central recommendation. Sommís presentation is good and I liked the Gothic script and elegant design. Itís just that it housed a performance that was a little too agnostic for me.

Jonathan Woolf

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