I regard Carlo
Maria Giulini as one of the greatest of all Bruckner conductors
although he only recorded the Second, Seventh, Eighth and
Ninth Symphonies. There are now three versions of his Eighth
available – the others dates from 1983 with the Philharmonia
Orchestra (a live recording on BBC Legends – see review)
and 1984 (a studio recording with the Vienna Philharmonic
Orchestra on DG currently only available from ArkivMusic).
I haven’t heard the former but the only difference in interpretation
of note between this reading and the Vienna studio version
is a broader tempo for the Adagio in the studio. Interestingly,
his Vienna version of the Ninth is also considerably slower
in the Adagio compared to Stuttgart – the only other DVD of
his conducting of this composer I can currently find (see
As ever, Giulini uses Nowak’s edition of the composer’s final
thoughts. He obviously knew the score well enough to leave
it in the dressing room and appeared to feel every note of
The occasion was
the inaugural concert of the World Philharmonic Orchestra
in Stockholm over two decades ago. The orchestra was formed
to promote peace, has top players from around 80 countries
and is still going (see website).
To my knowledge though, it has not made as much impact on
public consciousness as the East-West Divan Orchestra founded
more recently by Daniel Barenboim. Perhaps they have been
touring the solar system since 1985? One could regard the
lack of a playing tradition as an advantage or disadvantage
- probably the latter in Bruckner would be my view - but there
is no doubt that they played this work very well on the night.
I found the (unnamed) leader’s playing a bit visually distracting
at times but there are few, if any, fluffs in one of the most
taxing works in the symphonic repertoire.
sings most eloquently but unfortunately his vocalise is here
frequently audible in the background - not something I have
noticed with this conductor before. The recording generally
is not out of the top drawer and there are odd hints of congestion
at climaxes. I would not want to put this on for sound only
as it is well short of CD quality. Regarding the pictures,
camera work is pretty standard but whoever wrote the script
didn’t realise that this is the only Bruckner symphony with
a harp. This is well-balanced in the trio and adagio but I
can only recall the briefest distant glimpse or two.
is fairly standard for a DVD – i.e. poor in my view, especially
as there are no significant extras unless you like trailers.
I don’t know where the 94 minutes claimed running time comes
from because the performance lasts about 86 minutes and there
is about a minute or so at either end, including some views
outside the hall to open with.
All round, much
as I admire Giulini’s conducting, I don’t think this would
be a better purchase than Pierre Boulez’s same label DVD of
a performance given in St. Florian over a decade later to
commemorate the centenary of the composer’s death (see review).
The pictures there are considerably better and sound marginally
preferable - despite Tony Haywood’s point that its sound is
better on CD. Boulez’s fresh-sounding approach - he had never
tackled the composer before - comes across very well. There
is also Wand’s DVD to consider. I haven’t seen it but John
Phillips was impressed (see review)
and I do have fond memories of seeing him conduct the work
at the Proms in the 1980s. So my advice would be to look elsewhere
for a DVD of Bruckner’s Eighth, to acquire one of the CD versions
of Giulini conducting the work - according to whether you
prefer studio or live recordings - and to see this maestro
conduct Bruckner through his Stuttgart Ninth on DVD.
Patrick C Waller