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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 8 in C minor (1889-90)
Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester/Otto Klemperer
rec. Saal, Funkhaus, WDR Cologne, 7 June 1957. ADD
MEDICI WDR MM021-2 [72:05]
Experience Classicsonline

Bruckner’s symphonies have been described as “cathedrals of sound”, and his eighth, dedicated to Emperor Franz Joseph I, is no exception. Whether one is one of those who loves Bruckner’s gargantuan works, or loathes them - there seems to be very little middle ground, Bruckner being one of those few composers who leaves no-one unstirred by either awe or tedium! - one cannot deny that it is a ‘monumental’ work, even if just in length! It was composed in 1884-5, and then revised in1889-1890 on the advice of the conductor Hermann Levi.
Klemperer is famed for his Bruckner interpretations, and one can see why. This recording is passionate and intense from the very first note. In the first movement Allegro moderato Klemperer and the Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester mingle hints of undisguised wistful yearning with bursts of triumph. The pace is steady, but not too slow.
The second movement Scherzo contains some wonderful moments of melting tenderness, yet I thought I detected a trace of restraint in the triumphant ending of the movement, where Klemperer seems to pull back a tiny bit from the emotion of the moment. The Adagio third movement is radiant, with gorgeous shades of light and dark – listen, for example, to the spine-tingling moments around two minutes in – incredibly beautifully done. It is a fairly swift version in comparison with such recordings as Klaus Tennstedt (in 1982 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on EMI). The Finale is given a dramatic rendition, with Klemperer presenting the listener with everything from a rich, full orchestral sound to great delicacy from the strings.
On the whole, this is an excellent disc. The sound is fairly good, with warm strings and little extraneous noise. The Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester play with real feeling, and, often, searing intensity. An exciting performance, and well worth a listen.
Em Marshall


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