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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 8 in C minor (1884-87, rev. 1889-90)
Edition prepared by Furtwängler based on Haas and earlier editions
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Wilhelm Furtwängler
rec. live, 17 October 1944, Vienna. Mono ADD

The remastering of this famous off-air performance here by Music Concepts is from magnetic, quarter-inch mono tapes in the Vox archive, hence the remarkable clarity and lack of hiss. The resulting sound is considerably crisper, more detailed and forward than my Artone (Membran Documents) label issue, so I judge this remastering by Music Concepts to be a real success. It will always be rather harsh in the treble but the bass underlay comes through, too so it is well balanced.

One notices so much that is subtly graded and adjusted in Furtwängler’s conducting – minute ritardandi, telling gradations in dynamics, an emphasis upon a note within a phrase – which never becomes mannered or disjointed in the manner which, for me, I’m afraid Jochum’s agogic treatment does. This is nervy, thrilling, propulsive Bruckner conducting, not the massive, hieratic approach taken by steadier interpreters more wedded to a constant pulse. A performance of this thrust and intensity soon makes one soon forgets the relative inadequacy of the sound. There is an almost improvisatory quality to this performance of this great symphony, as if Furtwängler were discovering the music along with his audience as it is played.

The quality of playing is very high, too; I cannot imagine that the morale - or even the bodily well-being - of the orchestra member was at its zenith in October 1944, yet Furtwängler has transmitted his faith in the civilising and restorative power of music to his players and they play like men possessed.

Tempi are swift; the Scherzo is particularly hard-driven yet there is such tenderness in the slow section of the trio. The Adagio is immense, as overwhelming as any on the catalogue despite the limited sound, and of course we gat the cymbal clash at the climax, then a coda of ineffable poignancy and serenity. There is a massive certainty to the finale, absolutely no danger of fragmentation as the echoes of preceding movements are welded and melded into a wholly satisfying

This is surely the best of Furtwängler’s wartime recordings and here presented in the best possible sound.

Ralph Moore

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