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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bruckner's 8th Symphony is currently on the 16th tier of the Talk Classical Community's Favorite and Most Highly Recommended Works:https://docs.google.com/document/d/18t_9MHZTENbmYdezAAj4LRM0-Eak_MYO1HssZW2FX1U/edit

Wikipedia has an article about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._8_(Bruckner) that makes for a pretty good listening companion. Another fantastic analysis of this towering work by Tom Service can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/t...03/symphony-guide-bruckner-eighth-tom-service

Here is Trout's list of recommended recordings for this work:

1. Karajan (cond.), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1988)
2. Furtwängler (cond.), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1944)
3. Giulini (cond.), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1984)
4. Wand (cond.), North German Radio Symphony Orchestra (1987)
5. Boulez (cond.), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1996)
6. Wand (cond.), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (2001)
7. Van Beinum (cond.), Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1955)
8. Jochum (cond.), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (1964)
9. Schuricht (cond.), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1963)
10. Furtwängler (cond.), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (1949)

The main questions of this thread are: Do you like this work? Do you love it? Why? What do you like about it? Do you have any reservations about it? And of course, what are your favorite recordings?

Along with Mahler 9 (pretty much neck-and-neck), this is my favorite symphony. It was the first full Bruckner symphony I heard, and I definitely didn't get it right away. But once I devoted my attentions to understanding the structure of the music; how Bruckner, armed with a small handful of musical building blocks, fashions a monumental cathedral of sound; I was totally hooked. I honestly believe this is one of the most formally perfect symphonies ever devised. After Bruckner, the classical symphonic format as we know it had nowhere to go. Despite its length, I don't believe there's a single note out of place. From the unstable, primordial murmur that the first movement grows out of, to the delightfully bouncy scherzo and angelic trio, to the cosmically sublime depths of the Adagio, to the immense jigsaw puzzle of the finale that ends in a blast of searing light, hearing this symphony is one of the most rewarding experiences in classical music for me, and it's one that I never tire of. It takes a very skilled conductor to pull it off convincingly. Furtwangler '44 I count as one of the most transcendental performances caught on record, and Karajan's I believe is the crown of his recording career. Boulez and Jochum are two other very good, though very different, options; and Wand I appreciate for disassembling Bruckner into its fundamental building blocks to make it accessible, but I find him a bit lacking interpretively.
 

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I will never forget the first time I heard this symphony - a live performance in Los Angeles. The ending coda, with that sudden unexpected change of key lifted me up - wow, that was incredible. Still gets me all these decades later, on recording or in concert. It's sure a long symphony, and the extra brass needed to pull it off is one reason that it's not performed as often as others. But it's a great, great work and I'm glad to see that my favorite recording (Karajan DG) is the one listed above. I really like the Solti too. He brings a powerful punch to it. The 8th is one of those things on my bucket list that I want to play someday.
 
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For a somewhat different perspective on the symphony, try Sir John Barbirolli's performance with the Halle orchestra taken from a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1970. It was done just 10 weeks before Barbirolli's death and despite his being in very poor health, it is given a very urgent and powerful performance, one of the faster ones on disc. This is a live, unpatched performance and so will probably annoy those who demand technical perfection but what you do get is passion - was it a case of "Rage, rage against the dying of the light"?
 

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I love the work, definitely in my top25 symphonies (as just posted in another thread), but not in the top 10. My favourite Bruckner symphony is the 9th (3 movement version). I do not have a preferred version of the 8th (I have Boulez, Jochum, Inbal and Tintner on CD).
 

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Well, since you've asked: I find Bruckner's Eighth intensely boring. The interminable repetition and sequencing of ideas that weren't particularly interesting in the first place makes me want to open a vein. And the tone of high seriousness, the sense that the composer seems to have thought he was doing something important, just makes it so much worse. For me, Bruckner embodies everything bad about late Romantic and post Romantic music.
 

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I have to agree with Edwardbast. The 8th seems to be a favorite of many but I'd rather listen to most of the others ahead of this one.
 
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I don't really "get" Bruckner's 8th, the "Apocalyptic". I heard the Klemperer recording and really liked it, but I think it's a non-starter for many because it apparently contains cuts, non-canonical cuts at that. I want to hear the Karajan/Vienna. I have a question about that recording...:



... how is it possible that this is on a single disc at over 83 minutes long?! I thought they capped out right at 80 or 81.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Though I can definitely see how Bruckner bores many (he bored me the first several times I heard him), I think the gigantism is a signature part of his style that's impossible to look past. I don't get the impression he's doing it to "impress" people, it just seems like he's writing honestly and sincerely from his heart without any thoughts of worldly practicality or constraint. In some ways, similar to Mahler- except Mahler was a restless vagabond always in pursuit of truth. Bruckner knew what he believed and, truly thought that his source of faith was directing his art. For me, it is decidedly harder to sit through a Bruckner symphony than most of Mahler's. But the end result is always worth it since it feels like we've run a long, hard, patient race and by the time we get to the coda; the payoff is almost always worth it.

I forgot to mention my sole reservation about this symphony- the size of the finale. Finales are decidedly Bruckner's weak spot for me. After his immense Adagios, it's really hard to follow up. But I feel like his finales are often overworked and lose my attention. It goes back to a general pet peeve I have, which is overlong finales. I think Brahms wrote the most perfect symphonic finales- usually less than 10 minutes except the 1st, which is a brilliantly-constructed movement so it doesn't seem as long. But the finale of this work is definitely my favorite of Bruckner's, not least because of the sheer epicness of that opening theme. I just wish he'd be a tad more concise! The solution, however, is NOT to cut chunks out of it as Klemperer did in his ghastly slow recording (love Otto, but certainly not his Bruckner by any stretch of the imagination).
 
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I don't really "get" Bruckner's 8th, the "Apocalyptic". I heard the Klemperer recording and really liked it, but I think it's a non-starter for many because it apparently contains cuts, non-canonical cuts at that. I want to hear the Karajan/Vienna. I have a question about that recording...:



... how is it possible that this is on a single disc at over 83 minutes long?! I thought they capped out right at 80 or 81.
In the early days of CDs 80 minutes was seen as really long. Another Bruckner I have, by coincidence, the Thieleman 5th has over 82 minutes with no problem. Depends on the CD player. It's a crap shoot sometimes. The Gergiev Nutcracker is over 80 minutes and will play on my high-end CD Marantz player at home, but not in the Sony car stereo. I didn't know that the HvK Bruckner was now on a single disk - I have the 2-disk set.
 

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I've always thought of Bruckner's 8th symphony as darkness and not apocalyptic (its nickname) -- as if it should be nicknamed the "Catastrophic" symphony.

I've heard all the recordings on the list and many more. My favorite recording -- No. 4 on the list -- has Gunther Wand leading Brahms's hometown orchestra (North German Radio Symphony) in a live recording in a church. It is very religious, almost too much so, and there is a lot of reverb in the church that clouds some of the orchestration. But there isn't another like it for spirituality though Karajan and Giulini come close.

My second favorite, No. 7 on the list, is more like the catastrophe. Eduard von Beinum's account has great mono sound with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and has passion and force others do not -- similar to the way Furtwangler led the 9th symphony.

Forehead Chin Human Coat Tie
 

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Oh, like I'm going to listen to 10 different versions (or be familiar with 10 different versions) of the Bruckner 8th.

I will never forget the first time I heard this symphony - a live performance in Los Angeles. The ending coda, with that sudden unexpected change of key lifted me up - wow, that was incredible. Still gets me all these decades later, on recording or in concert. It's sure a long symphony, and the extra brass needed to pull it off is one reason that it's not performed as often as others. But it's a great, great work and I'm glad to see that my favorite recording (Karajan DG) is the one listed above. I really like the Solti too. He brings a powerful punch to it. The 8th is one of those things on my bucket list that I want to play someday.
Ah, yes. The "unexpected key change". A very effective, easy and cheap trick to rouse interest.

Lt. Kije puts the key change right there in the middle of the 'A Theme' phrase, but you can hear what the melody sounds like without the key change in the bridges of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's I Believe in Father Christmas.

Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata: Cm --> Eb --> Gm --> Em
Beethoven's 9th Symphony, 1st mvt: Shifts between Dm, F, Bb, and Cm

But Bruckner's 8th Symphony? Well, it certainly takes a Zen patience to get that far in the work (like, what?, an hour's worth of patience?).

I like what Bruckner did with the 4th mvt., though, reusing the themes from the previous movements; of course, Beethoven did it first with his 9th, but only as an introduction to the new movement, not as a means to a triumphant conclusion, reworking old ideas and new ones into a coherent whole.

I don't really "get" Bruckner's 8th, the "Apocalyptic". I heard the Klemperer recording and really liked it, but I think it's a non-starter for many because it apparently contains cuts, non-canonical cuts at that. I want to hear the Karajan/Vienna. I have a question about that recording...:



... how is it possible that this is on a single disc at over 83 minutes long?! I thought they capped out right at 80 or 81.
In the early days of CDs 80 minutes was seen as really long. Another Bruckner I have, by coincidence, the Thieleman 5th has over 82 minutes with no problem. Depends on the CD player. It's a crap shoot sometimes. The Gergiev Nutcracker is over 80 minutes and will play on my high-end CD Marantz player at home, but not in the Sony car stereo. I didn't know that the HvK Bruckner was now on a single disk - I have the 2-disk set.
Funny, but originally CDs capped out (or so we were told) at 74 minutes.

The grooves go from center to outside edges, and to attempt any more than 79:59 is to risk the end of the disc being unplayable on some players (some people still claim that anything over 74:30 is risky).

Todd Rundgren, in the days of the LP, tasked LP lengths with a couple of his albums, resulting in reduced volume in order to be playable. Indeed, he still had to speed up some of the tracks (at that time that meant the pitch would be higher as well) to stay within tolerances.

For those of you who enjoy tech talk, here's the story of the CD:

http://www.turing-machines.com/pdf/cdstory.htm
 

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From the manual page for a Linux CD burning program:

overburn:
Allow [writing] more than the official size of a medium. This feature is usually called overburning and depends on the fact that most blank media may hold more space than the official size. As the official size of the lead-out area on the disk is 90 seconds (6750 sectors) and a disk usually works if there are at least 150 sectors of lead out, all media may be overburned by at least 88 seconds (6600 sectors).

Therefore practically it is possible to write 81mins 28 secs of an standard 80 minute (actually it is 700MB) CD. It is practically possible to get slightly over 82 minutes on most blank CDs. When the disc is a standard commercial pressing then they are only restricted to what most CD players will allow hence some get up to about 84minutes.
 
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Well, since you've asked: I find Bruckner's Eighth intensely boring. The interminable repetition and sequencing of ideas that weren't particularly interesting in the first place makes me want to open a vein. And the tone of high seriousness, the sense that the composer seems to have thought he was doing something important, just makes it so much worse. For me, Bruckner embodies everything bad about late Romantic and post Romantic music.
Can't agree with you on this one, Edward but I love your expression "makes me want to open a vein"; I'm going to have to use that somewhere, thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Furtwängler '44 is IMO the greatest orchestral recording in existence. Just a shattering experience.
Along with his '42 and '54 Beethoven 9ths, I would have to agree with this. In my humble opinion, you haven't really heard what can be done through the process of interpretation if you haven't heard them.
 

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Bruckner 8 is for me, head and shoulders above all other symphonic works.

My current favourite.

I have 2 other performances of 8 with Takashi Asahina directing. One with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and the other again with the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra.

 

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Furtwängler '44 is IMO the greatest orchestral recording in existence. Just a shattering experience.
This is indeed a great performance, but I would put Furtwangler's 1953 BPO Schumann 4 ahead of it. For some years now, I've felt that there is no orchestral recording that can match it.
 

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Two potential outliers worth listening to:

Lorin Maazel with the Berlin PO

And, dare I say it, Boulez with the VPO (no Darmstadt permafrost, believe me)
 
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