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Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 / Welser-Most, Cleveland Orchestra [DVD]

Album Summary

>Bruckner, Anton : Symphony no 8 in C minor, WAB 108
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Coming after the triumphs celebrated by the composer's 7th Symphony and Te Deum, the 8th was considered by Bruckner as the artistic climax of his career. Cleveland's Severance Hall is the venue for this performance. This hall was inaugurated in 1931 and is still hailed today as one of the world's most beautiful concert halls. The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, moved into the Hall in 1931. Bonus Material: Pre-concert talk with Perry and Welser-Möst.

How, I wonder, would Gustav Mahler have reacted to the implied attention-deficit at the quiet start of one of his finest songs, "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen", with its heartbreaking echoes of war and love, the orchestral introduction played to a visual accompaniment of distracted hall-scanning, as if the initial absence of a voice had induced insufferable boredom? It's bad enough when members of the audience feel fidgety and of course I appreciate that, given the context, there are limited options (the recently refurbished Severance Hall in Cleveland is, after all, extremely handsome), but surely a single well-chosen point of focus would have been preferable.

...the (++++) live recording by Franz Welser-M÷st and the Cleveland Orchestra may come as a surprise to those who know this conductor for his intellectual approach to music - which often produces well-played but rather unemotional readings. Welser-M÷st turns out to have a real affinity for Bruckner: this is a carefully controlled but scarcely unemotional reading of the symphony, with top-notch orchestral playing and a welcome use of the 1887 Leopold Nowak version of the score - which runs a full hour and a half. There is elegance, refinement and considerable intensity throughout this performance, whose relatively few metronomic moments are more than compensated for by conducting that, the majority of the time, lets the music flow naturally and allows the musicians a chance to shine with truly beautiful tone. It is worth pointing out that the 1887 version of this symphony will not please all lusters: the first movement ends loudly, not softly as in later versions, and the third contains six cymbal clashes rather than the two heard elsewhere. Many critics believe the 1887 version is significantly flawed because of these matters - the first-movement triumph seeming premature and the many cymbal clashes simply vulgar. But the fact remains that this is how Bruckner originally saw the symphony, and it is a view that modern listeners rarely have the opportunity to experience (although Georg Tintner recorded the 1887 version in his Bruckner cycle for Naxos).

The big question about this DVD, as always when it comes to visualizing classical music, is whether the pictures enhance the listening experience or not. There are no significant bonus elements to this video presentation - just a pre-concert talk that is fine but not especially illuminating. And certainly there is enough drama in the music itself so that director William Cosel's changes of focus and camera angle can be intrusive. On the other hand, some may enjoy the feeling of experiencing this August 2010 recording (assembled from two tapings) almost as if it were a live concert. There is, in any case, something exhilarating in hearing Bruckner's final finished symphony sound the way he originally wanted it to, and played with as much intensity as it receives here.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 112 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English


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Works Details

>Bruckner, Anton : Symphony no 8 in C minor, WAB 108
  • Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst
  • Ensemble: Cleveland Orchestra
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral