Ivor Bolton / Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra

Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

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Choosing a single term to describe a conductor's interpretive approach to a given work can be misleading, but upon listening to Ivor Bolton's recording of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor, a word that might come to many minds is elastic. In contrast to performances that are driven, clipped, and relentless in their forward motion, Bolton is fluid, thoughtful, and willing to pull back the tempo and pacing when it permits greater freedom and lets the music expand and breathe. This is not to say that everything in this live recording is slow or played ritardando -- listen to the Scherzo to feel real propulsion and high energy -- but Bolton knows that this expansive symphony is best served with flexibility and a certain amount of well-timed rubato, particularly for dramatic effects but also for a clearer handling of Bruckner's occasionally odd phrase lengths and abrupt transitions. The Mozarteum Orchester of Salzburg clearly understands Bruckner's music well, and its expression and style are always appropriate, even though some of the playing is a little loose. Bearing in mind that this is a concert performance, some allowance must be given for this unevenness, especially because the musicians' spontaneity amply compensates. This rendition of the Symphony No. 8 will not be the first choice for fans who like it played aggressively; for that, there is always Karajan. But anyone who knows this work well and wants a considered and expressively flowing version should give Bolton a try.

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