Zubin Mehta

Bruckner 8

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The symphonies of Anton Bruckner make great demands on orchestras, and not every ensemble has the physical and technical wherewithal to make them their own. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has taken Bruckner to heart, under the leadership of its conductor, Zubin Mehta, and it has released the Symphony No. 8 in C minor as a live recording on Helicon, as a follow-up to its concert CD of the Seventh Symphony. In both cases, the Israel Philharmonic plays with commitment and feeling, but falls a little short in polish and consistency. The symphony opens with moderate intensity, and the musicians hold together quite well in the first movement, but the tempo is cautious, suggesting that the players were held back from playing at full bore. A few problems arise in the Scherzo, with some tentative playing in the strings and inaccuracies in the woodwinds and brass, and the Adagio is quite drawn out and sluggish, which contributes to the movement's lack of focus. The Finale brings back some energy, but at the cost of sounding episodic and at times manic, with tempo choices that break the movement's continuity and with some scrappiness from the strings and brass. While Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic clearly have the desire to do right by Bruckner, this uneven performance suggests that it will take more work to improve their results.

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