Klaus Tennstedt

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Klaus Tennstedt recorded Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on two occasions, in 1981 for the BBC and in 1982 for EMI, both times using the 1890 version edited by Leopold Nowak. One might think that, at such proximity in time and with the same edition and performers, there couldn't be much variance between the two recordings. However, the EMI release is preferable for its excellent sound quality and tightness of playing, while this recording has some problems of clarity and variable dynamics, as well as some occasional looseness in the parts. Because the reproduction is uneven, some quiet lines drop out of the mix, and the hazy sound seems to waft uncertainly and without focus. This takes some getting used to, and listeners may find that levels change unpredictably, as if an engineer rode the controls too much during the live recording. The looseness of the orchestra may actually be a bigger problem, for in a few places it seems that parts aren't synchronized, and Bruckner's counterpoint begins to feel rhythmically slippery and imprecise in attack. With all that said, this might seem to be an unlistenable recording, except that Tennstedt still brings the score across with tremendous sincerity, and it is still an exciting performance, notably in the amazingly fast Scherzo and in the explosive Finale, which lives up to this symphony's rarely used nickname, "Apocalyptic." But the finest playing comes in the Adagio, which Tennstedt infuses with a deeply tragic feeling, and the orchestra plays with profound tenderness. This 2008 release fits the symphony on a single disc, so it also has convenience going for it.

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