Dresden Staatskapelle / Christian Thielemann

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

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Christian Thielemann's live 2009 recording with the Staatskapelle Dresden of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor ranks highly among contemporary versions, and it may even be the cream of the crop because its clarity, power, sympathy, and gravitas are a compelling mix, while other performances almost always fall short in one of these four critical ways. They may be murky in sound, enervated and meandering in direction, excessively rigid in pacing, or overly theatrical and bombastic, but Thielemann avoids these pitfalls and delivers the symphony with an extraordinary sense of coherence and a secure feeling for what works. He ensures that every detail can be heard absolutely clearly, with focused attacks, crisp articulation, clean lines, and transparent textures, and he sustains the levels of energy so the musicians and listeners are held in a state of suspense and steadily drawn forward by Bruckner's irresistible rhythms and dynamic movement. Thielemann also preserves the essential Austrian character of the music, so the lilt and charm of its dance-like passages are preserved to help balance out the solemn and brooding characteristics that dominate this imposing work. Beyond these considerations, it's easy to discern that the orchestra takes his direction well and that the musicians are actually inspired to play their very best, for their alertness to sudden tempo and dynamic changes reveals that they are constantly playing in the moment and not giving an automated performance. Add to this impressive tally the wide dynamic range and spacious depth of the recorded sound, and this presentation of the Symphony No. 8 will rise to the top of the stack of modern releases, given proper distribution. Highly recommended.

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