Jaap van Zweden / Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

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On this 2012 SACD from Challenge, Jaap van Zweden performs Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor in the widely recorded 1890 version, edited by Leopold Nowak. Because it has become fashionable for conductors to perform the earliest versions of Bruckner's symphonies, in a debatable effort to find "authentic" Bruckner, van Zweden's choice of this late revision might suggest he's bucking the trend, if not merely demonstrating his personal preference. In any case, van Zweden displays thorough knowledge of the symphony and absolute mastery of its pacing and structure, and his reading with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra reveals the work's coherence and organic wholeness, as well as the fabulous skills of the musicians. The brass especially outdo themselves in the fullness of their blended sound and the warmth of their tone. Beyond the excellence of the interpretation and incandescence of the playing, this is one of the finest sounding SACD presentations available. The depth of the surround sound is extraordinary, and the vibrant presence of the orchestra puts the listener right in the front row. If the measure of a Bruckner performance can be taken from all these factors, this is an outstanding presentation and an indispensible recording that serious Brucknerians should own or at least hear several times.

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