Gerd Schaller / Philharmonie Festiva

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

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Choosing a recording of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor has become a complicated matter, considering the dramatic differences that exist between his original version of 1887, which has gained proponents who prefer the unrevised versions of the symphonies; the unpublished variant of 1888; the 1890 version, which has become the most widely recorded; and the 1892 version, which has fallen by the wayside. Bruckner scholar William Carragan has worked with Dermot Gault and Takanobu Kawasaki to produce a viable performing version of the 1888 variant, which receives its premiere performance by Gerd Schaller and the Philharmonie Festiva on this 2013 release from Profil. This is a fascinating, if perplexing, reading of the symphony that retains some features of the original, incorporates many details that have never been heard before, and offers insights into Bruckner's development of ideas and orchestration. However, this recording is not the first one newcomers should hear, because much of what's in it is inexplicable without knowing the 1887 or the 1890 versions. With the great number of recordings of the Eighth available, either of those versions can be found and informed comparisons can be made. But for all of its interesting material, as well as for the filler piece, Schaller's orchestration of the Funeral Music for Anton Bruckner by Otto Kitzler père et fils, this double-disc package really should be approached as a special item for serious Bruckner students, not as a firmly established version.

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