Bavarian State Orchestra / Kent Nagano

Bruckner: VIII. Symphonie 1887 Urfassung

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The original versions of Anton Bruckner's symphonies have been increasingly performed since the millennium, and recordings of them have proved invaluable to students who have attempted to work through the various problems of mutiple revisions in the composer's hand. The Symphony No. 8 in C minor presents relatively few versions for listeners to contend with, so the 1887 Urfassung is quite recognizable (except for the first movement's incongruous C major conclusion, which Bruckner wisely removed in his 1890 revision). Kent Nagano and the Bavarian State Orchestra perform the work with appropriate gravitas and intensity, though with perhaps too much thickness of textures for the audibility of the inner parts, and the elegiac feeling of the symphony is fully conveyed, despite the unnecessarily slow tempo in the first movement. When one considers the lightness of his 2011 CD of the Seventh Symphony, Nagano seems to be going in the opposite direction with the opening of the Eighth, and the sheer weight of the interpretation works against it; as shown in many other recordings, the music benefits from forward propulsion, and the serious mood isn't harmed by a slightly quicker pulse. Fortunately, Nagano salvages the remaining three movements from sluggishness, and some parts of the Scherzo and the Finale are almost hair-raising in their excitement. Comparing this recording with those by Georg Tintner, Simone Young, Dennis Russell Davies, Eliahu Inbal, and others who favor the 1887 version might be worthwhile for Bruckner scholars, though the 1890 version is the most commonly recorded and should be heard as well.

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