Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 8 in C minor, WAB 108

    Description by Wayne Reisig

    In 1887, an elated Anton Bruckner sent the score of his eighth symphony to his newly found champion, conductor Hermann Levi. The accompanying letter read, "To my artistic father. Alleluia! May it find grace!" Nevertheless, this immense symphony, dwarfing anything in history before it, was greeted with trepidation by the conductor. After the recent breakthrough success of the Symphony No. 7, Levi was reluctant to hurt the composer's feelings, so he sent a friend to break the news to Bruckner. The result was a nervous collapse on the part of the sensitive, self-doubting composer -- and, upon recuperation, an extensive revision of the symphony. In its new form -- somewhat pruned and with many dramatic new features (including a different ending to the first movement and a new trio) -- the still imposing work was premiered in 1892 under Hans Richter with the Vienna Philharmonic. A more complete triumph could hardly have been hoped for. Bruckner's rival Brahms heartily joined in the long ovation, while the critic Hanslick, the bane of Bruckner's existence, fled the hall amidst jeers and hisses from the audience.

    Even in its revised form the work was the longest symphony on record, with a performance time of roughly 80 minutes. The stern character of the work earned it the nickname "Apocalyptic" (a subtitle which has largely fallen by the wayside), and indeed there is the impression of an eruption as the highly chromatic opening theme thunders out in the full orchestra. A complex of solemn themes unfolds, and an almost cosmic battle occurs in the development section; the recapitulation reaches an awesome climax against an obstinate brass figure; the grim, fading coda, appended in the revision, was described by the composer as a "wake."

    The immense scherzo, one of Bruckner's best, is constructed around an infectious carillon-like figure, and was said by the composer to represent the German national figure "Cousin Michael." The trio is expansive and dreamlike in quality.

    The following adagio is perhaps the longest in the literature and it unfolds in visions of religious ecstasy, reaching a climax similar but structurally surpassing that of the Symphony No. 7. The serenity of its coda is jarringly contrasted with the opening of the finale in which the opening urgency of the first movement returns with even greater intensity. Militant fanfares hammer out the main theme against a jabbing ostinato; a meditative second theme and a rhythmic third are worked out on a vast scale; the sudden return of the opening theme in the recapitulation is one of the most terrifying moments in all of Bruckner's music. The coda to the entire symphony is perhaps Bruckner's greatest orchestral achievement. Over a slow, inexorable build-up the main theme of each movement is reworked in a major key and played in counterpoint with the others, bringing this titanic work to an awe-inspiring close.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro moderato
    2. Scherzo. Allegro moderato - Trio. Allegro moderato
    3. Adagio. Feierlich langsam, doch nicht schleppend
    4. Finale. Feierlich, nicht schnell

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2019
    ABC Classics
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 17024
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 14002
    2018
    ATMA Classique
    ACD 22451
    2018
    BR Klassik
    BRK 900165
    2018
    Praga
    PRD 350133
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 18048
    2018
    Genuin
    GEN 18622
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 17019
    2017
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 16059
    2017
    SWR Klassik / SWR Music
    SWR 19043CD
    2017
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796985
    2017
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4797477
    2017
    Sony Classical
    88985483372
    2016
    Challenge Classics
    CC 72702
    2016
    CPO
    CPO 5550232
    2016
    Philharmonia Records
    PHR 0105
    2016
    ABC Classics
    4814532
    2016
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 16061
    2016
    Oehms Classics
    OC 026
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796314
    2016
    SWR Music
    SWR 19014CD
    2015
    Gramola
    GRAM 99054
    2015
    Savoy
    UMI_00795041610
    2015
    Oehms Classics
    OC 025
    2015
    PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186520
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2014
    Helicon Records
    029674
    2014
    Andromeda
    ANDRCD 9034
    2014
    Newton Classics
    8802143
    2014
    CPO
    7776912
    2014
    Naxos
    8501205
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2013
    Acanta
    233703
    2013
    Warner Classics
    2013
    Farao Classics
    A 108076
    2013
    Farao Classics
    B 108074
    2013
    Warner Classics
    94567
    2013
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 12040
    2013
    Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 13027
    2013
    Decca
    2013
    Warner Classics
    61891
    2013
    Farao Classics
    B 108075
    2013
    Avi-Music / CAvi-music
    AVI 8553279
    2013
    Oehms Classics
    OC 090
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2012
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099995598
    2012
    Teldec / Warner Classics
    2564656263
    2012
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    2012
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2012
    Challenge Classics
    CC 72549
    2012
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4790528
    2012
    Entertainment Group
    4036
    2011
    BR Klassik
    900711
    2011
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4779803
    2011
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2011
    Warner Classics
    680225
    2011
    MDG
    MDG 93717136
    2011
    Music & Arts
    MA 1256
    2011
    Membran
    233373
    2010
    RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical
    7776582
    2010
    Oehms Classics
    751
    2010
    Testament
    1447
    2010
    Teldec
    256468022-8
    2010
    PentaTone Classics
    5186371
    2010
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    10031
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Musical Concepts / Vox
    109
    2010
    BR Klassik
    900703
    2010
    Testament
    1436
    2010
    Savoy
    2010
    Audite
    04480
    2009
    Music & Arts
    MACD1227
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Oehms Classics
    638
    2009
    Sony Classical
    45864
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    7057
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Audite
    21403
    2008
    Medici Arts
    21
    2008
    Document / Membran
    231884
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4777580
    2008
    Sony Classical Essential Classics
    88697202399
    2008
    G.O.P.
    77401
    2008
    Music & Arts
    1216
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    004400734395
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4630812
    2008
    RCA Red Seal
    BVCC-34401/02
    2008
    Relief
    CR 991063
    2008
    BBC Music
    32
    2008
    Decca
    4753312
    2008
    Music & Arts
    MACD1209
    2008
    Orfeo
    773084
    2008
    Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099951203
    2007
    Andromeda
    9010
    2007
    Querstand
    VKJK 0604
    2007
    Coviello / Coviello Classics
    30301
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2007
    EMI Classics
    2007
    EMI Classics
    81761
    2007
    Andromeda
    ANDRCD 9008
    2007
    Orfeo
    724071
    2007
    Elatus
    2007
    Audite
    95495
    2007
    Opus KURA
    7027
    2007
    ArtHaus Musik
    101 435
    2006
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    6008
    2006
    Decca
    442 040-2PB9
    2006
    Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006
    Haenssler
    93140
    2006
    History
    203136
    2006
    Weitblick
    34
    2006
    Decca
    4757470
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Brilliant
    92084
    2005
    Designo
    222505
    2005
    Music & Arts
    CD1172
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Berlin Classics
    0031182
    2005
    RCO Live
    05003
    2005
    Arte Nova
    628560
    2005
    Warner Classics
    2005
    SOMM
    16/2
    2005
    Warner Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    76901
    2005
    Arte Nova
    82876628562
    2005
    Philips
    000530902
    2004
    Oehms
    207
    2004
    Oehms
    217
    2004
    Palexa
    522
    2004
    Rca Red Seal
    60395
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4775136
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2004
    Haenssler
    93148
    2004
    BBC Legends / BBC Music
    41592
    2004
    Warner Music
    61891
    2004
    Artone
    222334
    2003
    Haenssler
    93061
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000001302
    2003
    Music & Arts
    CD1106
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    75944
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4740302
    2003
    Andante
    4070
    2002
    Audiophile Classics
    556
    2002
    EMI Music Distribution
    57406
    2002
    Philips
    4705342
    2002
    Archipel Records
    85
    2002
    Decca
    466653
    2002
    Rca Red Seal
    82866
    2002
    Naxos
    501101
    2002
    EMI Music Distribution
    75130
    2002
    BBC Legends
    40862
    2001
    Arte Nova
    85290
    2001
    BBC Legends
    4067
    2001
    Teldec
    81037
    2001
    Urania
    188
    2001
    History
    203133
    2001
    Andante
    4997-5000
    2000
    Angel Records / Warner Classics
    7243573905
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    66109
    2000
    Urania
    128
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    459678
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445471
    2000
    Angel Records
    73827
    2000
    BIS
    946
    2000
    Archipel
    4
    2000
    Seraphim Classics
    7243573708
    2000
    Arkadia
    78587
    2000
    Seraphim Classics
    2000
    Urania
    152
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445473
    1999
    Arte Nova
    34016
    1999
    EMI Classics
    56696
    1999
    BBC Music
    4017
    1999
    Magic Master
    37013
    1999
    Magic Master
    37078
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    463263
    1999
    Music & Arts
    624
    1999
    Decca
    430228
    1998
    Chandos
    CHAN7080
    1998
    EMI Classics
    556688
    1998
    Naxos
    554215-16
    1998
    Music & Arts
    1028
    1998
    Testament
    1143
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    449758
    1997
    Golden Melodram
    40008
    1997
    Grammofono 2000
    78696
    1997
    Tahra
    207
    1996
    Camerata Records
    CMSE431-442
    1996
    London
    448910
    1996
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447744
    1996
    Tahra
    114/5
    1996
    Melodiya
    29402
    1996
    Teldec
    0630142022
    1996
    Melodiya
    29459
    1995
    Teldec
    94567
    1995
    Camerata Records
    225
    1995
    RCA
    68047
    1995
    Music & Arts
    4856
    1995
    Orfeo
    203891.2
    1994
    6w
    44
    1994
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445529
    1994
    Sony Music Distribution
    53519
    1994
    Koch Schwann
    314482
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    64849
    1993
    Telarc Distribution
    80343
    1993
    Music & Arts
    CD-764
    1992
    Vox
    5504
    1990
    RCA
    60075
    1990
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1989
    Deutsche Grammophon
    429079
    1989
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1989
    Deutsche Grammophon
    427611
    1980
    Tahra
    162
    Hunt Productions
    711
    Hunt Productions
    704
    Arkadia
    717
    EMI Music Distribution
    62935
    EMI Music Distribution
    67279
    Originals
    854
    RCA
    60364
    Chandos
    6623
    ATMA Classique
    2513
    Philharmonia of the Nations
    25
    EMI Music Distribution
    63469
    Deutsche Grammophon
    419196
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445477
    Russian Revelation
    10076
    Classica d'Oro
    1031
    Brilliant
    92084/8
    Aura Records
    255
    Deutsche Grammophon
    431163
    Stradivari
    6059
    Teldec
    243791
    Carlton Classics
    91922
    Denon Records
    1001
    EMI Music Distribution
    69796
    Originals
    817
    Deutsche Grammophon
    471211
    Philips
    412465
    Magic Talent
    48067
    Originals
    837
    Historical Performers
    23
    As Disc
    427
    Canyon Classics
    3586
    Intaglio
    727
    Berlin Classics
    0011632
    Teldec
    Iron Needle
    1353/54
    Music & Arts
    1099
    Music & Arts
    785
    Iron Needle
    1407
    IMG Artists
    100