J. F. Laurson | Washington, DC United States | 07/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"(but isn't)the best recording of any Bruckner Symphony for 2 Decades!This recording speaks so very directly to the listener, grabs one, brings Bruckner (beware of the clichee:) to life. Bruckner like on this disk cannot but enchant even the most reluctant listeners.read no more: if you like Bruckner or think you might like bruckner, go get this record!off on a tangent:I decided some years ago, that I was to like Bruckner. Thus I started and continued to acquire his symphonies, his masses etc. - but all along, I had never been sure if there was ever an emotional connection between me and the old catholic. My rationalization was that Bruckner was music for those who regretted that Wagner had never written a symphony. That didn't suffice to fall in love with Bruckner (aside, early dvorak is a much better substitute) ... but i continued. The I came across the live recordings of Guenther Wand on RCA with the Berlin Philharmonic. His 4th and 9th spoke to me quite a bit, but perhaps only enough to turn some of my attention to this last german master of conductors. Then i got Bruckner's 8th Symphony with Hans Knappertsbusch and later with Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouw. Nothing happened to me. In fact, in both cases I forgot that I had already bought a Bruckner 8th! (Quite frankly, I am not sure what accounts for the drastic difference to the Wand, because the Chailly is not noticeably flawed in any way... though somewhat sterile)A few weeks later, as mentioned: having forgotten that i had gotten the Chailly recording, i got the 8th with Wand - and finally, it clicked. the nitty-gritty:given the impact this recording (one of some 1200 classical cd's i have) has made on me, it deserves a bit extra mentioning.BBC3's (forgot his name) had the following to say: "He's [Guenther Wand] found a way of making Bruckner's Eighth Symphony communicate more directly, more emotionally. It's not enough here to sit back and be impressed with the structure and the sheer grandeur of the design - Wand demands a human, emotional response, recognition that it's not a heart of stone that keeps this music alive, and if anything the spiritual gains are greater."I suppose this is precisely what I mean by: grabs you by the lapels. I put this CD in my player, going off to diddle around - alone, the music would not let me. It was not going to be relegated to the background. It didn't let you drift off. It demanded my attention but it made it easy for me, as well. By the time the first disc (it is sold as a single disc, but the piece fits only on two) is over, I could not get the second one into my CD-player quick enough. This recording has since (I have become somewhat of an Evangelist about it) recruited three acquaintances of mine to Bruckner in the first place!. Wand uses the original edition of the scorerather than than the novak edition which had been used more frequently and which is slightly shorter. (Thus more often fitting on one CD - though the format does not matter in this case as it doesn't affect the price)
Not being a musicologist, I can't say if it is at least in part the different version that makes this recording so outstanding... I will have to suppose that it is the combination of the musical and honest approach of Guenther Wand that lets it all come together like this. Almost 90 years old when he recorded this symphony for the third time (it is his best account of it, despite two superlative earlier goes at it), Wand died soon thereafter. This recording was - and not for sentimental reasons - the Editor's Choice of the Month in Gramophone Magazine.Because this work - and this recording thereof - deserves more and lavish attention, I shall be re-visiting this review. Perhaps I will add (in a second review, so as not to make this one unduly long) elaborate on the piece (the music) itself... until then, trust me: if Mahler, R. Strauss, Wagner scare you not... if bombastic late romantic music might be your liking, this is a jewel of which there are not many around.jfl"
This is the greatest Bruckner 8th to date!
Prescott Cunningham Moore | 08/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have always admired Gunter Wand. From his Beethoven Cycle to his awe inspiring interpretation of the last two Schubert symphonies, Wand is a master conductor. But this live recording of Anton Bruckner's great 8th symphony is quite possibly his greatest achievement. Never has this symphony sounded so perfect, so architecturally sound, so convincingly played. For those that admire the overrated Karajan/Wiener Philharmoniker, they need to listen to this amazing recording. It is Wand's genius that drives this great work - he is so deeply steeped in the german master.
From the beginning of the opening allegro, the upcoming excitement is palpable. The opening theme, rhythmically identical to the opening theme of Beethoven's ninth, unfolds mystically. Climaxes build with chilling precision. This is the only outer movement of a Bruckner symphony to begin and end quietly, but the effect is striking when the strings dip into nothingness, fragmenting the movement's main theme. The Scherzo is amazingly conducted and performed. The playing by both the winds as well as the timpani make this reading of the Scherzo so fascinating. Wand's tempo is swift but uncompromising. The sublime trio is equally powerful. However, it is in the Adagio that Gunter Wand and the Philharmonic truly shine. The string section of the Philharmonic has never sounded so pure, so rich, so beautiful - even under Karajan they never reached this level of perfection. Wand's reading of the adagio is inspired; his juxtaposition of the two themes is masterful. The finale is equally masterful. More powerfully executed than any other recording I have heard, the finale is the perfect apotheosis of structure, form, and musical vision. Wand is unfailing in his dedication to detail - every note is in its proper place, building for the listener the architecture that is Bruckner's symphonic world. With the awe-inspiring coda, Bruckner concludes this masterwork by combining all four main themes of the symphony, thus, in a way, integrating the symphony in a way not heard of since Beethoven's Ninth.
I honestly cannot say more than get this CD as quickly as you can. You won't be disappointed. It's quite possibly the best CD in my collection."
Wand's best recording of the 8th.
Howard G Brown | Port St. Lucie, FL USA | 01/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have followed Gunther Wand's recordings of this symphony since the Koln radio lp set back in the 70's (I believe). In all respects this is his finest account -- and certainly the best recorded. Add the lustre and burnished brilliance of the Berlin Philharmonic and this joins a select, and surprisingly large, group of performances: Haitink/Vienna, Giulini/Vienna, von Karajan/Vienna, Boulez/Vienna -- and getting away from the Danube at last! Chailly/Concertgebouw and now Wand/Berlin.I have special affection for von Karajan's Berlin account for EMI in 1958 -- the only stereo 8th at that time, and one of only four recordings of the symphony available at all! We have come a long way in our appreciation of the unique symphonic vision Bruckner offers the world. This recording by Wand and the Berliners contributes mightily to that vision."
Bruckner for Brucknerians!
Steven Nydick | Minneapolis, MN USA | 08/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD only has one review as of now...I thought it was worth at least two! The first time I heard Bruckner's Eighth was one week ago. Unfortunatly, the recording I bought was Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra. The Strings were out of tune and played very sloppy the entire Symphony! The conducting seemed rushed. With Bruckner, the slower the symphony is played, the better it sounds... the more majestic it sounds! I only heard that recording once, and I knew I made a mistake!So I bought the Wand version, highly recommended! I only heard two minutes of the first movement, and I knew this recording outmatched the other one tenfold! The slow sections are spiritual- even from a conductor that tries to forget about the "religious" aspect of his symphonies! The playing is exceptional, as is always with the Berlin Philharmonic.Wand said Bruckner was the second most important symphonist, only behind Beethoven! He had been conducting Bruckner for some fifty years before this recording, and this orchestra is one of the best Bruckner orchestras in the world, only behind the Vienna Philharmonic! It stands to reason that this is one of the best recordings of this symphony."
Awe-inspriring live performance!
Scriabinmahler | UK | 12/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
Interestingly, timing of each movement of this awe-inspiring recording by Wand is almost idential to Karajan's 1957 EMI stereo recording, another powerful recording of the 8th played by BPO. But from the very bold opening Wand's determination to dig even deeper into soul of the music and to soar even higher to the transcendent is obvious. The only weakness in this performance may be the less emphatic ending which loses tention at the last moment, while Karajan manages to close the symphony with decisive force. The recording quality is amazingly vivid and present. They should have left ovation at the end. Must have been monumental event!"