Sunday, April 19, 2009


Last night I attended a performance of Anton Bruckner's massive Symphony No. 8 in c with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink. The performance was impressive.
It is exactly this sort of music for which the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is well suited and justifiably famous.

I could write many paragraphs about the Symphony and Bruckner's struggles to get it performed. The result of those struggles is the existence of several different versions of the symphony, of which the Haitink chose the Nowak version. The exquisite length of the symphony has been compared to massive stateliness of a Gothic cathedral and this is an apt comparison given both Bruckner's personal piety and his life as a successful church organist.

The eighth symphony of Bruckner belongs to the world a transcendent works of art. It hearkens back to all that had preceded him in symphonic music, but to Wagner in particular whom Bruckner idolized. It is not hard to see the references to his idol, but the music is still uniquely Bruckner's own. It seems to appear as if from the ether with a sound that fills Symphony hall as if it has always been there. Rather than attempt to describe it further, for mere words seem insufficient for the purpose, let me just suggest that you need to listen to it to understand and appreciate it. And, if you do want to listen, I would recommend highly the interpretation of Gunter Wand conducting the Berlin Philharmoniker in a live recording (RCA Red Seal from BMG Classics). The experience yesterday evening was one of proverbial transport and reminded me why I enjoy the symphony.

Symphony No. 8 in c by Anton Bruckner. Gunter Wand, Berlin Philharmoniker. RCA Red Seal by BMG Classics. 2001.

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