Day 54: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (Janowski)

My “office” this morning is, once again, the local library.

I love this place.

So, here I sit, listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), interpreted by Polish-born German conductor Marek Janowski (1939-).

Maestro Janowski’s orchestra is Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Janowski’s interpretations prior to this day, check out Day 4, Symphony No. 1.

And Day 9, Symphony No. 2

And Day 15, Symphony No. 3.

And Day 22, Symphony No. 4.

And Day 30, Symphony No. 5.

And Day 38, Symphony No. 6.

And Day 46, Symphony No. 7.

If you could not possibly care less what I thought of Janowski’s interpretations prior to this day, read on.

Here are the objective aspects of today’s recording:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), composed 1884–1892
Marek Janowski conducts
Janowski used the “Nowak Edition,” according to the back of the CD sleeve
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande plays
The symphony clocks in at 79:47 (just barely fits on one CD!)
This was recorded at Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, in April, June, and July 2010 (three months?)
Janowski was 71 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 68 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Pentatone label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 8 in C Minor), from this particular conductor (Janowski) and this particular orchestra (Orchestre de la Suisse Romande) is as follows:

I. Allegro moderato………………………………………………………………………………..14:52
II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam…………………………………………..14:44
III. Scherzo. Sehr schnell………………………………………………………………………..26:05
IV. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht schnell……………………………………………………23:41

Total Time: 79:47

Here’s a quote from the superb CD booklet written by Franz Steiger:

SYMPHONY NO. 8 IN C MINOR:
THE SUPERHUMAN

Ultimately, Bruckner develops here his idea of a Finalsymphonie (= finale symphony), with which he had first experimented in his Symphony No. 5. He concentrates on the Finale, utilizing all his compositional strengths and developmental skills. And at the conclusion of this movement, the symphonic cycle of the Eighth is finally brought full circle: here, the main themes of all four movements are gathered together simultaneously and presented once again; however, now in radiant major. The apotheosis, at first denied to the opening movement, is now allotted almost superhuman dimensions. Here, absolute music comes to terms with itself.

Yes!

That’s brilliant.

And no more true than in Bruckner’s Eighth. The Finale is an ass-kicker, to be sure.

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects of today’s recording (minus the subjective thought I just expressed above):

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 5 (big, thick, substantive booklet with insightful essays about the symphonies, the orchestra, and the conductor translated into English, German, and French)
How does this make me feel: 3

Hmmm.

For some reason, I am underwhelmed by this performance.

It’s lush in all the right places, powerful and majestic in others, sublime and spiritual in still others.

But it doesn’t move me.

I have no idea why.

I think it’s the combination of these elements:

1. The recording isn’t as spacious and three dimensional as others I’ve heard. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But it doesn’t have that indescribable quality that puts it in my “Magic” category,

2. It seems long. I realize it’s close to “normal” length for this particular symphony. But it seems long. That must mean it’s not electrifying me.

3. For Bruckner’s Eighth (my favorite), it seems unforgivable that this usually superb Janowski/Pentatone offering doesn’t tick all the right boxes, push all the right buttons, score 100% on the Magic Scale. But it doesn’t.

4. It seems too by-the-note, too perfect in every regard. There aren’t enough ragged edges to it – flaws, if you will.

This is weird.

This should have been a home run. And, to me, it’s barely a double.

Go figure.

I still love everything about the Pentatone label, though. Especially this logo-like thing and tagline on the back of the thick booklet of liner notes. It’s brilliant. And humorous. It made me chuckle when I saw it. But it also made me feel the way I used to when I would ooh and ahh over David Ogilvy’s copy for ads.

I’m tellin’ ya, if Pentatone give me a call and said they wanted my services as a Direct Marketing, PR, Advertising and Marketing guru, I wouldn’t turn them down. They are a business I believe in.

Which is why I’m perplexed why I don’t grok this performance of Bruckner’s Eighth.

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