Day 56: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (Young)

My “office” this morning is Bagel Beanery, a different one from where I was awhile back.

This particular bagel shop is one my wife and I frequent, partly because we love bagels and partly because it’s on the way to our respective offices.

Their coffee is quite good, too.

So, this morning as I eat my Cheddar Herb bagel, toasted with plain cream cheese, and sip one of their tasty brews, I am listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), interpreted by Australian conductor Simone Young (1961-).

Her orchestra is the Philharmoniker Hamburg.

On this leg of my Bruckner journey, I first encountered Maestro Young on Day 5, Symphony No. 1.

Then again on Day 10, Symphony No. 2.

Then again on Day 16, Symphony No. 3.

Then again on Day 24, Symphony No. 4.

And again on Day 32, Symphony No. 5.

And again on Day 40, Symphony No. 6.

And again on Day 48, Symphony No. 7.

You can read what I thought of her interpretations by letting your mouse do the clicking on the various days above.

Or not.

It’s up to you.

Today is the eighth time I’m listening to a performance conducted by Maestro Young.

From the splendid pdf liner notes written by Martin Stastnik that I downloaded from the OEHMS web site:

Awareness of the Content in the
Original Form
Thoughts on the first version of Anton
Bruckner’s great C minor Symphony
of 1887

Bruckner’s great C minor Symphony in the version of 1887 does not represent the first draft of a later masterpiece; it IS the masterpiece – in the form originally given it by a master at the peak of his creative powers, who only altered it because the work might otherwise not have been performed. We adhere to the conviction which this review of all the elements is intended to reaffirm: Bruckner himself saw no reason to change this version. The true content of the Eighth Symphony can be perceived only in the original form.

The liner notes contain a great deal about Bruckner’s Eighth. If you want to know more about it, please see the liner notes that can be downloaded from the OEHMS web site.

Here are the objective aspects of today’s recording:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), composed 1881-1883
Simone Young conducts
Young used the “Original version.” No version is listed in the CD booklet, on the CD sleeve, or in the pdf notes I downloaded from the web site; however, the liner notes refer to the “Original version” being the best, so I’m assuming that’s what was used
Philharmoniker Hamburg plays
The symphony clocks in at 82:01 (over two CDs; 30:45 on the first and 51:56 on the second)
This was recorded in Hamburg, Germany, on December 14 & 15, 2008
Young was 47 when she conducted it
Bruckner was 68 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the OEHMS Classics label

I don’t know what the “Original version” means. My guess is the 1887 version, which – according to its entry on Wikipedia – tells us,

1887 version
This was Bruckner’s first version of the symphony, but was not published until 1972 in an edition edited by Leopold Nowak. It has some significant differences from the more familiar later versions, including a loud ending to the first movement and a different tonality for the climax of the slow movement. It is also notably longer than the 1890 version, and has a different instrumentation (the most significant consistent difference being that the 1890 version has triple rather than double woodwind throughout the first three movements). The double woodwind of the 1887 version gives a somewhat more austere character to the overall sound of the work.

That’s as close as I can guess to what the liner notes mean by “Original version.” It’s the first version.

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 8 in C Minor), from this particular conductor (Young) and this particular orchestra (Philharmoniker Hamburg) is as follows:

I. Allegro moderato………………………………………………………………………………..16:05
II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam…………………………………………..14:37
III. Scherzo. Sehr schnell………………………………………………………………………..27:44
IV. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht schnell……………………………………………………24:10

Total Time: 82:01 (on two CDs)

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects of today’s recording:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 3 (personal preference, not technical shortcomings)
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 2 (meager notes, confusing layout, essentially an “ad” for the Hamburg State Councillor of Culture and the Hamburg Philharmonic)
How does this make me feel: 3

I listened to this 2-3 times. Maybe more.

At no time did I think, “Wow! This is fantastic!”

In fact, I thought this was a sleepy recording that never ignited.

Plus, if I’m understanding what’s meant by “Original version,” I think I prefer other versions.

Although I can appreciate the talent involved with this performance, I’m not a fan of it. It lacks “magic.”

The only good thing I can write at this point is this:

Tomorrow begins a new – and the last – cycle!

I’m down to the home stretch!

After seven months, I’m ready for a break. I’m Bruckner’ed out.

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