I have bitched and moaned about EMI for years. Overall brittle dry sound mars recording after recording. If you are in luck, you can find a EMI Japanese remastering that might sound much better (or sort of the same -sigh). So, I would think, damn it EMI, you can do good sound. You just refuse to care much. Sort of a contempt for the performer and the customer. I would see the label EMI and think, can't I get an equally good performance on another label -RCA from the 50s, Mercury, or Decca with Walter Legge as producer, all did great sound? But there EMI is screwing things up.
Things partly change. Here in this new SACD version, not the old- EMI, I salute you. You did right! I doubt these are the Japanese remasterings, but they sound good. They still show their age, but the SACD has opened up the sound. Depth is there, space is there, individual instruments can be heard in a soundscape. Grand. I want to do a little dance because there really are some fine performances in the EMI catalogue. Keep doing this and I will buy them. Even though I have them, I will forgive you and buy them.
And it is a two for the price of one. EMI had just weeks before reissured these recordings in a regular cd. Skip those. Buy these- two for the price of one. Makes one wonder if there is anyone really running EMI, knowing what all hands are doing. But, I'm rooting for this remastering to continue.
And the performance? Well, no one will replace Furtwangler's conducting of Bruckner. Hands down the best. But the 1940, early 1950 sound even on the Japanese SACD which cost upwards of 40 bucks a pop or, even more outrageously the Deutche Gramophone SACDs at 60 bucks a pop is not great. So, I buy Wand's Berlin SACD and Horenstein, Jochum, Tintner, Solti, Barenboim, Walter, etc., well, you can see I have a lot of Bruckner by a lot of different conductors. Looking for that perfect performance. So with all that comparison, Schuricht and the mighty Vienna Phil are excellent. More in the 9th than the 8th but both are excellent.
Bruckner is one of my favorite composers but Bruckner needs help. His symphonies are very hard to perform; there are so many bad recordings that make him slow, long, beautiful and boring. Oh, God, how boring. Furtwangler can make them scary, jagged and still flow with the insane stops and pitting a single instrument against the raging of the orchestra. In performance this so often sounds stupid. Not here. Schuricht is criticized for taking the pace at a jog but it works for me. He makes Bruckner bracing! I can go with that. There is still beauty, weight - the "cathedral in sound" but here there is some urgency to get away from some demons painted on the back walls, the gates close, run for it. Yes, drama! Really after all the bad Bruckner, this goes to the top of my stack.
This is the Nowak edition which I remember as the whacked edition. Bruckner never had great self-esteem. People thought he was a country bumpkin -and that's putting it politely when it comes to women- so to get his symphonies performed he, like many musicians, cut it. Then his students, who didn't really get him either, went to work and cut it some more. Nowak = whacked. It still works for me but there is a Hass edition, which is an attempt to reconstruct the "original intent". Unfortunately, there is no edition where Bruckner says, this, this is my ideal symphony. So, for my money, it's the performance. For some people, however, the edition is make or break.
Now please make my dream come true and do a great Furtwangler set - the Beethoven, Bruckner, Wagner. SACD please. At these prices.