Most critics agree finest recording of Karajan's Bruckner 8th is the DG version with VPO, but I think this EMI recording with BPO is superior for its intensely beautiful string playing, deeply elegiac slow movement, and other-worldly sublimity and immense grandeur of the last movement. It sounds as if Karajan gave everything he could to this performance. Nowadays this degrees of commitment and passion for music are becoming rare thing (all great conductors are dead ones!). Very warm and reasonably good stereo recording made in 1958.
Wagner's Preludes from Parsifal and Lohengrin are very apt choice for filling, equally very profound and powerful performances, recorded in 70s.
on 22 January 2015
Good to have a copy of this recording on cd - I originally bought it as a Classics For Pleasure double lp in the 1980s after being introduced to Bruckner by a Bourenmouth Symphony Orchestra performance of the Fifth Symphony in Paignton Festival Hall, of all places! Hardly surprisingly, that piece kept me awake all night with repetitive earworms! I've been a fan of Bruckner ever since. The CfP Eighth foldout sleeve was magificent, and worth hunting for - it is illustrated by an appropriately forceful 19th German romantic painting of a dazzling mountain stream under a thunderous and extremely threatening sky, much in the style, though not by, Caspar David Friedrich. Seraphim's perfunctory presentation is minimal in the extreme but does just about show a bit of a gothic reproduction of a Friedrich painting, but it's so small as to be almost anonymous.
With such a disdainful package Seraphim abviously don't give a damn about serious music collectors. It's a case of 'here you are, be grateful'. Still it's the cheapest available release of this recording by far - we shouldn't have to pay through the nose for vintage recordings that have made their profits many times over. No sympathy for EMI having effectively gone bust and been taken over by the faceless Universal.
Karajan's 1959 Eighth on EMI has always been highly regarded and though the recording inevitably shows its age against modern recordings, it's still very listenable, and of course Karajan's interpretation transcends any engineering shortcomings. Perhaps the timpani don't crack with the immediacy of some of the more clearly recorded versions of recent times, and perhap some of the tuttis can get a bit congested, but that's only to be expected from the age of this recording, and these don't really detract from the enjoyment of the piece.
I've never been a great Karajan enthusiast (his Vivaldi(!) is appaling - a treacly mess! - but one doesn't go to K for Vivaldi) but it would be a truly cold fish not to get great pleasure from this cd set. The Wagner I can live with, but that's a personal thing. The Eighth is the piece. It's a pity Mr Sony only considered Mahler for the potentrial length of cds - unfortunately, and unnecessarily perhaps, the symphony is split after the third movement - it might have been better to split it after the second movement, but we know Seraphim's unimaginative presentation policy. Recommended with just a few reservations.