5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2013
IT IS IMPORTANT to understand exactly what is being performed here. The so-called `Intermediate Adagio' exists in a copy-score only, and it is conjectured that this is a version by Bruckner possibly dating from around 1888. Although there is nothing in Bruckner's hand on the score, there are sketches elsewhere that are preparatory to this version. It is an interesting score and well worth hearing in performance, constituting an intermediate stage between the Adagios of 1887 and 1890. Amongst an intriguing collection of smaller changes there is one major difference: the build up to the climax, which is thoroughly reworked and includes a wonderful passage for four horns alone, unlike anything to be heard in any other version. The climax itself is already similar to 1890, the six cymbal clashes of 1887 having been replaced by a mere two. This Adagio has been recorded before by Akira Naito and the Tokyo New City Orchestra, but this performance in Ebrach Abbey is beautifully shaped, and the rich and full sound of the orchestra - primarily members of the leading orchestral ensembles of Munich - has been well caught by the recording technicians.
But the other three movements are something else. If the `Intermediate Adagio' is to be performed, the question arises into which of the two versions of the symphony it should be inserted. Prof. William Carragan's venture here is to answer, `Neither,' and create an edition of the score that gives an indication of what Bruckner was doing with the other movements over roughly the same period that the `Intermediate Adagio' came into being. As Paul Hawkshaw's paper on the sources of the Eighth records, with this symphony there is an immense, unprecidented amount of preparatory and discarded material. Prof. Carragan has taken up pencil notations in manuscripts for the first two movements, and taken some material from a composite score of the Finale in which the 1887 version had been revised into the 1890 version, but which shows some evidence of the progress of that revision. This edition of the symphony is therefore not anything that Bruckner himself ever conceived as a version or a completed whole, nor even is it an edition necessarily incorporating a consistent level of revision throughout. As Prof. Carragan writes in the CD insert notes, `it will always have to be regarded as experimental, not on the same editorial level as the ... versions of 1887 and 1890... But in it we have a fascinating view of the work-in-progress of Bruckner the eternal reviser.'
The performance and recording are excellent. The Abbey acoustics can be difficult for those in the audience, but the recorded sound is very fine, with a nicely judged mix of clarity of detail and appropriate reverberation. The woodwind solos, often plaintive responses to bold statements in the strings and brass, sound with a haunting clarity, and are expressively played, the oboe particularly distinctive throughout. In the first movement the contrapuntal interplay between duplet and triplet rhythms in the strings in the Gesangsperiode registers well. In this edition of Prof. Carragan's there is a striking passage in the development, at about 10:50, where the low strings repeat again and again the falling three note motive from the end of the main theme, with solemn woodwinds intoning above - an addition that showed Bruckner lengthening the development rather than moving towards the concision that became the great strength of the 1890 version. And indeed, the performance does lose some degree of tautness over the development, but the coda - still the loud blazing C major of the 1887 version - is as convincing as I have ever heard it. Although going to the major, it nevertheless sounds like a frightening amplification of the `annunciation of death' by horns and trumpets that closes the first wave of the coda.
There are little differences to delight and intrigue throughout - note the little bassoon figure leading to the horn's repeated note with its appoggiatura at 1:55 and 2:07 into the Scherzo. There are other variants in the Trio, slightly melancholy and prefiguring motives from the Adagio, which give a different slant to the mood of the piece. The finale receives a powerful performance, the "breit" and "sehr markig" markings for the phrases of the second theme strongly observed, the sound of the brass, both in the Wagner tuba chorales and the mighty tuttis, very impressive.
The only danger with this recording is that those confused by the versions of Bruckner symphonies we already have, and those wishing in vain to have `the Bruckner problem' simplified, might consider the situation to be exacerbated beyond tolerance by the mere existence of a recording of this edition. On the other hand, those of us interested to hear what ideas Bruckner might at some stage have had for this symphony, even if he was to discard them later, would be sorry not to have had a chance to hear this otherwise unavailable music.
And there is a very interesting fill-up. Bruckner sought lessons in composition and orchestration from the Linz conductor, Otto Kitzler. The "Trauermusik - To the memory of Anton Bruckner" was written in 1905, most probably by Kitzler snr (Bruckner's teacher), though at times it was credited to his son, also Otto. Only the piano duet version survived, and some programme note and review descriptions of the orchestration. From these Gerd Schaller has orchestrated the work, and it comes across as a strong funeral march, a heartfelt tribute to the composer in whose memory it was written.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
At the time of writing there are three reviews praising this recording from different standpoints and for different reasons-the common factor is that all agree that recording, playing and conducting are first rate-and indeed they are.
Of the views expressed, my own slightly different take corresponds more to Ralph’s view than Ken’s, learned though that is and my disagreement with the self styled “Musicman ”is in his preference for the 1887 Original Version of the Score.
The issue is as ever with this work the Edition used-in this case it is not an Edition but an “Imagination” by Dr. William Carragan of how the symphony could sound using revised and discarded material incorporated into a hybrid version of both 1887 and 1889 versions of the work, a concept which I totally endorse.
The endless task of trying to produce the “Definitive Edition” from the vaults of material composed by Bruckner and by other hands is the musical equivalent of the Search for the Philosopher’s Stone, and is likely to be as successful.
It doesn’t matter-how’s that for controversy?-as long as the music we are listening is ENJOYABLE-and the end result speaks to us of Bruckner.
Before the Haas project commissioned by the Bruckner Society, the Eight was invariably heard in some version of the 1892 Bruckner-Schalk confection, with additional changes and cuts at each individual conductor’s discretion.
When it came to the Eight, Haas took it as his remit to compile the best performing edition from material composed by Bruckner, using the 1887 Autograph Score as the foundation and leaving little of that out while adding much of the later revisions-the sort of “ What God Would have done if he’d had the money” approach.
There was never any question of it being a version envisaged by Bruckner-and it is now clear that Haas re-composed 8 measures in the finale to accommodate his version!!
Does this matter? Not to me!
In the post-war era, the learned Dr Leopold Nowak took up the reins in a complete review, and by 1955 had produced his authoritative version of the 1889-90 version which scholarly research suggests best represents Bruckner’s final vision. , taking his remit as uncovering Bruckner’s final and definitive thoughts on the work, and it took until 1972 to produce his edition of the 1887 version.
The political affiliations of Robert Haas made it unpalatable for his edition to be widely used in the immediate post-war era, with many exalted interpreters still sticking to Bruckner-Schalk, but the Nowak Edition began to gain currency with noted interpreters such as Jochum, Giulini, Maazel, and Bohm (who nevertheless inserted a passage from Haas in the finale) etc.
HOWEVER-many of the GREAT NAMES in Bruckner revived the Haas Edition, notably Karajan, Haitink, Wand and in more modern times-Thielemann to name but a handful, in full knowledge that this was a performing edition rather than a definitive edition!
The point of all this meandering is- what is more important? Absolute musicological authenticity or the opportunity to hear the glorious music of Bruckner in a version that is probably not his final vision of the work, but which provides the opportunity to rejoice in yet more glorious inventions from the inspired genius that was Bruckner?
I greatly enjoy William Carragan’s completion of the Ninth Symphony, preferable to the more authentic SPCM by far, though less enjoyable than the inspired lunacy that is Peter Jan Marthé’s “Reloaded “completion, and I applaud unreservedly this compilation of musical invention from the 1887 and 1889-90 versions interlaced with discarded ideas and unused revisions from 1888 which forensic scholarship definitely attributes to the pen of Bruckner.
While the most startling difference is the inclusion of the 1888 or “Intermediate” Adagio, from the opening bars we are clearly in “unfamiliar yet familiar” territory, as the musical line does not go in the direction we expect!
My fellow reviewers have illustrated many of the differences between this version of the 8th and either of the “authorised” versions, and lovers of this work can only be delighted by these visions of what could have been-or could be, for research continues and Benjamin Cohrs is re-examining the Nowak Editions and has produced a new version of the 9th already recorded by Harnoncourt and Blomstedt, and so the search and research and continues-and in my view always will!
Is this version enjoyable? Absolutely, in fact it is a word I overuse-revelatory!
Dr Carragan generously acknowledges the work of Dr Gault and Dr Takezawa in the preparation of the Adagio score, but he has gone much further in incorporating unfamiliar passages into the whole edifice.
The orchestra is an extended Munich Bach Orchestra augmented by players from the Munich Symphony Orchestra (former Graunke Orchestra), Radio and Philharmonic Orchestras and with some noted soloists joining in from further afield, much in the manner of The Lucerne Festival Orchestra. The glowing, rich sonority of the playing is caught in the resonant acoustic of Ebrach Cathedral and the improvement since the first excellent release of Symphonies 4, 7 &9 is palpable.
There is an unusual complementary filler in the form of a Funeral march tribute to Bruckner by the Kitzlers, Father and Son and orchestrated by Schaller himself. It is a pleasing work, though I cannot imagine returning to it often.
The symphony is another matter. It is the most welcome Bruckner recording in many years, and I cannot praise it highly enough-just remember its all about enjoying the music!
Unlimited Stars. Stewart Crowe.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I have previously reviewed symphonies nos. 4,5,7 and 9 in this series but having read what Ken Ward, editor of "The Bruckner Journal" has to say about this recording of the Eighth, I am clear that anything I could add would be otiose to his thorough, informative and balanced assessment; besides, I agree with virtually everything he says, my only demurral being that I think it's worth five stars for its musical and musicological interest.
I would only add, therefore, that this forms a superb contribution to the complete series, the Sixth being just about to be released. The acoustic of the Ebrach Abbey translates very well into a recording, creating a grand, imposing sound without blurring detail and the quality of the orchestral playing by an orchestra assembled from the best Munich bands, is phenomenal. Schaller has a deft sense of timing and phrasing and seems rarely to make a misjudgment; anyone new to Bruckner could pick up these recordings and be in possession of a superb introduction to his inimitable symphonic style. Messing about with making choices between performing editions can come later, once the music itself has been encountered, absorbed and loved but I guess it is important for any prospective buyer to be aware of what is on offer here, and again, Ken Ward's review clarifies that admirably: this is not a version which Bruckner himself envisaged as such but a judicious assemblage of his ideas in progress as they were set down on individual manuscripts between the first performance in 1887 and the revisions over the next year or so. The Adagio in particular is different, being essentially the intermediary version before the composition of the one we usually hear today, which was written as late as 1889; some prefer it and I can hear why. I don't think Schaller quite achieves the transcendence of Karajan in his last recording with the VPO but it's still a majestic performance; especially striking is the new passage for horns just before the cymbal crash. The Finale is simply terrific, too.
The bonus "Trauermusik" by the Kitzlers is interesting without being especially memorable but it's a nice tribute to the composer, elegantly scored by the conductor here from the surviving piano MS.
Worth hearing and buying whether you're a Bruckner tyro or tyrannosaurus.