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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

on 22 August 2009
With all due respect to the other reviewer, describing this recording as "very satisfying" seems to be damning it with faint praise. I was dumbstruck after my first hearing, even though I'd played the justly-lauded Karajan set only two nights before. You don't so much listen to these discs as cower at their feet, in awe of the power, beauty and grandeur of Bruckner's epic vision. This is easily as great a recording of this mighty symphony as Karajan's with the same orchestra, but I love this one even more. There's an added frisson of electricity throughout, more than a touch of terror in the great climax of the first movement and spine-tingling beauty in that great, melancholic adagio. The last few bars of the finale, with the huge, swinging brass chords ringing out like the bells of a vast cathedral, are quite overwhelming! Giulini takes things a little slower than Karajan but, far from dragging, the performance seems to grow shorter with repeated listening, such is the coherence of his reading. It almost goes without saying that the playing of the VPO is simply peerless throughout, as is the recording quality, which perhaps reveals a little more orchestral detail than the Karajan.

Karajan is the household name in this repertoire but don't overlook this set or you'll miss out on something really very special indeed. A towering performance.
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on 26 June 2010
This is the performance of this symphony that I consider the best. It is more glowing, more beautiful and more refined and articulated than the Karajan version, and more powerful and more energetic than the Wand versions (Berlin PO & NDR). The sound of the brass is almost unbelieveable and the famous rich tone of the Vienna Philharmonic strings perfectly balanced against this magnifient brass. The VPO strings outdo themselves here on this recording. Gramophone said of this recording that the luminiosity of this performance is "like sun shinning on Carrara marble". I agree. The tempi are grand; and the whole effect is one of spaciousness filled with great luminosity and architectural splendour. The performance is without flaw at every level. A classic performance that will never be exceeded - a gigantic and awesome accomplishment. The best version in my opinion of this symphony. An essential recording. MAGNIFICENT!
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on 2 December 2017
A breathtakingly beautiful, flawless and deeply committed performance to cherish. Giulini knew his Bruckner intimately and he gives full expression to the spiritual side whilst maintaining the inner logic of this awe-inspiring symphonic masterpiece. The first movement won't let the listener go, from the snake-like grip of the opening theme to the blazoned "annunciation of death" fanfares with which it concludes, followed by the most atmospheric of all fade-out endings. The scherzo perhaps reflects an age of mass automation with its relentless rhythmic drive.
The adagio is the heart of this symphony and Giulini paces it slowly but with complete understanding. Strings and harps create a purity from which three great climactic build-ups emerge. Bruckner, like Wainwright the Lake District mountain guide writer, seems to say-no, this one isn't the summit, and this one isn't either...finally at last we have reached the top and the heavens open before us, as if we were standing in the presence of the Almighty-glorious brass tone, to be played full volume (when the neighbours are out!). Consolatory strings, horns and Wagner tubas bring us back to earth with warm, glowing embers of the spiritual journey undergone.
Bruckner's finale seems to unleash cosmic forces to do battle over his potent symphonic ideas. At length a most tortured and gut-wrenching climax is reached. A falling string sequence eases the pain as Bruckner prepares for his final peroration. It feels as though every theme in the symphony is brought together in a C major shout of triumphal glory.
Giulini and the Vienna Phil take us lovingly through each stage of Bruckner's immense vision.
Brahms referred to Bruckner's symphonies as "symphonic Boa constrictors"-well this is one to wrestle with-a life-enhancing experience.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 12 March 2012
..."that time may cease".

Good though Giulini's live account with the Berlin Philharmonic from around the same time as this studio recording may be, this is the Ur-text of Bruckner Eighths, stunning in its power and exaltation. It is longest of the seven versions I own but by far the most compelling and certainly the most glorious in both recorded and orchestral sound. The live recording has some balance problems in that the timpani are too recessed - a fault first pointed out by my fellow reviewer Bernard O'Hanlon - and there is no beating the warmth and impact of this 1985 DG recording. The brass of the VPO is particularly sonorous but it would be invidious to pick out any section in so vibrant and virtuosic an orchestra. This is a recording to set alongside Giulini's Ninth from the same stable. Wonderful though Karajan's 1957 Eighth is for EMI, this is even broader and stiller - "O weiter, stiller Friede! So tief im Abendrot" indeed. I would not want to be without either and in certain moods I wonder if Giulini isn't teetering on the brink of stretching the tempo of the Adagio just a little too far compared with Karajan in that he takes fully two minutes longer than any rival - but Bruckner's majestic line can take it. I'm no expert on orchestral ensemble but I hear no blips or flaws in the VPO's execution, only superlative ensemble that still allows every detail to emerge, from the throaty grumble of the double basses to ecstatic keening of the violins in the Adagio. This must be in the top half dozen of any Bruckner-lover's collection.
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on 10 July 2001
Giulini perhaps gives the impression of showing you the outside of Bruckner's construction rather than the 'architectural' bones that seem more popular these days. But his view is also very satisfying, and his late Bruckner works for me.
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on 17 April 2014
Simply supporting the other favourable comments, as this is a reading of incandescent beauty. Giulini conducts a performance of visionary stature and secures a highly distinctive response from the VPO. Highly recommended along with his VPO recordings of the ninth and seventh symphonies.
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