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I have already eulogised the Karajan Bruckner Eighth Symphony, made with and by the same forces the previous November; it is possibly the greatest recording of the greatest symphony in my collection but this last collaboration between Das Wunder Karajan and the orchestra that kept faith with him once his relationship with the BPO had broken down irretrievably is of the same standard and deserves to stand alongside it as a valedictory triumph.

You straight away notice the immediacy of the recorded sound and how it brings out the famous warmth and glow of the VPO. I have the older issue which is impressive enough but the remastering for the Karajan Gold label is by all accounts even better. As long as it is not edgy, digital sound was made for the combination of Karajan, the VPO and Bruckner; this is a demonstration disc and by no means the performance of a sick old man, being somewhat more propulsive and relaxed than the two previous Karajan studio recordings of this symphony, midway between the speeds of the fastest 1975 version and the slowest in 1971 - yet the differences in all three timings is marginal and certainly not noticeable; the hallmark of all three of Karajan's interpretation of this symphony is the grandeur and sonority of the performance; nobody does the climax of the first movement like Karajan.

Is the extra warmth of this recording perhaps the result of the stiff-backed old man letting go just a little of his famous iron control and simply letting the orchestra play music they love in the way they best know how? There is certainly no slackness in the beat or loose ensemble but you get the sense of the VPO breathing as one giant organism under the benevolent eye of a man who knew he was in the process of adding to his own already monumental legacy. The horns and violas in the principal theme of the Adagio have never sounded more hieratic or numinous and when Karajan lets the orchestra fly at 12:57 it is hard to imagine anything more transcendently, aurally glorious. The ebb and flow of Karajan’s phrasing in the finale is scarcely the work of a tired conductor whose powers were fading; indeed it is almost sprightly and the climax of the whole symphony is simply marvellous in its majesty.

Like several previous reviewers, I am familiar with and greatly esteem the earlier recordings but for me this one has the edge in terms of beauty of sound.
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on 6 December 2016
This is a very fine performance and recording of an often ignored symphony. Recorded in Linz by a suitably named orchestra, it is part of a wonderful cycle of the great man's symphonies that is not so easy to track down (some discs I had to buy from Amazon (Germany).
The sound is clear and full bodied and the music is wonderful.
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on 7 January 2016
Fantastic performance of one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever.
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on 13 September 2009
This is the last recording Karajan made with DG and an apt conclusion to his glorious career, to end with such a deeply elegiac performance of Bruckner's 7th. I particularly like the slow movement which is played with incomparable beauty and depth of feeling.
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on 1 March 2016
They say there are more stars in the cosmos than grains of sand on Earth. Either way, they’re gazumped by the number of stellar objects in the reviews of Five Star Generalissimo John Kwok, a Hall of Famer no less. Writing of Haitink’s Bruckner Seventh with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Bruckner: Symphony 7), he yaps exuberantly:

“I honestly don't know whether this superb account is better than Haitink's earlier, critically acclaimed recordings with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Wiener Philharmoniker.” Make the call, JK! Make the call!

“it is quite simply the best recorded performance of a Bruckner symphony I have heard so far.” To that end, JK repeatedly refers to the engineer of this endeavour – one James Mallinson – as if he knows the guy and has bought him a beer. As per usual, JK gets his cheapies from “insider knowledge” and the broadcast thereof.

“I must regard this as a definitive recording of this work.” Sweet Jesus, here we go again . . . . . . At least in this instance, there’s no “gobble-gobble-gobble” from the in-house turkey: the Culture Vulture ain’t far off the mark.

Moving closer to reality, where does this recording stand in the scheme of things? Look, if you team Haitink with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, their output will never fall below a certain level where the baseline is high indeed. This interpretation is thoughtful with plenty of grip in evidence. A narrative certainly unfolds and a journey beckons. Being the pro that he is, Haitink never falls for the sucker-punch of fortissimo = climax; and the movement of high drama are certainly given their due (first movement, for instance, at 11’12” ff and 17’07”ff). The vast archways of the Adagio are artfully constructed and its climax delivers a punch. It’s hard to stuff up the last two movements: Haitink delivers the goods. Even so – and this is a leitmotiv of the Dutch conductor – one longs for more incandescence and volatility. Respectfulness and high competence only get you so far in this domain. The Fire and Ice of God (or the thoughts thereof) should underwrite much of the first two movements; here, they don’t. For instance, the coda of the first movement is a tad prosaic with no uplift. The great moment that precedes it at 13’04”ff is nicely done and bereft of the numinous. For all its clarity, it’s a clinical recording too with little or no resonance to its name; it’s shown up by the likes of Eichorn’s Fifth from St Florians. Sonority-wise, the CSO is on the lean side, notwithstanding JK's claims that it's "second to none with respect to its sterling musicianship."

Good as this is, I cannot mention it in the same breath as Furtwängler, Kna ’49, Karajan x 3 and Jochum BP. This may come as bad news to the Culture Vulture of New York but JK learnt long ago not to return to the battlefields of old in his endless quest to break bread with Thomas Pynchon and see the gates of Paradise.
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on 9 August 2008
What a grand, glorious feast for the ears is Haitink's latest Bruckner recording with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the symphony's CSO-RESOUND label. Recorded during live concerts last year, producer James Mallinson and his staff have wrought yet another splendid recording of Haitink conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, demonstrating that the orchestra is once more an ensemble that is second to none with respect to its sterling musicianship, under the command of our greatest living interpreter of Bruckner. I honestly don't know whether this superb account is better than Haitink's earlier, critically acclaimed recordings with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Wiener Philharmoniker, except in this respect: it is quite simply the best recorded performance of a Bruckner symphony I have heard so far. Mallinson and his team has brought the listener into the orchestra itself, allowing us to hear it as though we were standing alongside Haitink at the conductor's podium.

Haitink's interpretation is one that is replete with great clarity, precise intonation and empathy for Bruckner and his score. From the opening notes in the first movement (Allegro moderato) we are treated to exceptionally warm playing from the strings, winds and brass, culminating in a "call and response" motif between the brass and strings which Bruckner uses again, in varying degrees, throughout the symphony. The second movement (Adagio: Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam) features prominently this same motif, albeit in a slower tempo, and, of course, subtle variations. The third movement reminds me a little of a fast-paced polka in its rhythm (Scherzo: Sehr schnell), or rather, perhaps more accurately, a traditional country folk Landler dance which Bruckner may have been familiar with. The symphony concludes with yet another swift movement (Finale: Begewt, doch nicht schnell) going out in a blaze of glory in a restrained, but still exquisite, brass fanfare. For anyone seeking a recent, well-produced recording of the Bruckner 7th Symphony No. 7 in E major, then the potential listener needs to look no further; without question, I must regard this as a definitive recording of this work.
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on 23 July 2015
A fitting end to Karajan's recording career. A beautifully realised achievement.
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on 30 January 2001
This was where I started in classical music -- Giulini conducting Bruckner's 7th (unfortunately not the Vienna Phil!) at the Proms in London. I was bowled over then, and Giulini's way with Bruckner has done it for me ever since. He generally prefers the 'wrong' (Nowak) editions to the Haas option, and some will dislike his approach with its ebb and flow of tempi. But his recordings of the last 3 great Bruckner symphonies are the ones I return to most. Recommended.
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The lush sound of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw Orchestra is ideal for the heartfelt, lyrical outpourings of the Seventh. Bernard Haitink exhibits a natural empathy for Bruckner's lyrical side in his 1978 recording.

REFERENCE RECORDINGS: This one, Furtwängler 1949/Berlin (SWF or EMI Japan), Jochum/Dresden (EMI), Karajan/Vienna (DG), Chailly 1984/BRSO (Decca) and Böhm/Munich (Audite).

For myself, I'll stick with Wilhelm Furtwängler as the supreme historical interpreter of this masterpiece. His best Bruckner's seventh was recorded live at Gemeindehaus, Berlin-Dahlem, 18th October, 1949.

No modern conductor extracts the kind of transcendent reading that Furtwängler does.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The lush sound of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw Orchestra is ideal for the heartfelt, lyrical outpourings of the Seventh. Bernard Haitink exhibits a natural empathy for Bruckner's lyrical side in his 1978 recording.

REFERENCE RECORDINGS: This one, Furtwängler 1949/Berlin (SWF or EMI Japan), Jochum/Dresden (EMI), Karajan/Vienna (DG), Chailly 1984/BRSO (Decca) and Böhm/Munich (Audite).

For myself, I'll stick with Wilhelm Furtwängler as the supreme historical interpreter of this masterpiece. His best Bruckner's seventh was recorded live at Gemeindehaus, Berlin-Dahlem, 18th October, 1949.

No modern conductor extracts the kind of transcendent reading that Furtwängler does.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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