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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
Bruckner: Symphonies 4-9
Format: MP3 Download|Change

on 4 November 2012
Contained within this modest, little clam-shell box are some of the mightiest recordings of Bruckner's music ever committed to disc. Magisterial, granitic, gigantic slabs of sound piled high, block upon block towering above the Brucknerian landscape, imposing and eternal. Klemperer does not concern himself with tonal beauty, he focuses on clarity of orchestral detail which is enhanced by his predilection for slow tempi. Klemperer's Bruckner was as inflexible, uncompromising and just as severe - at times - as the man himself. Klemperer was a survivor - he escaped the Nazis - beset by illness and accident prone his indomitable will remained unbowed. He was burned by fire, broke a hip when he slipped on ice and survived a brain tumour! Klemperer - who suffered from manic depression - was an incorrigible old philanderer and as curmudgeonly as most conductors of his generation - he possessed a VERY sharp tongue! Record producer, Walter Legge, erudite and astute with a head for business and impeccable taste in music convinced Klemperer to accept the position of principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra - Legge's orchestra - in 1959. There began a long association which saw Klemperer and the Philharmonia produce many legendary recordings including these Bruckner symphonies which are a product of that long, golden Indian Summer at Columbia/EMI.

The recordings of the Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh symphonies have long been considered amongst the finest recordings available and as such they need no recommendation from me - they are excellent in every way. However, the Fifth, Eighth and Ninth have found little favour since their release - particularly from "professional reviewers". Klemperer's recording of the Eighth has courted controversy - and much gnashing of teeth - from the moment it first hit the record shelves. The conductor's decision to make two swingeing cuts in the Finale has caused many a Brucknerian to utter obscenities - I have witnessed this - and vow never to listen to another Bruckner/Klemperer LP. Yes, vinyl - it was a long time ago! Klempererian mythology tells the tale of how the cuts were made in order to accommodate all of the music on the original vinyl format due to the Scherzo clocking in at almost twenty minutes. However, Klemperer made these cuts because he believed that Bruckner was, and I quote: "... so full of musical invention that he went too far." The quotation is taken from a programme for the New Philharmonia concert in London on 17th November, 1970. Klemperer goes on to say how he takes the responsibility for his own interpretation - well, I wouldn't have challenged him! Despite the cuts in the symphony's Finale and its slow motion tempi one is so over-awed by the sheer immensity of Klemperer's vision, his dogged determination to have his say, that surrender is the only option! With Klemperer's cuts the symphony comes out fighting like a wounded animal and displays a tenacious do-or-die spirit! Klemperer's Eighth has granite-like orchestral sonority, intellectual objectivity and uncompromising inflexibility and one can only admire and accept this as being the work of a truly gifted maestro whose integrity is beyond question.

The monumental Fifth symphony is played out on a vast canvas - read my review - the epitome of Brucknerian architecture. Again Klemperer's tempi are slow and there are many who will find such Gothic splendour a little overwhelming - tonal beauty and lyricism are not qualities which appealed to Klemperer who saw the bigger picture, and this recording presents the Fifth as the archetypal Brucknerian monolith revealing the structure of Bruckner's "contrapuntal masterpiece" as never before. Klemperer's recording of the Ninth falls victim to sub-standard orchestral playing - poor ensemble and lack of precision and co-ordination from the brass and strings is more marked in this recording. The Scherzo's Trio section is leaden and rhythmic articulation poor and the Finale has its moments, but ultimately fails on both a spiritual and emotional level to convey the full meaning of the music. Having said all this, there is that relentless, inexorable, forward momentum which is compelling - one feels duty bound to remain with Klemperer to the very end and witness the construction and completion of a vast structure. One aspect which never fails Klemperer is his unerring grasp of architecture whcih reveals itself time and time again throughout this set of recordings. Klemperer assumed the mantel of grand old maestro, he was the idol of the British musical public and with his passing was extinguished one of the brightest stars in the Bruckner universe...

Despite their flaws these Bruckner recordings remain a force to be reckoned with and are an essential purchase for all true Brucknerians. Of course, there are few, if any, problems in recommending the Fourth, Sixth and Seventh - they represent Klemperer's art at its finest. I was pleased to receive this set and enjoyed its contents immensely, not least because a good few of my old Bruckner/Klemperer/EMI CDs are starting to curl up at the edges - literally! It's always good to have back-up!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 October 2012
The final version of Anton Bruckner's Eighth Symphony was premiered in 1890.
He was still working on his Ninth Symphony when he died in 1896. It was premiered in 1903.
His circle of students and friends - Franz Schalk, Ferdinand Loewe and Gustav Mahler - dominated German and Austrian music in the decades leading up to World War I.

To the generation of conductors who began their careers in the period 1890-1910, the music of Bruckner was contemporary music.
Six of them left us recordings of at least one Bruckner Symphony:

- Bruno Walter (1876-1962)................Conducting debut: 1894
- Carl Schuricht (1880-1967)....................Debut: 1900
- Oskar Fried (1871-1941)..........................Debut: 1904 (began conducting late, at age 33)
- Hermann Abendroth (1883-1956) ................. Debut:1905
- Otto Klemperer (1885-1973).......................Debut: 1905
- Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954)...................Debut: 1906

Three of them lived long enough to record in Stereo (beginning in 1955).

Their conducting styles were different from each other (and changed as they aged).
Nevertheless, all five had strong personalities which they effectively communicated to an orchestra.
I still listen to these recordings with pleasure, which is more than I can say for dozens of faceless conductors who came afterward (no names!).

[hint: for ease of navigation, read the review though to the end, then come back and click on the links.]

Of the conductors on this list, Otto Klemperer was the first and the last to commercially record a Bruckner Symphony.
He recorded the Adagio 3rd movement of the 8th Symphony with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1924: Music in the Weimar Republic
In 1970 he recorded the complete Bruckner 8th Symphony (his own edition) with the New Philharmonia Orchestra (in this box).

Oskar Fried actually tied Klemperer - he recorded the 7th Symphony in 1924 with the same Berlin State Opera Orchestra: The Art of Oscar Fried Vol. 4
He left no other Bruckner recordings, and has come down to us as a figure of mystery.

Wilhelm Furtwangler left wonderful broadcast recordings of Symphonies 4-9 with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics: Bruckner: Symphonies 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9
Recorded in concert, 1942-1954. Unfortunately, he did not live to record in the stereo era.

Hermann Abendroth recorded five symphonies with the radio orchestras of Leipzig (4,5,8,9) and Berlin (7).
Recorded between 1949 and 1956. Mono
Abendroth was overshadowed by his exact contemporary Furtwangler, who had the advantage of the Berlin Philharmonic.
As successor to Furtwangler and Bruno Walter, Abendroth conducted the great Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1933 to 1945.
After World War II, the East German authorities banished him to the less prestigious Radio Orchestra of the same city.
ヘルマン・アーベントロート指揮 ブルックナー

Carl Schuricht recorded Symphonies 3,4,5 and 7,8,9 in broadcast and in the studio, between 1938 and 1965.
Four were in stereo:
Symphony 3 (Vienna Philharmonic -1965), Symphony 7 (Hague PO -1964) The Concert Hall Recordings - Carl Schuricht (10 CD Set) (UK Import) , Symphonies 8,9 (Vienna PO -1963).
The three stereo Vienna Philharmonic recordings have recently been reissued in a nice EMI budget box along with his mono Beethoven cycle from Paris: ICON Carl Schuricht

Bruno Walter recorded Symphonies 4,7,8,9 and the Te Deum in broadcast and in the studio, between 1940 and 1961.
Symphonies 4, 7 and 9 were recorded in stereo with the Columbia Symphony - included in the new 39 CD Bruno Walter Edition: Bruno Walter: The Edition

Young Bruno Walter could be tough. "Old" Bruno Walter was warm and fuzzy. Musicians loved him.

Otto Klemperer was not warm and fuzzy.

I love Otto Klemperer's Bruckner, but it's not to everyone's taste.
He conducted with his fists and a scowl on his face, and the music sometimes sounded like it.
He stood an intimidating 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and had a reputation (deserved) for mental instability and irrational behavior (nowadays he would be called bi-polar).
His intimidating appearance was the result of surgery to remove a brain tumor, which left him partially paralyzed for the last 30 years of his life.
The irrational behavior was with him all his life.
Intentional or not, this had an effect on orchestra players.

Following that 1924 recording, Otto Klemperer recorded Symphonies 4-9 in broadcast and in the studio, between 1934 and 1970.
The Te Deum was recorded by the BBC in 1961 and is on Testament: Symphony No. 6, Te Deum (Klemperer, BBC So, Harper, Baker)

EMI here offers the stereo recordings, 1960-70.
Symphonies 4-7 were recorded in warm Kingsway Hall stereo between 1960 and 1967, and are highly regarded by critics and public alike.
4, 6 and 7 have justifiably appeared in EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century" series.

Clarity is guaranteed by Klemperer's old-fashioned seating arrangement - first violins to the left, second violins to the right - which was, after all, what Bruckner expected.
Not all violins scrunched together on the left, which is the modern preference.

Klemperer's strings were seated in an arc: First Violins, Basses, Cellos, Violas, Second Violins.
You get a remarkable sense of being "inside" the orchestra.
Fun to listen to over headphones.

Symphonies 8 and 9 were recorded in 1970: Klemperer was 85, the end was near, and the struggle shows.
The 8th Symphony has an enormous cut in the finale.
It was Klemperer's idea, and hard to justify.
His 8th and 9th Symphonies are clearly not standard recommendations.
Fascinating and quite moving, nonetheless.

Klemperer conducted an uncut Bruckner 8th with the Cologne Radio Symphony in 1957: Bruckner - Symphony No 8
It times in at 72 minutes versus 84 minutes for the cut EMI recording.
72 Minutes is actually the fastest Bruckner 8th (Nowak edition) on record.
Klemperer's manic-depressive pendulum had clearly swung to manic that day.

I find comparative listening fascinating. My apologies if you don't share my compulsion. *

REMASTERINGS: 2000-2004 EMI remasterings done in 24-bit resolution by Abbey Road Technology (ART) were used for Symphonies 4, 6 and 7. The other three are from 1990.

Highly recommended.

P.S. A surprising omission from my list is Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965), the most "old-fashioned" of Bruckner conductors.
He was famous for sticking with the discredited Schalk and Loewe editions long after the earlier generation of Bruckner conductors had adopted Haas and Nowak,
but he wasn't as old as we think - He was actually the first of the new generation of post-WWI Bruckner conductors.

P.P.S. Toward the end of his life, Klemperer sometimes took up the baton again, but he just just stuck it in his fist. Not a baton technician.


* I was able to do an A-B comparison (two CD players) of the 1957 Cologne (Medici Masters) and 1970 EMI studio recordings of the Bruckner 8th.
Klemperer made two cuts in the finale in 1970.
I don't have a score, this is the best I can do:

Exposition ___________0:00-7:01______________________0:00-9:18
Development A _______7:01-11:11_____________________cut
Development B ______11:11-12:25_____________________9:18-11:01
Recapitulation A _____12:25-16:10 + 7 second pause______11:01-16:29 + 6 second pause
Recapitulation B _____16:17-18:16 + 9 second pause______cut

If Klemperer had taken the same cuts in 1957, the finale would have been 14:21 instead of 20:30.
By extrapolation, an uncut 1970 finale, instead of being 19:20, would have been approximately 28-29 minutes.
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on 5 February 2013
Klemperer arguably made his greatest recordings in the decade between 1955 and 1965. In his final years the Philharmonia (then renamed the NPO) no longer had the cream of London's string players within its ranks - and this can clearly be heard in his performances of symphonies 5, 8 and 9 - and Klemperer's increasingly slow pulse and lack of firm direction of his players meant that results were much less convincing. Why he made two substantial and disfiguring cuts in the finale of No. 8, we will probably never really know, but these alone put him out of contention with the great interpreters of this colossal work: Karajan, Giulini and Wand. Even so, there are moments of pure grandeur, as in the opening pages of the finale to No.9, when one is conscious of the ultimate triumph of a physically weakened 85 year-old man - mind over matter.
The earliest of the recordings in this set, that of No. 7, dates from 1960. It has all the hallmarks of most of Klemperer's Indian summer recordings: a firm grasp of the architectural design, transparency of texture, an absolutely rigid avoidance of anything approaching indulgence and a recording quality that placed the wind far forward. This occasionally leads to unnatural balances: in No. 7 the first flute is often as loud as the first violins. Yet one seeks in vain any of the mystic inwardness that others like Celibidache have found in this symphony. The absolute winner in this set is No. 4, made in 1963, when Klemperer produced more great recordings than at any other time in his career (Schubert 8, Dvorak 9, Tchaikovsky 5 - available with other works of the Romantic period in another EMI boxed set). It is surprisingly fast, but not as swift as the 1954 recording he made with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, in which he takes a little over 55 minutes. The whole performance is thought-through with a commanding sense of purpose, with electrifying moments such as the passage seven minutes into the opening movement when Klemperer unleashes the full power of the Philharmonia in peak form. The slow movement has grace and elegance; the scherzo crackles along and the trio oozes rustic charm. The fleet-footed finale knows exactly where it is going. The recording of No. 6, made a year later, is not as well engineered as No. 4, with some clouding of the textures especially in climaxes, but it is still one of the few great recordings of this work in the catalogue.
Those who experienced Klemperer in the concert-hall, as I did, will know that he was capable of moments of unquestionable greatness. He was a giant amongst his contemporaries. However, we will never know with absolute certainty how far his bipolar disorder prevented him from achieving with a greater consistency the insights he occasionally reveals in this set of recordings.
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on 15 May 2015
This box contains all of Klemperer's studio recordings of Bruckner made for EMI. Klemperer's approach to Bruckner was clear-sighted and focused more on structure than on mystery and atmosphere. This is most evident in the 4th, which he races through at a tremendous pace (not as fast as his outrageous early 1950s recording for Vox), robbing the music of all its magic and mystery and feeling. I can't recommend this recording of the 4th - Wand (BPO, RCA Red Seal) and Jochum (BPO, DG, not the later EMI Dresden recording) do the symphony far greater justice.

Klemperer's 6th is excellent, and has for decades been Gramophone magazine's top recommendation for this work.

You also get a mighty 5th, perhaps a bit ramshackle, a bit heavy at times, but well worth hearing. The 7th I don't like, partly because Klemperer ruins the finale with absurd and inauthentic ritardandi, and the 9th is a strangely pale, underpowered performance, with a similarly oddly pale and underpowered recording.

But this set is worth buying for the 8th alone. This is one of Klemperer's very last recordings, and it has an unparalleled majesty and grandeur, as if Klemperer were hewing the music out of some sort of tragic granite. After hearing this recording you will find most other recordings of the 8th intolerably feeble. Tempi are rock-solid without being inflexible - the Scherzo is slow but with great forward momentum, and the Trio has a rapture which I have never heard matched in any other recording, achieved partly through the slow (but not dragging) tempo, which allows the beautiful harp part to be heard with complete clarity. In the slow movement Klemperer's rock-steady tempo means that the great and deeply moving double-climax comes across absolutely magnificently, devastatingly - a passage too often hurried into a crazed accelerando, which robs the music of all its dignity and impact (Jochum is particularly guilty here).

So do buy this set - it's cheap enough to make it worthwhile buying just for the 6th and the utterly magnificent 8th.
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on 10 March 2013
Overall this an excellent collection of the (mainly) Novak editions of Bruckner's symphonies 4-9 with one caveat which I will come to later. The recordings were made between 1960 (no.7) and 1970 (nos 8 & 9) and are, in the main highly recommendable.

Symphony no 4 'Romantic' (rec 1963) When I first listened to this I hated it. My notes are full of adjectives such as 'clunky' or 'emotionless'. I fear it must have been a bad day as, on re-hearing the Symphony I quite enjoyed it. Notwithstanding this is probably Bruckner's most popular symphony I remain unconvinced with long stretches which seem to me mere note-spinning.
Symphony no.5 (rec. 1967)This was the first time I had heard this symphony for about 30 years having dozed off during a rather dull Prom performance many years ago which put me off it. I was pleasantly surprised with the performance and would recommend it to anyone who doubts Bruckner's genius (which he undoubtedly was).
Symphony no.6 (rec 1964) Klemperer uses Robert Haas's edition of this symphony which has always been a favourite. I have always regarded this as a benchmark recording of the work and it did not disappoint.
Symphony no 7 (rec 1960) The earliest recorded of the symphonies. This is a superb performance particularly of dark, grieving 'Adagio' 2nd movement.
Symphony no 9 (rec 1970) This was the first Bruckner symphony I heard (in Karajan's DG recording) and this is another superb performance.
Symphony no 8 (rec 1970) Of the symphonies this is my favourite of the lot. The Everest of symphonies and in my top 5 of favourites. Sadly this recording does Klemperer and EMI no favours whatsoever. Whilst the first 3 movements are slow there is a majesty to them. Unfortunately the Finale rules out any recommendation. Klemperer makes two swingeing cuts totalling 222 bars (not 141 as indicated in the notes nor where (in the case of the 1st cut) as indicated in the notes (157 bars between Letter Q (bar 231) and letters Aa (bar 387) and a further 65 bars, 1 bar before letters Pp (bar 583) to Letter Uu (bar 646) the start of the Coda of the symphony. (Letters taken from Novak's 1955 edition). Both cuts are beyond belief and destroy Bruckner's careful architecture but the second is truly appalling as it cuts out the most astonishing passage in this most astonishing symphony ( at letters Ss) where Bruckner slams into the texture the main theme of the 1st movement and thus totally destroys the inexorable build up to the end of the symphony which, in this performance seems a bit of a damp squib.. How a great conductor like Klemperer could make such crass excisions is beyond me. Sorry I do not buy his rather pathetic excuse for doing it, cutting 222 bars from a movement lasting 709 bars is sheer vandalism. A sad end to Klemperer's career. In some ways it's a pity EMI couldn't have quietly forgotten about this recording or never issued it in the first place. Overall I would give the set 4 stars as the good far outweighs the bad.
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on 7 October 2017
A frequent comment about Bruckner's symphonies is that they are like cathedrals, with the feeling of having been hewn out of solid rock rather than composed. These monoliths seem, then, to be tailor-made for Otto Klemperer, for whom musical structure was always paramount. Given this starting point, and the excellent quality recording on offer, the results are as you might expect: magnificent, awe-inspiring edifices of sound.

Erudite fellow reviewers have commented on the treatment the individual symphonies receive at the hands of this most uncompromising (in a good way) of conductors. I will just say that if you aleady know Bruckner and perhaps have other versions of his symphonies, you should hear what Klemperer has to say. Or if you are new to this still-underated composer, this would be a good introduction to his sometimes demanding yet always interesting works.
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on 7 August 2013
For the last tw0 months I have been listening to various cycles of Bruckner complete symphonies.I heard this version and has pristine sound and the trumpets sound so glorious that is unmatched by any version of other version.This set is highly recommended as basic foundation of Bruckner symphonies and when you listen to a pair of headphone you are totaly wraped in glorious sound.If you have a better than this set,let me know.The price is dirt cheap via Amazon.The only regret is that I did not buy this set earlier.Buy this and then you can pick other Bruckner complete symphonies cycle or singe cd of his symphony.
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on 11 February 2013
These are mostly very fine performances of these great works. The sound is fine, though it can become a little harsh in very loud passages. Klemperer inclines to slow tempi, just right in my opinion, and handles the slow build ups to towering crescendos perfectly. My only slight reservation is that the first and third movements of the sixth symphony are too slow, and lack drive and cohesion. The rest I cannot fault, and the ninth especially is a very powerful and moving performance. There are conductors whose Bruckner is even better (Wand, Barenboim), but I'm more than happy to have these on my shelves.
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on 22 May 2016
Bought for a friend.
No complaints.
Arrived very quickly.
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Worth getting if only for the 4th and the 6th symphonies, which I feel are the best recordings of these two symphonies. the 7th also a fine performance, for number 5, 8, 9, I would go with the recordings of these works by karajan in the 70s. Hard to see how they could be improved upon.
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