Bruckner 8

[Reposted from Facebook, 29 Jan 14]

Tonight’s music, the Bruckner 8, the grandest and most thrilling and most moving of the Bruckner symphonies. I have several recordings, and I didn’t realize when I put it on that I’d grabbed the version linked here, which is the “first version” — Bruckner was notorious for revising his symphonies — rather than the more common recordings of the revised final version. The most noticeable difference between the versions is the end of the third, adagio movement, which in this first version is tentative and exploratory, as if the composer hadn’t quite figured it out; in the final version it’s a magnificent transformation of the the rising, uplifting, introspective theme introduced at the beginning of the movement, into a rising, uplifting, and expansive (in the sense of a glorious conceptual breakthrough) theme.

I also have the Furtwangler, von Karajan, Guilini, and Wand recordings… listening the latter’s 3rd movement right now.



And now listening to the von Karajan version — I know it’s late and I should be getting to bed. I like von Karajan’s precision, which detractors dismiss as coldness. I think it’s the 2001 influence — i.e. that I saw that movie and heard its music when I was 12, an impressionable age. I like von Karajan’s version of “Blue Danube” above all others; his is elegant where other performances are schmaltzy.


Whereas Carlo Maria Guilini — who was conductor of the LA Philharmonic for some years in the ’80s — is somewhat more expansive and passionate. The three key passages in this third movement need to to be allowed full expression, and even von Karajan seems to cut them a bit short. Listening now to Guilini…waiting for that final passage… he takes his time, allowing more contrast between the full orchestra passages and the occasional softer violin pizzicato sections… Finally the uplift: Nine steps up. And then that expansive conceptual breakthrough resolution.

And then, just as important, the leisurely calming down. I am reminded of Norman Spinrad (The Void Captain’s Tale): and the fact that so much of art, the structure of conflict and resolution, is analogous to the dynamic of the sexual act. (Once you get Spinrad’s insight into your head, you will never forget it.)

And now to bed.

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