Day 127: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (Tintner)

This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), nicknamed “The Apocalyptic,” although I don’t know why, is Georg Tintner (1917-1999), the Austrian-born composer/conductor with whom I was already familiar prior to starting my 144-day exploration of Bruckner’s music.

Tinter’s orchestra this time is the The National Symphony of Ireland.

I first encountered Georg Tintner (in this project) on Day 15, Symphony No. 1.

Then again on Day 31, Symphony No. 2.

Then again on Day 47, Symphony No. 3.

Then again on Day 63, Symphony No. 4.

Then again on Day 79, Symphony No. 5.

Then again on Day 95, Symphony No. 6.

Then again, most recently, on Day 111, Symphony No. 7.

First, the objective aspects of this recording:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), composed 1884-1890
Georg Tintner conducts
Tinter used the version “ORIGINAL 1887 VERSION, ED. L. NOWAK,” according to the back of the CD sleeve
The National Symphony of Ireland plays
The symphony clocks in at 90:22 (wish the CD booklet would have revealed that info because, here I sit at a local restaurant and I don’t have a scan of the back of the second CD sleeve handy…and over 90 minutes?!?! The hell was he thinking?)
This was recorded at National Concert Hall, Dublin, from 23rd to 25th September, 1996
Tintner was 79 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 66 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Naxos label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this particular symphony Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), from this particular conductor (Sir Georg Solti ) and this particular orchestra (The National Symphony of Ireland) is as follows:

I. Allegro moderato…………………………………………………………………………….18:14
II. Scherzo. Allegro moderato…………………………………………………………….15:39
II. Adagio. Feierlich langsam; aber nicht schleppend……………………….31:10
IV. Finale. Feierlich, nicht schnell……………………………………………………….25:19

Total running time: 90:22 – Yikes! Yikes!

From its entry on Wikipedia,

1887 version

This was Bruckner’s first version of the symphony, but was not published until 1972 in an edition edited by Leopold Nowak. It has some significant differences from the more familiar later versions, including a loud ending to the first movement and a different tonality for the climax of the slow movement. It is also notably longer than the 1890 version, and has a different instrumentation (the most significant consistent difference being that the 1890 version has triple rather than double woodwind throughout the first three movements). The double woodwind of the 1887 version gives a somewhat more austere character to the overall sound of the work.

Some scholars support this version of the symphony.

brucknertintnerboxFrom the exceptional liner notes written by Georg Tintner himself,

Beethoven’s Leonore has the same relationship to Fidelio as the almost unknown 1887 first version of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 has to that of the 1890 version…the 1887 symphony, written without interference from anyone and inspired by his first great success with Symphony No. 7, shows an almost primitive spontaneity.

The beginning is the only one in Bruckner’s eleven symphonies that leaves us guessing for quite a while as to which key we are actually in. Very soon Bruckner’s favorite rhythmical pattern (two notes followed by triplets) appears, and it is also the basis for the second theme, this time in the major.

Bruckner felt the need (as he did in his Second Symphony, and of course as Beethoven did in his Ninth Symphony) for putting the Scherzo after this terrifying first moment.

The Adagio is, in my opinion, with that of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the greatest symphonic slow movement ever written.

Now the subjective stuff:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 4 (lengthy essays, but incomplete recording/version information)
How does this make me feel: 3

The best word to describe this performance is uneven.

Okay. Another word: long.

As in unnecessarily long.

As in there’s no reason in hell this should be over 90 minutes long.

This earns a Double Yikes! from me.

As for the performance, a few movements were blaring, the horns piercing to my ears. Allegro and Finale, for example. Usually, I enjoy both. But not this time.

This time around, Maestro Tintner and his orchestra (the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland) were far better in the quiet moments than in the loud ones. The Adagio, for example, was sublime. Very sweet and soothing. (I agree with Mr. Tintner in his liner notes. This is the finest Adagio I’ve ever heard.) It’s a good thing the Adagio is so good because it’s massive in Tintner’s interpretation – over a half hour in length. Ass-hurt time could have occurred with this one. But it was so engaging that I couldn’t help but listen…twice through, in fact.

The Scherzo, which is almost always boisterous and catchy, was just barely palatable this time around.

I am usually the biggest fan of George Tintner and this box set. However, for Bruckner’s Eighth…not so much.

This was kind of a “meh” interpretation that was more off-putting than captivating, mostly because it was recorded in a blaring way that favored the horns to the exclusion of the strings.

In addition, it was too “bright.” That accounts for the sound of the horns. I prefer recordings more lower register, richer, fuller.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, overall this 12-CD Naxos box is a thing of beauty:

naxostintnerbox

Heavy cardboard. A pop top. Fantastic CD booklet (missing only information on individual discs and what’s on them, which – granted – is important). A joy to behold.

Naxos is one of the select few labels in Classical music that you can trust based on name alone. They are like Brilliant Classics in that they are affordable, but akin to Deutsche Grammophon (DG) in their slavish adherence to quality and re-releasing important historical recordings. I dig the Naxos label.

I can tell how much time and effort the label put into The Complete Bruckner Symphonies. It’s obvious how much the folks at Naxos revered Georg Titner, his orchestra, and Bruckner’s music.

The CD liner notes, written by Tintner, are the icing on the cake.

Everything about this box set screams of reverence for the subject matter.

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