Day 128: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (Wand)

This is the last day of listening to Bruckner’s Eighth!

Tomorrow starts a new chapter – Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, which (as Nigel Tufnel tells us) is “the saddest of all keys.”

Actually, this time Nigel may be right since Anton Bruckner died before he could finish his Ninth.

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 German-born Gunter Wand (1912-2002).

The orchestra is Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester.

Back when I first contemplated this 144-day project, Maestro Wand’s name came up a time or two when I read reviews of Bruckner’s symphonies and who people considered to be his best conductor-interpreters. Wand was looked upon favorably by several Brucknerians. So, when I started this journey – back on October 3rd, 2016 – Wand was one of the conductors I most looked forward to hearing.


And hear him I did on Day 16, Symphony No. 1.

Then, on Day 32, Symphony No. 2.

And again on Day 48, Symphony No. 3.

And again on Day 64, Symphony No. 4.

And again on Day 67, Symphony No. 5 (from the Bruckner Collection box set).

And again on Day 80, Symphony No. 5 (from the Wand box set).

And again on Day 96, Symphony No. 6.

And again, most recently, on Day 112, Symphony No. 7.

I’ve heard a lot of Gunter Wand during my project.

Before I reveal what I thought of this day’s listening, here are the objective stats:

brucknerwandboxBruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (WAB 108), composed 1884-1890
Gunter Wand conducts
Wand used the “1890 version, ed. Robert Haas,” according to the CD sleeve
Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester plays
The symphony clocks in at 81:22
This was recorded at WDR Cologne, Germany, in 1979
Wand was 66 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 66 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the RCA/Red Seal label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 8 in C Minor [WAB 108]), from this particular conductor (Gunter Wand ) and this particular orchestra (Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester) is as follows:

I. Allegro moderato…………………………………………………………………………….15:44
II. Scherzo. Allegro moderato…………………………………………………………….15:04
II. Adagio. Feierlich langsam; aber nicht schleppend……………………….26:10
IV. Finale. Feierlich, nicht schnell……………………………………………………….24:24

Total running time: 81:22

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 0 (there aren’t any – shame on them!)
How does this make me feel: 4

From its entry on Wikipedia,

1890 version

Some scholars such as Deryck Cooke and Robert Haas have suggested that the 1890 revision was the product of Bruckner’s insecurity and pressure from his colleagues such as Josef Schalk: Cooke even referred to it as the “Bruckner-Schalk revision”. Against this Leopold Nowak has pointed out that there is no evidence of any handwriting other than Bruckner’s own in the 1890 manuscript. According to the testimony of Bruckner’s friends and associates the composer was extremely resistant to outside interference.

The scoring of the 1890 version is fuller and more grandiloquent than the 1887 version, with subtler textures and harmonies in the woodwind in particular, allowed for by the increased size of this section of the orchestra. It was published in 1955 in an edition edited by Leopold Nowak.

A solid, above-average performance (again) from Wand and orchestra.

Very brassy, though. I wish the strings had been a little more out front. In this case, the horns carried the show.

Yes, I realize Bruckner’s Eighth features horns in a prominent way. I ought to, anyway. I’ve been listening to this symphony for 16 weeks. But it’s how they’re recorded, and in what balance with the other instruments, that makes the difference for me.

I was especially taken by the Finale in this performance. And the Adagio. But all that brass and bluster fit very nicely with the power of the Finale.

Would I recommend this recording to a Bruckner newbie? Depends. If another performance can be found somewhere, no. If this is all that was available, yes.

Okay. Tomorrow starts all over again with Daniel Barenboim.

After I finish with Symphony No. 9 from the perspective of a couple of dozen conductors in my 144 Days With Bruckner And Me project, I will start all over again – only this time with seven more CD box sets. I’ll call phase two 57 More Days With Bruckner And Me.

Both phases combined means I’ll be listening to Anton Bruckner’s nine symphonies for 201 days straight.

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