Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Janowski

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Janowski

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186371

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Marek Janowski (conductor)

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10 of 13 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

DSD recording
Reviews (1)

Review by Mark Novak - April 23, 2011

To my surprise, I really enjoyed this recording. My experience with Maestro Janowski’s conducting has not been very good of late. His Bruckner 6th was mediocre as was his Brahms 1st and Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. Here, however, he turns in a solid and, at times, even exciting performance of this monumental symphony that ranks as Bruckner’s best in my estimation (had Bruckner been able to complete his ninth, that verdict may have changed). Appropriate tempos are chosen for all four movements with just the right amount of nervous urgency in the Scherzo followed by a languid and beautiful third movement Adagio. The orchestra playing is superb and is filled with excellent dynamic contrasts. There were a few places in the long Adagio movement where I felt the energy flag just a bit but not for long enough to ruin the overall momentum and pace. The build up to the climax near the end of the Adagio is very fulfilling followed by a languid coda. The finale follows with a vengeance – full-throated tuttis that Bruckner soon reigns in for more dreamy episodes. Janowski shapes the music very well on a 23 minute journey to a bracing conclusion.

Another surprise for me was the sound. The earlier Bruckner 6th was also recorded in Victoria Hall in Geneva, Switzerland and was less than first rate. This, however, shows improvement. It was recorded by balance engineers Erdo Groot and Jean-Marie Geisjen in April, June and July, 2010. Despite the lapse in time between sessions, the sound coheres quite nicely. I suspect that most of the symphony was laid down in the April sessions with patch sessions in the subsequent months though listening to the result does not betray any discontinuities at all. The massed violins and woodwinds sound very natural. The brass are never shouty but possess the requisite bite. The low end foundation of the orchestra is adequately presented and is not muddy sounding. Dynamics are very good if not the widest I’ve heard for a large orchestra. There is an excellent mix of direct and hall sound such that no detail is ever obscured. Very nice indeed!

I would place this recording right up there with numerous others I’ve heard on RBCD. A very worthy addition to the Bruckner discography and to the hi-rez canon. Recommended.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Novak and


Sonics (Stereo):

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Comments (1)

Comment by David Weber - September 18, 2015 (1 of 1)

This performance is unique in the way it highlights the rhythms and dance-like elements in the score. This is most apparent in the last two movements. In the Adagio, the speed and presence of the opening double bass ostinato produce a swaying effect not usually heard, though later on this pace detracts from the sublime elements of this movement. I have always visualized a cavalry unit at the Finale's opening. Janowski's slower almost-lilting pace depicts a stately procession cantering off to war, where most others thunder towards the battle's front line. For the Finale's coda, a slow, reflective beginning (one of the few times this performance affords this atmosphere) gradually morphs into frenzied triumph, the most exciting conclusion of all performances I've heard. As the first two movements go, the opening Allegro moderato has a refreshing energy and rhythmic pulse. The Scherzo interpretation stood out least of all four movements.

Overall, the usual rich and weighty soundscape of a Bruckner 8th performance gives way to a leaner, more etched sound that gives spotlight to individual sections, especially woodwinds. The sound engineering has a bit to do with this. This approach reminds me of the leaner scoring of the original 1887 version, which was my first introduction to this symphony. My biggest complaint with this performance is the lack of dynamic shading in the OSR's upper brass playing at various points, but in other places (such as the Finale coda) it is quite thrilling. This is not the best overall performance (I give that title to Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Blomstedt), and I give Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - van Zweden the title for best sound, but I still would not want to be without this unique performance.

Other Brucker 8th recordings I own:
Tintner/NSO Ireland (Naxos) [Original 1887 edition]
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Blomstedt
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - van Zweden
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Ballot
Bruckner: Symphonies 8 & 9 - Schuricht
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Wand (recently purchased based on reputation, but still in transit)