Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 8 - Philharmoniker Hamburg

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ANTON BRUCKNER - SYMPHONY No. 8 - (FIRST VERSION 1878) - SIMONE YOUNG (Conductor) - PHILHARMONIKER HAMBURG - 2 Hybrid SACD - 812864018301 - Oehms OC638

It has been a banner year for high-quality recordings of the Bruckner symphonies and Simone Young’s account of the Eighth towers above the rest. The Bruckner cannon have been muddled by both the composer’s revisions and the corruption of scores by misguided supporters. While he submitted to extensive changes, Bruckner always carefully preserved his first versions, “For later times.” That time is now, at the mid-point of Young’s cycle of the Bruckner symphonies in their original form. Symphony No 8 of 1887 was only performed in its entirety in 1973. For the past decade, Georg Tintner’s recording for Naxos (89:30) has been the undisputed top choice in a not very crowded field. Young surpasses him on all fronts: architectural conception, momentum, orchestral depth and sound quality. Hers is a rapturous performance which offers technical virtuosity and an awe-inspiring demonstration of interpretive intuition. Upon first acquaintance with this recording, your reviewer immediately ordered the previously issued discs in the cycle (Nos 2, 3 and 4). Young’s Eighth is no fluke. Australian-born Simone Young is probably the finest conductor of Bruckner active today. And the lady is also blazing a trail in Wagner with the first two parts of a Hamburg Ring Cycle for Oehms receiving widespread praise.

Other Bruckner symphony issues which should not be missed include Ivor Bolton’s Third (1889 version – Oehms), a stellar, super-audio account of the Sixth from Marek Janowski (Pentatone), a Hänssler Profil commemorative album of a 1979 performance of the Seventh directed by the late Yuri Ahronovitch from Cologne and another 8th (Haas Edition) in an astonishing performance by the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal under Yannick Nézet-Séguin (ATMA).

Stephen Habington