BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor; Adagio
from String Quintet in F
Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orch/ Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, cond. "Cis" Collegium Mozarteum Salzburg (Quintet movement).
Arte Nova 34016 (2 CDs) (B) (DDD) TT: 60:05 & 35:55
To the senior Polish conductor's Bruckner Sixth and Seventh Symphonies with this responsive radio orchestra on Arte Nova, BMG has added the Eighth. In small type one finds that it was recorded in 1993, probably for broadcast, and copyrighted in 1996. With the Fourth on British IMP and the Ninth on Reference Recordings (played by the Hallé and Minnesota Orchestras, respectively), Skrowaczewski has reached the halfway point in a "complete" survey (if he plans to add the prenumbered "Nullte" and a student symphony composed before that; otherwise, only Nos. 1, 2 and 3 remain.
This nobly conceived Eighth, with an outstandingly eloquent Adagio (28:14 in length), has budget competition only from George Tintner with the Irish National Orchestra on Naxos, also a 2-CD set that has the "Nullte" Symphony as filler. My local Tower outlet has yet to display it; if indeed they ordered it. A both-thumbs-up review by Robert McColley in Fanfare whetted the appetite. Whenever I can nail down a copy, I'll append a comment to this. Meanwhile, Skrowaczewski is a masterful architect who uses the revised edition of 1887-90 -- in other words, editor Leopold Nowak's choice despite controversial cuts in the finale. Tintner, where possible, uses Bruckner's first thoughts set down between 1884-87, which include a loud ending to the opening movement.
At midprice, EMI has reissued Lorin Maazel's recording with the Vienna Philharmonic, indubitably a greater orchestra, plush, cushy, with power to burn and plenty of leg-room, yet a lesser accomplishment than Arte Nova's. Conducting is the difference. Without stinting in the Scherzo second movement, Skrowaczewski makes the ensuing Adagio his destination, and still brings off the long finale climactically at the start of disc 2. The Quintet slow movement follows, beautiful music beautifully played by members of the Salzburg Collegium, and lambently recorded. So the side runs only 35:55; the overall price is still less than a single-disc version on one of the so-called "major" labels. The Saarbrücken sound needs the gain kicked up high to sound substantial, but the result is lacking in heft -- satisfactory, in other words, but not what it might have been.
Again trilingual program notes are skimpy. Dismayingly, the Eighth is given a subtitle -- "Apocalyptic." Where BMG got this is not explained except perhaps as merchandising bait, but it is an egregious misnomer. "Estatic" would be just as egregious, but at least closer to the spirit of an overwhelming work.