Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Bruckner's 8th Symphony

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (1887 version edited by Leopold Nowak)
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

And so it ends...or doth it really end when 'tis merely to begin again?

I'm not sure where that line came from--I'm sure I owe someone an attribution, nonetheless, it popped into my head during tonight's concert and stuck with me for the evening. It's hard to believe that this marks the end of the official Severance Hall season, with only the Composers Connect* event remaining before Blossom.

If one was to judge a score by its cover--rather one of its titles--this piece, sometimes known as Bruckner's Apolcalyptic, would seem like an odd choice to end this season. Beyond the title however, the Cleveland Orchestra treated the listeners to a fitting capstone to a generally wonderful season. Sergiu Celibidache is quoted in the program "...we experience a feeling of perfection -- the feeling of having gone through everything"

I do not know if I experienced, if it is even possible to experience, perfection in the purest sense of the word--if not the the Orchestra took me as close as musically possible. An emotional roller coaster, the piece struck me as bold and sensual, cheerful and dramatic, quiet and loud, fast and slow: Nearly every applicable adjective from one end of a spectrum could be countered with one from the other.

I had a strong preference for the first and second movements with the first movement's subtle building from a barely-audible rumble in the strings to a climatic explosion, leaving only a flute and timpani until the rest of the orchestra recovered. In the second movement scherzo, the program describes the movement as sinister, but I couldn't help but feel it was sinister yet playful, not irredeemably sinister.

I'll interject here that throughout the piece I found no need to remind myself of why there is no substitute for live classical music...the dynamic range was phenomenal, the texture palpable, the type of music where you can just close your eyes and enjoy the notes dancing on your ears.

While I don't typically care for adagios, the third movement ("Solemnly slow but not dragging") truly did not feel anywhere near its half-hour running time; the finale ("Solemn, not fast") likewise had enough variation to hold my interest. It seemed as if tension was building throughout the finale but never released, giving the end of the piece almost the feeling of a cliff-hanger "to be continued" from a television series finale. For some reason I doubt that that is the case here, nonetheless, I'm looking forward to next season.

(As near as I can tell, I didn't miss a concert weekend this season. I plan to put together a recap within the next two weeks)
*- If anyone can assist in procuring a box seat--or even merely an assigned seat, I'd be in your debt. Will gladly trade GA ticket ;)

1 comment:

  1. Tonight, August 27, 2010, I heard a broadcast of the Cleveland Bruckner 8 concert. I have never heard the 1887 original version so convincingly performed. I am familiar with three recordings of this early version of the symphony. None of them match the expressive power of the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Welser-Most. I have long preferred the Haas edition of the 1890 revision, and I would not want to be without the many enthralling moments of that edition. However, this performance of the 1887 original has convinced that it deserves to be performed as often as the more familiar revisions.

    We now have four versions of this symphony --including what must be called the Schalk version that was premiered in 1892 -- amounting to something like the Four Gospels in the New Testament of Bruckner symphonies. Just as we turn to a First and Second Corinthians, we can turn to first and second (even third) versions of many of the symphonies.

    If the 1887 Eighth is Bruckner's Gospel According to Matthew, his Ninth is surely his Book of Revelations.