Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Thielemann

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Thielemann

Profil  PH10031 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

Staatskapelle Dresden
Christian Thielemann (conductor)

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Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - July 12, 2010

Profil are to be congratulated for the release of this stunning live recording of Bruckner’s monumental 8th Symphony on SACD. It was taped by MDR Figaro, the arts radio channel of Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk, on the 14th September 2009 and represents not only a memento of an important occasion for the Dresden Staatskapelle, but one that subsequently resulted in the appointment of Christian Thielemann as the orchestra’s new music director from September 2010. The events leading up to this memorable concert throw some light on the incredibly thrilling music making captured on these two SACDs.

Early in September 2009 Fabio Luisi announced, at short notice, that due to illness he would not be able to conduct this second Staatskapelle symphony concert. Luisi had already stated his intention not to renew his contract with the orchestra beyond 2012 when he is due to become General Music Director of the Zurich Opera. A frantic search for a replacement found Christian Thielemann who, having conducted a series of performances of Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth just two weeks earlier, was on holiday. At Thielemann’s own request Bruckner’s 8th Symphony was chosen for this concert.

Christian Thielemann’s empathy with Bruckner is already well known from a very expansive, yet absolutely riveting CD recording of the 5th Symphony on DGG and an equally fine coupling of the 4th and 7th symphonies on DVD. On both those recordings Thielemann conducted the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, but here with the Dresden Staatskapelle on blistering form there is an extra special frisson. Thielemann as a traditionalist, in the line of great Bruckner interpreters from Fürtwangler and Jochum to Karajan, Wand and Haitink, uses the Robert Haas (1939) edition of the score rather than the later one by Leopold Nowak (1955). The differences between these two editions are not huge, but it is the Haas that even today is the one most widely favoured by conductors both in the concert hall and on disc.

Thielemann’s interpretation of this symphony is utterly convincing and fully captures the majesty of Bruckner’s creation. It impresses as being completely thought through from start to finish, and the tempi that he adopts in each of the four movements seem to me ideal. He has complete understanding of the architecture of this symphony and total command of the music’s essential ebb and flow that allows the work to breathe. What is in some way even more remarkable is the manner in which the Staatskapelle respond to his direction. It is hard to believe that this is a single performance with no opportunities for re-takes; such is the dedication and concentration of the orchestra throughout the work’s 82-minute span. (Timings are I 15’45” II 15’52” III 27’09” IV 23’22” *).
* The booklet timing of 24’51” for the finale includes the applause

Profil have sensibly put the symphony’s first three movements on the first disc, giving the listener time to recover from the intensity of the profound slow movement before the blazing opening of the finale on disc 2. It would take too long to detail the many the felicities and insights of Thielemann’s performance, but suffice it to say that for this listener this is a Bruckner 8th to cherish.

The sound quality the engineers have achieved in the Semperoper is equally amazing. The sense of a large acoustic space is palpable even before the first note is played, while the burnished brass and rich string sound, particularly at the low-end, has been captured in a way that one would not have thought possible in a live concert. The presence of an audience is virtually undetectable until the end of the work and, presumably thanks to Thielemann, the applause only breaks out after a full six-second silence.

The double CD-case contains a lavish 37-page booklet in German and English that includes not only full-colour photographs of the concert, but also one of a smiling Thielemann signing his new contract with the Saxon Minister for Science and the Arts.

This auspicious release marks what one fervently hopes will be a fruitful relationship between Christian Thielemann and the Dresden Staatskapelle, and on both sonic and musical grounds deserves an unqualified recommendation.

Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and


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Comments (6)

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 1, 2023 (1 of 6)

SONY Japan is going to release the Bruckner/Wiener Philharmoniker symphony cycle on 11 Hybrid-SACD in Oct. 25th, including study symphony in f-minor, symphony in d-minor 'Nullte' and Nos. 1-9. - SICC-10437-47.

Comment by DYB - August 19, 2023 (2 of 6)

Sony is also releasing the 1980s Lorin Maazel cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic on SACD! They're on a roll.

Comment by DYB - August 22, 2023 (3 of 6)

Ugh I got my Bruckner and Mahler mixed up. The Maazel set is of the Mahler symphonies with Vienna, not Bruckner! Those recordings have never been available in high resolution.

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 23, 2023 (4 of 6)

Yes, the new SACD release of Maazel's Vienna Mahler cycle would definitely fit better to Esoteric's offerings... - Regarding the upcomming SACD release of Thielemann's Bruckner, I'm not sure about the original recording format of these recordings. I reckon that the cycle was recorded rather in PCM than DSD. I'll skip the SACD version. Qobuz is offering the complete cycle in 24/96 for a fraction of the cost of the SACD set, a real bargain (I've already pre-ordered). I'm already enjoying symphonies 2 & 4 of this cycle in PCM 24/96, I'd even prefer them in terms of sound to Järvi. Finally, the Thielemann/Vienna cycle offers the rare opportunity listening the symphonies with opposite-placed violins (1st on the left, 2nd on the right). One hears some passages in a new light.

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 28, 2023 (5 of 6)

Sony answered my question about the original recording format of the upcomming SACD release SICC-10437/47: all 11 symphonies were recorded in native PCM 24/96. So, the SACD release offers no sonic benefit. I'd strongly recommend the 24/96 downloads reflecting the actual masterfiles.

Comment by Longjohns and Wifebeaters - August 31, 2023 (6 of 6)

There's also a complete symphony set by Andris Nelsons/Leipzig coming up on DG/Universal Japan (UCGG-9219, with some Wagner thrown in), which should be at least musically more interesting than Thielemann.