- Symphony No. 8 in C minor, WAB 108
Even though Stefan Blunier's 2011 recording of Anton Bruckner's "Symphony No. 8 in C minor" is a lot to digest, timed at over 88 minutes and stretched almost to the breaking point, this is a deeply compelling performance and an impressive recording that deserves all the time listeners devote to it. Blunier leads the Beethoven Orchester Bonn at surprisingly slow tempos in the first and third movements, which, with some extra time taken in the Scherzo's Trio and the Finale, add approximately nine minutes to this already expansive symphony. In other conductors' hands, the drawn-out pacing could be lugubrious and lethal, yet the highly nuanced interpretation and sensitive playing keep this music at a level of nervous energy that tenaciously holds the listener's attention, even when the beat is at its slowest. The "Eighth" is frequently cited for its power and severity, but this rendition is fascinating for its delicacy and moving in its tenderness, particularly in the dark conclusion of the Allegro moderato, and in the heartbreaking aftermath of the Adagio's climax. This, along with the unmistakable feeling that every note has a pulse and a presence of its own, makes the music play out like a profoundly emotional drama that receives just the time it needs to resolve to a satisfying conclusion. MDG's natural, unprocessed sound is a great aid to capturing the orchestra's subtle dynamics, and the live recording has very few extraneous sounds. Highly recommended.