replay; Bruckner: Symphony No 8 Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Eduard van Beinum (Recorded 1955) (Philips 442 730-2)

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The Independent Culture
A useful corrective for at least two misinformed opinions - that Bruckner was a churchly, Wagnerian heavyweight and that Eduard van Beinum was a dull conductor. So be warned, the Bruckner you'll encounter on this CD is neither saint nor Siegfried, but a bold, life-loving musical innovator.

The opening Allegro moderato is all fiery impulse and jagged contours; the Scherzo suggests both gladiatorial savagery and joy; the Adagio leans heavily at first then shoulders an exultant climax, and the finale - an unusually eventful affair - gallops into action and ends in an orgy of tonal affirmation. The orchestra is consistently on beam, whether among the brass (very prominently recorded trumpets and horns), the strings (so eloquent after the Adagio's coruscating climax) or percussion (the timpanist has a field day). Van Beinum's viewpoint eschews the marmoreal, the monumental and the bombastic in favour of spiritual candour and vital physicality; there are no tiresome sighs, longueurs of pregnant rests, but a healthily Beethovenian energy level. Philips have done a fine refurbishing job on what was always a good - if eccentrically balanced - recording. A stereo version of the Ninth is also available and there's a highly spontaneous live Fifth waiting somewhere in the wings. Let's hope that it's not too long in joining this splendidly heroic Eighth.