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Vienna Postcards: Jaap van Zweden and the Vienna Philharmonic in Bruckner's 8th

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A.Bruckner, Symphony No.8
J.v.Zweden, Netherlands RSO
Challenge SACD

Vienna, April 6, 2014: Jaap van Zweden’s Bruckner – on record, anyway (Challenge Classics) feels more organic, more settled, more artless than of Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Atma Classique). To have Zweden replace Nézet-Séguin on this occasion might have taken glamor away from the Vienna Philharmonic’s concert of Bruckner’s Eighth at the Vienna Konzerthaus, but any Bruckner aficionado in the know will not have been devastated. The Vienna Philharmonic’s was a routine performance from the start, but not just in the “a couple rehearsals will have to do” way. It was shaped within what might be called ‘conventional parameters’, i.e. nothing willful, nothing that drew attention for the sake of drawing attention. Dynamically nuanced, never timid, and orchestrally homogenous. For the most part. The English horn in the opening Allegro already pre-shadowed the Tristan references of the slow movement. The sense of routine slowly dissipated in the Scherzo, which was firm and jaunty and bolted into the Trio with pluck. The fist violins could have sounded less ungainly in the last pianissimo notes of the Adagio but the climaxes of the finale – like waves lapping ashore – were the bracing, fortifying experience they should bee, of joy-giving vitality. In the fine acoustic of the Konzerthaus – better suited for big Bruckner than the Musikverein’s Golden Hall across the street – the result was a fine, above-average if never quite revelatory orchestral matinée.

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