Anton Bruckner: The Symphonies - Organ Transcriptions Vol 8. Symphony No 8 in C minor - Hansjörg Albrecht, organ. © 2023 OehmsClassics / Naxos Deutschland GmbH


Overwhelmingly Compelling

GERALD FENECH is inspired by Eberhard Klotz's organ transcription of Bruckner's Symphony No 8

'... with every new release Albrecht's playing becomes more inspired and imaginatively alive.'


The Eighth Symphony by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) is the last he would complete. He never lived to finish his ninth so the eighth is the summation of his symphonic journey. And what a summit the eighth is! Bruckner himself said when he finished the work's gigantic, revelatory finale:

Hallelujah ... The Finale is the most significant movement of my life.

Themes from all of the work's huge movements sound together at the end of the symphony, a moment that burns with what Robert Simpson calls a 'blazing calm'.

Listen — Bruckner: Finale (Symphony No 8)
(OC 484 CD2 track 2, 24:53-25:52)
℗ 2023 OehmsClassics / Naxos Deutschland GmbH :

It's the end point of a monumental symphonic journey, and it's one of the most existentially thrilling experiences a symphony has ever created. Bruckner's achievement is to make you feel, when you get there, that the whole experience of the piece is contained and transfigured in this crowning coming-together of symphonic space and time, and that the work's sublime darknesses - like the terrifying abysses of dissonance in the first movement, the kind of music that conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler described as Bruckner's 'battle of demons' - and its equally transcendent light, like the climax of the slow movement, are simultaneously vindicated and vanquished by the sheer, breathtaking magnificence of this music. Indeed, the last symphonic coda that Bruckner would ever compose is just mesmerizing.

The composer finished a first version of the piece in 1887 but the eighth had to pass through a tortuous journey, which included extensive revisions, as was Bruckner's wont, to finally have its premiere in 1892. On this historic occasion the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Felix Weingartner duly obliged.

Bruckner's Eighth is an act of enormous empathic consolation because it's unafraid to confront and to recognize sublime terror and darkness as well as light. Just like him when he wrote the piece, you need to feel engaged in that 'battle of demons' when you are listening.

Listen — Bruckner: Scherzo (Symphony No 8)
(OC 484 CD1 track 4, 0:55-1:46)
℗ 2023 OehmsClassics / Naxos Deutschland GmbH :

In 2020 Oehms Classics started the ball rolling on a series dedicated to Bruckner's symphonic output all recorded in new transcriptions for organ interpreted by Hansjörg Albrecht. This project was launched to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the composer's birth in 2024. In fact, this undertaking will come to its completion next year.

This issue, featuring the mammoth eighth symphony, was made on the wonderful Musikverein organ in Vienna, and Albrecht rises to this immense challenge with full-blooded brilliance, and the way he tackles the technical complexities of these transcriptions is nothing short of breathtaking. Indeed, with every new release Albrecht's playing becomes more inspired and imaginatively alive.

Listen — Bruckner: Allegro moderato (Symphony No 8)
(OC 484 CD1 track 3, 0:01-0:50)
℗ 2023 OehmsClassics / Naxos Deutschland GmbH :

To make this cycle more exciting, Oehms decided to record a bonus track on each volume to be a brand new composition for organ that references Bruckner the composer. In this instance, the work is In Nomine, Op 94 No 4, by Thomas Daniel Schlee.

Listen — Schlee: In Nomine
(OC 484 CD1 track 3, 0:00-0:46)
℗ 2023 OehmsClassics / Naxos Deutschland GmbH :

The programme also includes Bruckner's Ecce Sacerdos Magnus in an organ arrangement by Albrecht himself.

Listen — Bruckner: Fanfare: Ecce sacerdos magnus
(OC 484 CD1 track 1, 3:57-4:44)
℗ 2023 OehmsClassics / Naxos Deutschland GmbH :

This is music that is as staggering as it is inspirational, and as in previous issues, Albrecht's sound world is overwhelmingly compelling. A must for Bruckner and organ buffs.

Copyright © 21 December 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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