Bruckner: Symphony No. 8

 Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by Daniel Barenboim

Deutsche Grammophon - 2741007 (1981)

My Vinyl Album of the "Week" project has looked like being decreasingly well-named of late, and partly this is because I was determined not to just skip this record, even though I have found it really hard to like. It's too long for me to be able to get a grip on, with each movement more than ten minutes long and some over twenty. Perhaps what I needed to do was listen to each movement individually rather than attempt the whole symphony each time.

I can pick out some repeated themes, but as a whole it seems to jump from this to that, without seeming to have any connection between what I shall, in my ignorance, refer to as "bits". As you'd expect, the orchestration is never less than excellent and there's undoubtedly harmonic sophistication going way over my head - but, as a whole, I found it in part too daunting and in part just too much. I couldn't concentrate for long enough to get an overall picture in my head. Clearly this is my failing - apparently this is one of the greatest symphonies of all time - but I can't say it's a piece I'll be rushing back to.

On the last side (of four) is Bruckner's Te Deum, a piece which is amuses me (entirely unoriginally, I'm sure) to think of as "tedium", although I haven't listened to it more than about twice. It has operatic singing on it which was never going to interest me anyway, and now it's time to move on to another record.

The other reason this took me so long to write up is because this record seems to either illustrate shortcomings of my record player, my setup, or possibly both, as the louder sections distort noticeable in the left hand channel, which is very distracting. It might be the record, although, remarkably, this was still sealed in its cellophane until I played it, so it can't be previous damage. I think it's mostly sorted out now - I've readjusted the tone arm multiple times - but it just reminds me how fragile and fiddly record players are. Other than the sentimental value of listening to it - which is valid - there are no other reasons I can think of to bother.

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