Bruckner - Symphony no.8; Sibelius - Symphony no.5 | Barbirolli Society SJB109091

Bruckner - Symphony no.8; Sibelius - Symphony no.5


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Label: Barbirolli Society

Cat No: SJB109091

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 7th September 2018



Halle Orchestra
BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra


John Barbirolli


Bruckner, Anton

Symphony no.8 in C minor

Delius, Frederick

In a Summer Garden

Sibelius, Jean

Symphony no.5 in E flat major, op.82


Halle Orchestra
BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra


John Barbirolli


By the time of this performance of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony (17 January 1963), EMI had recently issued two recordings of the work in their catalogues, by Herbert von Karajan and Carl Schuricht, and would clearly not be looking to add a third.

Pity. For, as any true Brucknerian can hear – admittedly through the broadcast sound of half a century and more ago – Barbirolli directs a simply magnificent account of this work, which, despite its length of over 80 minutes, holds the listener’s attention throughout. In addition, the combination of these two major symphony orchestras gives the sound an inherent richness, body and depth which one may readily feel is that which the composer had in mind in 1890, when this second version of his masterpiece was completed.

But it is not solely the larger numbers of musicians taking part in this performance which conveys the inherent feeling of strength – of sheer depth of tone – this unique symphony possesses in this performance. It is Barbirolli’s approach to this work which lies behind the impact on the attentive listener, and that approach comes from a total grasp of the very large musical structure of the symphony.

It is a very great interpretative achievement on the conductor’s part – more so, in fact, when one considers that the overwhelming majority of listeners of a broadcast audience of the early 1960s would not have been familiar with purely orchestral works of the length of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony as they are today. Indeed, at a time when it is safe to claim that only the merest handful of conductors in the early 1960s were willing or capable enough to display the essence of Bruckner with the depth of understanding Barbirolli demonstrates that one begins to grasp the totality of his achievement – with a body of players brought together for this sole purpose.

The most truly astonishing aspect of the recording is that this performance was the first time in Barbirolli’s career that he had conducted the Symphony. Here, demonstrably, can we experience his interpretative genius at its finest.

The works by Delius and Sibelius are taken from a concert in Bergen by the Hallé during a tour of Norway in 1963. In the Sibelius performance, Barbirolli achieves a wondrous combination of life and cogency such as one rarely hears, and although there are other recordings of this seminal masterpiece by him, one may surely discern a little-appreciated influence here of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony on Nielsen’s Fifth of just a few years later. As the work moves to its powerful conclusion one feels the energy that is thereby released is under supreme control, never dissipated and full of life-enhancing qualities such as Bruckner surely would have admired had he been granted a further twenty years of life.

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