Which Bruckner symphony would you take to a desert island

Which Bruckner symphony would you take to a desert island


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2014

Most, I suspect, would pick the Fourth or Seventh, both full of bucolic simplicities and absolute faith in ultimate redemption. Some might choose the Eighth, in the hope that its enormous noise might attract passing shipping.

Myself, I would not want to be without….


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  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    None, Bruckner was vastly overrated.

  • Halldor says:

    If you think the 7th is full of absolute faith in ultimate redemption…have we been listening to the same symphony? Agonising doubts.

  • BrucknerFan says:

    I’d take the 9th Symphony, specifically the 1944 Furtwangler performance.

  • johannes says:

    No. 3 (the finale is makes me want to dance)
    No. 5 (deeply felt, human, radiant)

  • sdReader says:

    Shocked to read this, Norman.

    I think the Third is one of his definite failures, in any of its versions, and I have always believed Wagner did not pay proper attention when “choosing” this symphony over the much fresher and better conceived Second, written around the same time.

  • Paul Pelkonen says:

    No. 8. The Ocho. Haas edition please.

  • Hilary says:

    Tricky. I’d like to give a plug for no.6.
    The slow movement is among his most beautiful.
    As an aside,in the new documentary on Karajan there’s a moving account of his 1988 performance of no.8 in Carnegie Hall.

    • CA says:

      That Carnegie performance was actually in April 1989, I believe–just three months before Karajan died. It was an awesome concert to hear!

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I want to go to the magical island where Nº. 9 is finished.

  • ganymede says:

    Probably I would pick no. 5, an absolute masterpiece and alongside his 8th in my opinion the best symphony ever written, truly symphonic, developing and transforming motives in the most magical sense. And what a masterpiece is the finale! Obviously only very few can perform this the way it deserves.

    • Colin says:

      I agree. But there is also that glorious moment just before the end in which the chorale in the horns playing in octaves appears and with it that glimpse of purple-grey rising to heaven. An extraordinary symphony.

      For me it would be tricky to choose between the Eighth and the Fifth. The Eighth would have to be in Karajan’s 1988 recording on DG. The recording of the Fifth I’d take would be Tintner’s on Naxos.

  • Greg Hlatky says:

    The sixth.

  • Ray Richardson says:

    Difficult, but as often it’s a first hearing of something that holds a spell-binding appeal for me. In my case I first heard a Bruckner symphony at a Hallé concert in 1961. For this concert the Hallé had joined forces with the BBC Northern! I forget what Barbirolli let George Hurst loose with before the interval, but afterwards Barbirolli made music Ive never forgotten in Bruckner’s 9th. I was 17, the magical pizzicato of the scherzo with the continually interrupting didder rum pum pum pum pum has echoed arround in my head ever since. The performance is available on a BBC Legends disc. Similarly its the 2nd with Mahler, again Barbirolli and the Hallé who introduced it to me when they gave it in two consecutive seasons in the late 50s. Neville Cardus made claims to steering Barbirolli to Mahler. Bruckner and Mahler were rarely in concert programmes then and few recordings existed. Having slightly changed the topic of this article to the effect of a first hearing , another Barbirolli/ Hallé concert comes to mind, one of the first I attended, I think in1956 when with the Hallé Choir with the women in their then striking long red dresses they did the Symphony of Psalms. I was mesmorised. Imagine my delight when the Barbirolli society unearthed two BBC recordings and issued them a month or two ago,The symphony of Psalms and The Resurrection in a double album. Both are of the Hallé under Sir John. Do try and listen.

    • Greg says:

      My first Bruckner hearing and my first live NY Philharmonic concert were one and the same. To hear Bruckner 4 live when the NYPO brass had Phil Smith on top and Warren Deck on the bottom was truly an aural feast for this trumpet player. As soon as I walked out of Avery Fisher Hall it was off to Tower Records to find a recording of it. I purchased the Chicago/Baremboim recording and have been a Bruckner fan ever since.

      • William Safford says:

        I’m glad you had such a good experience with Bruckner 4 with the NY Philharmonic in that concert.

        However, it’s difficult for me to envision a worse acoustic in which to heard Bruckner — maybe the old Studio 8-H? Those glorious Bruckner pauses just beg for a resonant acoustic to allow the preceding chord to resonate and decay; they fall flat in Avery Fisher Hall. (This is not a criticism of the NY Phil, I hasten to add.)

  • Greg says:

    No. 5 – specifically the Haitink/Vienna recording because it is paired with the Te Deum.

  • NYMike says:

    Humbug – over-orchestrated nursery rhymes…..

  • William Safford says:

    None — the acoustics on a desert island are way too, er, dry for Bruckner….

  • M2N2K says:

    My hope is that there is a place for me on Robert Holmen’s island so that I too can enjoy listening to the great final movement of the Ninth that is worthy of the magnificent first three.

  • Nigel Harris says: