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Reviews: Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Ballot

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Reviews: 4

Review by JohnProffitt April 12, 2015 (18 of 20 found this review helpful)
As the producer/engineer of this recording, I would like to briefly describe the technique used to capture this wonderful symphony on SACD. When I was engaged by the BrucknerTage music festival to make this recording in August 2014, there had been no surround sound recording in the church of St Florian to this time designed as such. St Florian is the place where Anton Bruckner received his earliest music training, where he returned many times during his lifetime for spiritual solace and a quiet retreat from the rigors of life in Vienna, and where he was buried -- at his request -- in the monastery crypt beneath the great Bruckner Pipe Organ. The distinctive acoustic of St Florian was part of Bruckner's "inner ear" throughout his career as a composer, and the BrucknerTage festival wanted to bring forth a surround-sound recording that would effectively marry that sound to his greatest completed symphony, the Eighth.

Thus I chose a minimal microphone technique to accomplish this goal: a total of five Neumann omnidirectional microphones were used, each of which fed a single channel of the high-resolution digital recorder, with no gain-riding, mixing, equalization or other "adjustment" once the optimal balance had been set during rehearsals. Three microphones were arrayed across the front of the orchestra -- left, right and center channels -- in the classic Wilma Cozart Fine technique, and the remaining two were used slightly back from the orchestra, and in high galleries to the left and right of the nave, for the left surround and right surround channels.

The aural position, when one listens in 5.0 surround, is pretty close to where the conductor stands, and one is enveloped in the sound of this most magnificent symphony. The Gramola discs are hybrid, and there is a stereo track of course -- but I must say that this recording *should* be heard in surround whenever possible to completely appreciate it.

The plan for 2015 is to record the Ninth Symphony in similar fashion. Stay tuned!

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Review by Sniffer April 16, 2015 (5 of 20 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Do NOT download from the label's website. They offer a WAV version which is just the stereo CD version. Not multichannel surround and NOT hi-rez. It's just a ripped cd version. Completely unacceptable and I've written to the owner about it.

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Review by james_joyce May 9, 2015 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
First, Bravo! to JohnProffitt. This is as good an orchestral recording as I have ever heard, and I've heard thousands. It is thrilling in both its loudness and quietness. It would be worth the price just to let the beautiful sound wash over me. But this is disc is so much more than just an audiophile showpiece, it is a spectacular performance of one of the most profound and subtle works in the standard repertory.

The Oberösterreiches Jugendsinfonieorchester plays like no jugendsinfonieorchester I've ever heard, and certainly nothing like the youth orchestra I played in back in the day. If they don't play with the last measure of effortless virtuosity the great orchestras of the world display they come remarkably close. But then Bruckner 8 is not about playing the right notes in the right time. It's about tying those notes together into phrases and themes and movements and eventually into an entire symphony. And in this regard Rémy Ballot (of whom I had never heard until this recording) is an even bigger surprise than the quality of the recording or the ability of the players. This is (IMO of course) perhaps the most magical Bruckner 8 I've ever heard, and I've heard dozens: Furtwangler, my (other) favorite, Kanappertsbusch, Karajan, Wand, Jochum, Bohm, Celibidache, and many others. According to the notes Ballot studied with Celibidache and the performance is very much in that model: slow and beautifully detailed. But also beautifully paced so that at the end of symphony my overwhelming feeling is it was much too short. Which is quite a trick for a Bruckner symphony!

I don't really know what more to say about this disc than if you care about Bruckner 8 you owe it to yourself to hear this performance.

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Review by mwgfrg May 27, 2015 (12 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I'm sorry to rain on the parade of raves this set has received here, but based on them I purchased this set out of curiosity, and I just do not hear anything much to justify the good reviews. Yes, the sound is truly excellent, and yes the clarity achieved in such a setting is impressive, and yes, the student orchestra plays quite well--despite, not because of, the soporific tempos. But what I hear is more like a set of aural still picture tableaus of the Bruckner 8th, a sort of Pictures at an Excavation, slowly dragging from point to point without much if any contrast, than a real performance capturing the ebb and flow of Bruckner's greatest complete symphony. There are so many other excellent recordings in SACD and in excellent RBCD that no one should buy this one without auditioning it first, in whatever quality soundbite, to get a sense of the performance. Call me a Philistine if you want--and I am sure at least one someone will--but this is not the must-hear-and-have set painted elsewhere. Good intentions are simply not enough by themselves.

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