CharmNewton wrote:I hope this clarifies my statement for you.
Yes, it does. I wasn't sure exactly what you meant because one could also understand that as "the orchestra has to have a rich and blended and somewhat diffuse sound" - which I couldn't agree with, because Bruckner also needs a certain degree of clarity and definition and also because those recordings you cited (e.g. Giulini) don't sound like that at all.
But I understand what you mean by breathing and I agree it's extremely important, ad that's exactly what you get from Giulini whose recording of the 8th for me is almost a miracle of music making, the organic, breathing, long sustained but richly detailed lines that Giulini achieves with the orchestra, and how the orchestra sounds both rich and sonorous and well defined at the same time, almost like a chamber orchestra, but without lacking the weight you expect from such a big orchestra and also need in climaxes.
Part of that is obviously due to the WP which has the ideal sound, balance, and playing culture for this music, but Giulini also aachieves an extra element of concentration and lyrical intensity.
It is also fascinating to see how Giulini conducted. I saw him conduct the 8th live in Berlin, among many other great concerts with him (he came to Berlin every year for 3 programs or so, that was always an event). There is also a video of the 8th with the "World Philharmonic Orchestra" which isn't as good as the WP orchestrally, but you can see the way Giulini conducted, how he constantly carefully shaped the lines, how he prepared the orchestra well in advance for what was about to come up, so the performances could unfold organically and freely flowing.
I haven't listened to the HvK 8ths I have, so I would have to do that again to refresh my mind, although I do remember I always liked the late 8th a lot and found it very natural and "idiomatic", much more than a lot of things he did in his final years or in the 70s and 80s in general during which time you often find Karajan surveying the music from the summit rather being inside it. The 8th finds him very much inside the music again. I also have the DVD, so I will watch that some time soon.
I don't remember much about the 70s one, and I never got quite into the 50s recording because it is fairly slow and does indeed appear a little incoherent and wandering. But it is very interesting because it shows Karajan and the BP in a kind of transitional style between Furtwängler and Karajan's later style.
There is also a recording made with the Preussische Staatskapelle in 1944 of which the first movement is lost, but then the finale was recorded in stereo (!), and it is a very interesting and musical performance, too.
About the organ comparison: That is often made, but it's not really quite true. Yes, there are organ like elements in Bruckner's music, a certain register way of thinking, but there are also very "un-organ" elements in the music. Bruckner was a killer organ player, but he wrote the symphonies for orchestra, not for organ, and the orchestra is not supposed to simply "imitate" and organ.
The association is often there because of the sacral elements in the music which are easily associated with an organ like sound because that is what you normally hear in a church environment. But again, these elements are not all that is in the music.
But however one wants to call the sound that is needed for Bruckner's symphonies, I totally agree with the comments made about the role the brass plays in that sound, and the way it should *not* be.
There are moments when the brass is needed to play full steam ahead and there are moments when the textures need to be very celarly and sharply articulated, but the athletic brass band approach often heard from American orchestras is grossly out of style. Even Giulini wasn't quite able to get the right kind of sound layering from the CSO in his generally very nice recording of the 9th. At times I find it almost unpleasant how much the trumpets try to dominate the textures all the time. That kind of brass style also generally lacks the warmth and depth of tone that you need in softer passages.
There is certainly a lot of sound and power needed, but in the right doses and in the right places and with the right kind of tone, brilliant but unforced. Again Giulini and the WP demonstrate a nearly ideal Bruckner sound in their recordings, as far as brass is concerned especially the 9th with its very rich and warm and well integrated sound but also the almost apocalyptical playing - in the right places, such as the climax of the development or the end of the first movement, or the climaxes in the scherzo.
I do enjoy a leaner, approach with brighter sonorities as well, if it is musically well done and not just a blarefest. Impressing and IMO very successful examples for this are the Bruckner 4 with LAP/Salonen or the recordings by the Cleveland O with Christop von D.