Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony is one of the great romantic symphonies of all time. Arguably the greatest of all Bruckner’s symphonies, St Botolph’s Church provides an excellent venue for this ‘breathtaking’ and magnificent work.
Bruckner was 60 years old when he started work on this Symphony in 1884. But his journey to the work’s first performance by the Vienna Philharmonic in 1892 was tortuous! In 1887 Bruckner sent the first version of the Symphony to the conductor, Hermann Levi, who had helped Bruckner in raising funds for the publication of his Fourth and Seventh Symphonies. Levi was bewildered by the Symphony and rejected it, saying that it would not be possible to perform it. Bruckner extensively revised the Symphony, for example, replacing the triumphant ending of the first movement with music that winds down to a quiet ending played by the violas.
All Bruckner’s symphonies require a large orchestra but the Eighth Symphony is the only one that uses the harp to great effect, particularly in the wonderful adagio, which was regarded by Bruckner as his crowning achievement. The orchestration includes eight horns, four of which also play Wagner Tubas.
The symphony was only performed three times in Bruckner’s lifetime. Whilst the waltzes from the Strauss family show one side of life in Vienna, Bruckner’s epic work provides an alternative view of the culture of the city.
At our concert on 24 February the Symphony will be played without an interval. However, following the Symphony we will have drinks and ‘nibbles’, with the opportunity for members of the audience to meet orchestral players and our conductor, Chris Phelps. We hope we all enjoy a very special evening.