bruckner symphony fontec

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 8 in C minor (ed. Nowak 1890)
Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra/Taijiro Iimori
rec. live, 7 April 2023, Suntory Hall, Tokyo
Fontec FOCD 9894 [76]

The flood of new recordings marking Bruckner’s bicentenary continues apace and each issue must inevitably be assessed in the context of the plethora of excellent options already available to the collector.  Recently, a particularly rich source of such recordings has been Japan and this is a live performance of the Eight Symphony by one of no fewer than eight orchestras resident in Tokyo, here conducted by Taijiro Iimori, who died aged 82 a mere four months after this concert.

Its overall timing is generally swift, but the Adagio is conventionally paced, so that sense of urgency applies only to the other three movements. In truth, however, I find the performance as a whole rather hasty and ordinary – but that is not the nub of the problem here.

Iimori’s Eighth is, in fact, unlistenable, for the same reason that rendered intolerable the live account of Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony by Tadaaki Otaka, a conductor of similar, slightly younger, vintage to Iimori, also on the Fontec label, and Ken Takaseki, again in the Eighth with the same orchestra: all three incessantly chummer, groan, chant and sing very audibly throughout, drowned out only by the loudest passages. This is discourteous and ill-disciplined habit is not, however, confined to the behaviour of Japanese conductors, as it also blighted Sir Colin Davis’ later years of performing and recording; modern digital sound is unforgiving in its ability to pick this up and I imagine that sound engineers can do little to mask it.

Thus the merits or otherwise of this performance become irrelevant. That is a pity, as while I have no wish to be churlish about the work of a conductor both distinguished and recently departed, I can under no circumstances recommend it.

However, a search on YouTube will turn up better examples of Iimori’s art – in particular, a fine performance of Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto with Nelson Freire – even if occasionally, again, the conductor’s vocalise is audible…

Ralph Moore
(This review posted here by kind permission of The Bruckner Journal)

Availability: HMV Japan