Conductor: Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Apocalyptic, dark, and sometimes shocking, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 is enthralling and infinitely rich. The conductor for this concert will be that favourite of Finnish audiences, Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
At the age of nine, Saraste was conducting with his mother’s knitting needles. While he first took up the piano and later switched to playing violin, he would eventually settle back into conducting. The superstar Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste last led the Festival Orchestra in January 2016, in a programme of works from his homeland. This time around he’ll be conducting Bruckner’s dramatic Eighth, a work he once recorded alongside the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (WDR).
“Symphony No. 8 is special to me for its rich atmosphere,” said Saraste about the last symphony the composer ever actually finished. And it was not a simple process; Bruckner rewrote the piece several times and had to wait years before someone ventured out to conduct it. The Festival Orchestra will be playing the second rewrite, the ‘Haas’ version from 1890 which, according to the conductor, best reflects the personality of the composer. Brought up in a village in a puritanical and rigorous family, it was only after he’d gathered plenty of knowledge that Bruckner, at over forty years old, started composing. His monumental symphony, which is almost ninety minutes long, is dedicated to Emperor Franz Joseph and still divides audiences to this day. Listening to the work forces us to face demons, fears and doubts as the composer’s imagination sweeps us away to shockingly dark places. However, the splendour and monumentality of the symphony is breathtaking, and in it one can also find innocence, fragility and beauty. Hugo Wolf, Bruckner’s friend and the composer of Lieder, wrote this about the work: “This symphony is the creation of a giant and surpasses all the master’s other symphonies in spiritual dimension, richness and greatness.”