Anton Bruckner's 8th Symphony is a colossal piece of music. After listening, one may imagine having been to Alpine heights and the soulful depths of a saintly man. Bruckner fanatics, yes they're out there, will go on for hours about different recordings, conductors, sound engineers, speaker companies and kill each other over the merits of each. I witnessed a few displays of this most rare of blood sports while working at the Sports Arena Tower Records, may it rest in peace. Bespectacled, middle-aged, gentlemen, of sedentary build, would be at each other's throats over the advantages of Horstein's live edition vs von Karajan's studio versions vs. Furtwangler's wartime recordings while Berlin was being bombed and whether or not an Italian like Giulini or Abbado had any right to conduct Bruckner in the first place. Then it got serious; Nowak edition or the Hass edition? Unlike his pupil Mahler and certainly his hero Wagner, Bruckner took his critics to heart and actually changed his music to accommodate them. We now have two editions of Bruckner Symphonies and no idea what Bruckner himself actually preferred.
The passion with which his fans discussed these topics got me to listening to Bruckner. What's best? I have no idea. What I do know is that if you want to really learn how to kiss another person, listen to the 3rd movement of Bruckner's 8th and take notes. No joke. The tenderness with which this music begins can melt your heart and the heights to which it storms can take your breath away, just like a really good kiss. This is NOT music for "the beast with two backs". If Bruckner, ever chaste and humble, knew people thought his music was sexy, he'd die a thousand deaths. There is other music for that activity, Italian music.