This DVD gives a pretty
accurate impression of the art of Günter
Wand conducting one of his own orchestras.
Much of his career was spent with radio
orchestras of one kind or another. The
NDRSO was his for many years.
Towards the end of
his life his repertoire was reined in
to such an extent that many of his concerts
included one of Bruckner’s three last
symphonies. I remember attending what
I think was his last Proms concert on
24 August 2001. It was with this orchestra
and the programme was the same as this
DVD. Like all of his Bruckner concerts
at the Proms, it was a moving experience.
This DVD brought it all back. I found
the experience of listening to this
issue very moving indeed.
My only disappointment
was that I was hoping to hear the performances
given in Lübeck a few years before
these but in Lübeck Cathedral as
part of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik
Festival. In the Cathedral performance
Wand was in better heart. Also the Cathedral
acoustic made the performance sound
exactly right. It has been issued on
an RCA CD. I have no idea whether this
earlier performance was televised, but
one lives in hope. That said, the present
issue is superb. What it loses in atmosphere,
it gains in clarity of sound.
Günter Wand was
appointed Honorary Conductor for Life
of the NDRSO. Here they play for him
with a commitment and spirit that many
will enjoy immensely. One factor to
be borne in mind is the physical appearance
of the conductor. He was very frail
at the time and it shows in his restricted
movements and shaky stance. Using his
eyes and facial expressions, which are
very revealing, he is still capable
of making the orchestra play like angels.
The quality of ensemble is also very
high given the frailty of their leader.
He was to die the year after this concert,
and with his passing, we lost a very
important interpreter of the German
The Schubert Eighth
steals into the picture, as it should.
The orchestra plays miraculously, given
the faltering beat, but it is clear
enough to get the performance underway
without accident. As it progresses,
Wand loosens up and becomes firmer in
his beat. With his very clear facial
expressions, the orchestra, who must
have played this very often, know exactly
what to do. Wand’s right hand provides
the clear indication of tempo, whilst
the left shapes the phrasing in support
of his eyes and facial expressions.
He shows little emotion, but you can
see that at the close of the slow second
movement he is pleased with the performance,
as is the capacity audience.
The second half of
the concert consisted of one work, Bruckner’s
Ninth Symphony; something of a party
piece for Wand. The orchestra is collectively
inspired to play this work superbly
well. The end of the first movement
is almost overwhelming in its intensity
and provides a very satisfactory conclusion
to the symphonic argument. The short
scherzo second movement gallumphs its
way through in a very impressive manner,
and shows that there is no lack of fire
in the conductor. We then move on to
the massive third and final movement
which contains the emotional centre
of this magnificent symphony. As it
moves on its inexorable journey, I was
impressed by the almost seamless progress
of this movement. By the time we reach
the section about five minutes before
the end - which sounds a little like
Vaughan Williams - the release of tension
is very moving. Once again, at the end,
the audience goes wild, with every reason.
A superb DVD, acting
as a wonderful reminder to those who
have witnessed this conductor’s art
live, and for those who haven’t a fine
performance in its own right.