> BEETHOVEN Symphony 4 Wand 74321897172 [TB]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Posthorn Serenade, K320
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Opus 60
North German Radio Symphony Orchestra/Günter Wand
Rec 8-10 May 2001, Musikhalle, Hamburg
RCA RED SEAL 74321 89717 2 [74.57]



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The recent death of Günter Wand feels like the end of an era [obit]. He was one of the enduring figures of twentieth century music, who is in his later years specialised increasingly in performing and recording the music he loved most. The composers who meant most to him all came from the great Viennese and post-Viennese tradition: Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and above all, Bruckner. Yet as a younger man his tastes were eclectic. For example, in the late forties he gave the European premiere of Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony.

This RCA issue of major works by Mozart and Beethoven uses live performances, and very fine they are too. Recorded in Hamburg in April 2001, they have a vitality and tonal lustre which marks them as interpretations of the highest order, well served by the recording engineers.

Mozart's Posthorn Serenade is a large scale work, some 48 minutes of music across a seven-movement plan involving two minuets, a concertante and a full sonata form opening movement. The latter, with its splendid Maestoso introduction, is arguably the finest purely instrumental music Mozart composed during his years at Salzburg, up to 1780. Wand revels in this wonderful score, finding vitality and tenderness as appropriate; never do his tempi feel the least mannered. As for the posthorn itself, this accounts for just a few bars in the trio section of the second minuet, representing a coded message that the end of term had come and the students could make their way home by the post-chaise. The balance of the special instrumental effect is superbly captured by the engineers, and so too is the exciting tempo Presto of the finale.

It is only some ten years since the same orchestra and conductor offered us Beethoven's Fourth Symphony in a studio recording, then coupled with a vital performance of the Second. But this performance is splendidly played and beautifully judged in matters of phrasing and balance, and the RCA recording captures a live event in its special atmosphere. If there is a caveat it applies to the slow movement Andante, in which tensions are not wholly maintained. But any doubts are soon swept away once the ebullient music of the scherzo arrives, and this directness carries over into the finale. This Wand phrases to perfection, allowing the shaping of Beethoven's subtle, but witty, themes to gain clear articulation and maximum communication.

Terry Barfoot

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