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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No 9 in C major D944 The Great (1828)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Günter Wand
Rec. live, no other recording information. DDD
BMG RCA CLASSICS 82876 59425 2 [52:40]

Günter Wand (1912-2002) was an outstanding conductor of Austro-German symphonic music. He came to prominence only in later life and during his 80s frequently guest-conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, making various live recordings along the way. This recording is billed as his last word on the subject (i.e. Schubertís Great C major) and may have come from one of his last concerts. However, frustratingly, the documentation does not provide information on where (presumably the Philharmonie in Berlin) or when it was made. Not having a copy to hand, I can only assume that this is not the live recording made in 1995 with same forces and already issued in conjunction with Schubertís Unfinished Symphony.

As one would expect, this is a fine interpretation and performance, caught on the wing, and well worth a hearing. It gathers power as it goes and the finale is a fittingly grand culmination. Unfortunately, and to my surprise, Wandís Schubert does not smile a lot, particularly in the andante, and there is little Viennese charm. Against my prior prejudices (as an admirer of Wandís Bruckner), I do not clearly prefer this recording to either Böhmís 1963 reading with the same orchestra or Soltiís 1981 version with the Vienna Philharmonic.

The recording is quite closely balanced and the audience is also intermittently intrusive (for example at the end of the slow movement). At times there is a slight harshness in the tuttis and dynamic contrasts could have been greater.

Overall, a qualified welcome to this disc. Despite many good things, it is not the greatest of memorials to this conductor (that I suggest might be his final take on Brucknerís 8th Symphony), nor would it be my first choice for this symphony.

Patrick C Waller

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