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Anton BRUCKNER (1824–1896) Symphony No. 8 in C minor
NDR Sinfonieorchester/Günter Wand
rec. live, Musik-und-Kongressehalle, Lübeck, 9 July 2000
DVD. DTS Stereo. LPCM Stereo
TDK DV-COWAND3 [96:00]

 



This DVD, gives you a pretty accurate impression of the art of Günter Wand here conducting one of his own orchestras. Much of his career was spent with radio orchestras of one kind or another, and the NDR Symphony Orchestra was his for many years. He was appointed Honorary Conductor for Life of the NDRSO. The orchestra play for him with a commitment and spirit that anyone who finds these factors important in the appreciation of their music will enjoy immensely.

Towards the end of his life, his repertoire was very restricted. Often his concerts included one of Bruckner’s three last symphonies. I remember attending a Prom of this very symphony - his last performance of the Eighth at the Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 5 September 1992. Like all of his Bruckner concerts at the Proms, it was a moving experience. At the time, he was also Chief Guest Conductor of the BBCSO. He also performed further Bruckner at the Proms in 1996, where we had Symphony No. 6 and Haydn Symphony No. 76, also with the BBC orchestra. This DVD brought these performances all back. I found the experience very moving indeed.

I had hoped that this recording would have been the one taken down in Lübeck Cathedral as part of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. The same concert also included Schubert’s Eighth. Wand was in better health on that occasion. This factor coupled with the congenial acoustic of the Cathedral made both performances sound exactly right. Each has been released on RCA CDs.

I have no idea whether these earlier performances were televised, but one lives in hope. Still, the present issues from the Musik-und-Kongressehalle, Lübeck, are superb, and what they lose in atmosphere, they gain in clarity of sound.

There is one factor, which may be important for some, and that is the physical appearance of the conductor. He was very frail at this performance and it shows in his restricted movements and shaky stance, although it was worse still one year later when the Ninth was recorded. Using his eyes and facial expressions, which are very revealing, he is capable of making the orchestra play with a commitment that is very special. No reservations need to be made at all.

Günter Wand’s performances of the Eighth Symphony are well known from CDs, there being at least three separate recordings in the catalogue, given by the NDR Symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic. These have been available on EMI, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and RCA. The same performances have also swapped labels as ownership of labels change so there is plenty of scope for collector confusion.

To help unravel this position, my own studies have revealed the following performances on disc:

DHM/EMI CDS747749-8 28/5 – 2/6/1979 WDR, Köln, Köln Radio Symphony Orchestra (studio)

DHM/EMI CDS749718-2 22-23/8/1987, Lübeck Cathedral, NDR Symphony Orchestra (live)

RCA 74321 82866-2, 19-22/1/2001, Philharmonie, Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, (live)

All these performances are similar, with middle of the road tempi, superb atmosphere, and fully committed playing each orchestra. My own favourite is the Lübeck Cathedral performance, but this has more to do with the cathedral acoustic, within which Bruckner’s mighty eighth symphony glows as in no other recording.

However the job in hand is the DVD. The well known superb performance is captured in good sound. There is sympathetic camera work offering the enhancement provided by being able to see the conductor at work. All in all this DVD is well worth having as a complementary record of this symphony.

I can’t see anyone being disappointed with this issue. Even fans of other prominent Bruckner conductors (Barenboim, Furtwängler, Haitink, Jochum, Karajan, Walter) will have plenty to learn from watching this master, albeit rather frail, at work on his favourite composer.

John Phillips

 

 

 

 



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