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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
help unravel this position, my own studies have revealed the
following performances on disc:
CDS747749-8 28/5 – 2/6/1979 WDR, Köln, Köln Radio Symphony Orchestra
CDS749718-2 22-23/8/1987, Lübeck Cathedral, NDR Symphony Orchestra
74321 82866-2, 19-22/1/2001, Philharmonie, Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic
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.
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.
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