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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759 Unfinished (1822) [29:24]
Symphony No. 9 in C, D 944 The Great (1828) [52:53]
NDR Sinfonieorchester/Günter Wand
Picture Format: 16:9/4:3
Sound Format: LPCM stereo
Region Code: NTSC All
rec. Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Musik- und Kongresshalle, Lübeck, Germany,
20 August 1995


This DVD is available singly, or as part II of the Günter Wand Edition, a 4 DVD box set which also includes Bruckner’s Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1.

The booklet notes have detailed descriptions of each symphony, and quite rightly describe Wand’s history with Schubert, as the sixty-year old conductor made his breakthrough with "The Great" in 1972, conducting the Cologne Gürzenich orchestra. He had already long worked on the less-frequently performed earlier symphonies, and initially took a great deal of time preparing the works which appear on this DVD, receiving great acclaim for his 1977 recordings with the WDR Radio Symphony Orchestra.

In the booklet notes Wolfgang Siefert describes Wand’s Schubert as ‘inspired perfection’, and with the performances presented here we can see why. Every phrase is meticulously prepared, each detail in the score weighed and given its proper significance. Why, then, is there nothing sterile or static in these performances? To be true, there is a different kind of electricity here to one you might expect to see from any number of great conductors, but electricity there is. Wand allows the music to speak for itself, but you sense that the musicians recognise and respond to the magic of the grand old master: just a few simple gestures, understandably sparing but with absolute clarity of intent, and we have a marvellous orchestra creating music as if they were a Steinway coming alive to the touch of a great concert pianist. Wand builds the architecture of the music, developing the themes and melodies on the concert platform in the same unhurried way as he created his own interpretations. Gradations of dynamic are all important, and each shade of colour and nuance is carefully balanced – the result of relentless rehearsals, an aspect of professional performance often denied orchestras and conductors through considerations of cost and scheduling. The emotion grows out of the music as a plant grows from a seed: an inherent, built-in aspect of the performance rather than one imposed externally. These are full-bodied and rich sounding modern performances – I counted eight double-basses for a start – that’s as many celli as you might find in some more ‘authentic’ performances.

The DVD film recording is a fairly straightforward concert registration, with some clever fading of orchestral soloists and conductor at work, with the raptly attentive audience in the background. There are some nice camera angles from the rear of the orchestra, the usual close-ups, and a useful ¾ view of Wand, showing his facial expressions as he guides the orchestra through his vision of the music – how he enjoys letting them rip in the tuttis, the complete lack of extraneous histrionics and the concentration throughout. Panning and zooming is done at an appropriately economic tempo, there is little or no audience noise, and only one moment I spotted a camera sliding surreptitiously out of shot. In all the whole thing is a stunning live recording. This was the final concert of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in 1995, a programme that Wand had conducted and recorded live with the Berlin Philharmonic in March of that year after a break of many years. These are extremely fine and beautifully recorded performances in their own right, and deserve pride of place in anyone’s Schubert shelf.

Dominy Clements


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