of us lucky enough to experience the magic of Günter Wand
in the flesh cherish his Bruckner and his Beethoven. This
is core Wand territory, on this occasion caught live in
Lübeck’s magnificent Cathedral in 1990. Clearly frail as
he approaches the podium - he is gently led there - the
frailty nevertheless vanishes immediately the music starts.
The Leonore Overture
is magnificent. The clarinet solo - in the opera, the theme
has the words, ‘In des Lebens Frühlingstagen’ - is meltingly
beautiful. More importantly there is a real magic to the
whole of the slow introduction. Tutti chords are huge -
perhaps honouring the acoustic space of the Cathedral.
to watch Wand’s tiny beats at the Allegro. The overture
unfolds organically - one would expect no less from this
source - and the cathedral space is effectively used for
the famous trumpet call, yet it is the coda that remains
in the memory. Tremendously exciting, it blazes with light
yet still remains perfectly balanced texturally. Superb.
little less superb perhaps is the camera work. Early on
one can see another camera when the view falls on Wand – this
is distracting. Interesting to be reminded of Wand’s characteristically
empty music stand! Still, to compensate there are some
quite imaginative decisions: for instance just showing
the very top of the bassoon in the flute/bassoon duet.
long-range structural hearing is perfect for Bruckner,
of course. His players respond with great determination
to give their best. The NDR’s principal horn, for example,
hits the notes of those terrifying opening calls bang in
the middle. Lines throughout are perfectly delineated and
it is telling that the tremendous sense of mystery much
of the score breathes is just as memorable as the superbly
balanced brass fortissimi.
Andante is remarkably tender. There is a true Andante feel
to this, but any Schubertian influences are subverted by
the near-skeletal lines. At other points, Wand brings a
tremendous warmth to the long-breathed melodies. Pin-point
rhythm characterises the Scherzo. The horns are deliberately
rustic, for they contrast with the pastoral Trio - one
can almost hear the cowbells of Mahler Six!
a last movement that Wand makes into a huge and remarkably
deep journey. There is tremendous gravitas here, in a finale
that does not cohere in every conductor’s hands. Wand at
this point joins the Bruckner greats. Klemperer’s genius
springs to mind in the long-range hearing.
is a long silence before the applause starts. Understandable,
perhaps. Maybe the audience was just stunned?
is a hugely valuable document as well as a fitting memorial
to a truly great conductor. Wand is sorely missed.
see also review by Kevin Sutton