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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7 in E (1881-83, ed. Haas) [65:39]
NDR Symphony Orchestra/Günter Wand
rec. live, Musik- und Kongresshalle, Lübeck, 28 August 1999. DDD


After the excellence of Wand's Bruckner Four in Lübeck Cathedral, expectations were high for this Seventh from the concert hall of the same city. In the event, it is if anything even better.

Wand's Bruckner needs no introduction, and all of his characteristic traits are here in abundance: the attention to detail, the integrity of the structural hearing, the supreme dedication of his performers. The acoustic of the concert hall fits Wand's conception - or maybe he just judges it perfectly. There is not a hint of dryness. Just the opposite – the warmth of the strings seems to be emphasised.

At the opening, the screen whites out over the string tremolandi - not a device that grew on me with time! Wand conducts with his trademark empty music-stand. His gestures are fairly minimal, so that he hardly needs to move to invoke full-blooded fortes. The pace is brisk but nevertheless unhurried. One is never once in doubt as to Wand's grasp of the score, yet the individual moment is duly honoured - try the lovely sound of the cellos and basses around 9:44. A camera shot from behind the orchestra around 6:50 shows the size of hall and audience.

I don't remember the timpani roll at 19:20 being quite as pronounced in his previous readings. From his gestures, Wand thinks it is too much, too!. Maybe this is just an over-enthusiastic timpanist. Nevertheless, the close-up of Wand's face, wrapped in concentration, just before the movement's final build-up, is worth the price of the DVD alone!

The opening of the famous second movement is exquisitely balanced. Dark and brooding yet at the same time prayer-like, this is the beginning of a glorious interpretation. The tempo is not adagio molto – it does move – and the transition to the Moderato is perfectly judged. The gradual soft-focusing of the horn at this point is rather superfluous, though. The cymbal-free climax gains in stature for the omission, leading to positively glowing Wagner tubas in the coda.

Much rehearsal must surely have been spent getting the strings so spot-on at the opening of the Scherzo. There is huge energy here. The Trio contrasts by presenting a bath of sound.

The finale contains more sharply differentiated moods than I had expected in its opening section. Wand guides the listener through the movement's shifts expertly, timing the growth of the final pages to perfection. Again, as was the case with the Fourth, there is silence from the audience after the final peroration, a measure perhaps of the impact of the occasion.

Unhesitatingly recommended to all Brucknerians. This DVD cycle is a lasting monument to one of the great Bruckner conductors. 

Colin Clarke




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