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Günter Wand - The Munich Recordings Anton BRUCKNER(1824-1896)
Symphony No.4 in E flat major, Romantic (original version
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major (original version 1875/78) [75:41]
Symphony No. 6 in A major (original version, 1879/81) [57:37]
Symphony No. 8 in C minor (original version, 1884/90 ed. Robert
Symphony No. 9 in D minor (original version, 1887/94) [64:11] Franz SCHUBERT(1797-1828)
Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759 Unfinished (1822) [26:51]
Symphony No. 9 in C major, D944 Great (1828) [54:10] Johannes BRAHMS(1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 (1876) [46:01] Ludwig van BEETHOVEN(1770-1827)
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 (1799-1800) [25:30]
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra/Günter Wand
rec. live, Philharmonie, Gasteig, Munich, Germany, 13-16 September
2000 (Bruckner 8, Schubert 8); 29 November, 1 December 1995 (Schubert
9); 28 May 1993 (Bruckner 5); 13-15 September 2001 (Bruckner 4);
19, 21, 23 February 1997 (Brahms); 4 February 1994 (Beethoven);
24th June 1999 (Bruckner 6); 21st April 1998 (Bruckner 9) PROFIL EDITION GÜNTER HÄNSSLER PH06013 [8 CDs: 61:54 + 54:40
+ 75:41 + 54:10 + 72:47 + 71:43 + 57:37 + 64:11]
These days renowned German conductor Günter Wand (1912-2002)
is finally getting the recognition that he richly deserves.
Profil Hänssler has released an 8 disc set of broadcast relay
tapes of Wand’s Munich concerts with the Munich Philharmonic
Orchestra. The recordings were made at the large concert hall
of Munich’s Gasteig cultural centre known as the Philharmonie.
Released back in 2007 I came across this set only recently but
feel that it is so important that I needed to document it in
a MusicWeb International review. Also well worth looking out
for is a recent 2012 release of another magnificently performed
and recorded eight disc set of previously unreleased broadcasts
of radio recordings. These Wand made with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester
Berlin and can be heard on Profil
Edition Günter Hänssler PH10046.
Hänssler’s eight disc box set Günter Wand - The Munich Recordings
is divided into seven volumes. It comprises Bruckner's Symphonies.
4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 together with Schubert's Symphonies 8 and 9.
Also included are the first symphonies of Brahms and Beethoven.
Of special importance is volume 6 as it documents the final
occasion on which Wand conducted Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 which
was in 1999. It’s a work that he only rarely performed. At the
time of recording the Bruckner 6 another recording with the
Berlin Philharmonic was in the planning stage for the following
year but it never came to fruition. There is however a recording
of that work that Wand made with the NDR Symphony Orchestra
in 1988 at Hamburg.
Born in 1912 at Elberfeld, Germany it was not until Günter Wand
was over seventy that his talents became recognised internationally
as one of the finest conductors of his generation. Wand’s relatively
few commercial recordings involved considerable duplication
of his much loved Bruckner, Beethoven and Schubert. Actually
Wand’s concert repertoire was considerably wider than those
three giants of the Austro-German symphonic tradition. Early
in his career Wand championed the cause of a number of contemporary
composers such as Edgard Varèse, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Frank
Martin, Olivier Messiaen and György Ligeti.
Wand did valuable work in the post-second world war development
of German radio orchestras. Notably with WDR Cologne he recorded
complete cycles of Schubert and Bruckner and with the NDR Hamburg,
where he served as principal conductor, there were complete
Beethoven and Brahms cycles. In addition Wand successfully collaborated
with Berlin orchestras. His live performances with the Deutsches
Symphonie-Orchester and the especially with the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra are numbered amongst his most successful recordings.
Wand’s live Bruckner recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic
of 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 - made between 1996/2001 from the Berlin
Philharmonie on RCA Red Seal - in my view rank amongst the finest
Bruckner symphony performances ever recorded.
In Munich Wand did some conducting with the Bavarian Radio Symphony
Orchestra but it is his work with the Munich Philharmonic that
is especially notable. It was in 1957 when Wand, then a relative
unknown, first conducted the Munich Philharmonic. He went on
to conduct the orchestra over four and half decades until giving
his final concert with them in 2001, aged 89. In the years leading
up to his death the only other orchestra that Wand regularly
conducted without a contract was the Berlin Philharmonic. Though
Wand only ever conducted the Munich Philharmonic as a guest
conductor his reputation in Munich became so high that all his
concerts at the Gasteig Philharmonie were sell-outs and were
often repeated. It seems that from 1990 the Munich Philharmonic
had been recording their own concerts at the Munich Philharmonie
using their own staff with their own digital equipment. None
of Wand’s recordings with the Munich Philharmonic were released
during his lifetime. They were made solely as documentation
and never released commercially to ensure that Wand was not
competing with his other recordings made with the NDR, WDR and
The present Bruckner recordings offer characteristically spacious
readings with tempi that underline the epic grandeur and sweep
of Bruckner’s awe inspiring visions. These are perceptive and
ineffably compelling interpretations touching on deep emotions.
For the epic Symphony No. 8 in C minor performed in September
2000 the 89 year old Wand uses the original 1884/90 version
edited by Robert Haas. Wand’s performance flows marvellously
with a great feeling for the architecture and space of the score.
I loved the beauty of the sound the Munich orchestra produces:
from the most delicate pianissimo to full bodied fortissimo
in the climaxes. Played with sure concentration the sense of
mystery in the massive Adagio is impressive. Here Wand
conveys a real emotional impact with a strong sense of spiritual
depth that few other interpreters have achieved. Compelling
and frequently serene the Finale is splendidly shaped
with a thrilling conclusion especially the tremendous weight
of the climax at the end of the score.
Sometimes called his ‘Faith’ Symphony Bruckner referred
to the Symphony No. 5 in B flat major as his “contrapuntal
masterpiece”. Composer and musicologist Robert Simpson
observed that “the tonal conflicts in the Fifth Symphony
suggest a great classical fresco”. Wand’s approach to conducting
Bruckner was a gradual process. He was aged 62 when he first
conducted the Fifth. I was immediately struck by how the intensity
of Wand’s live 1995 performance (in which he uses the original
1875/78 version) adds to the impact of the writing. Wand’s passion
for the music is conveyed with sheer beauty of sound and penetrating
bite without ever losing its sense of integrity. The severity
and astringency of Bruckner’s writing is compellingly caught
by the German maestro skilfully maintaining a palpable sense
of tension throughout the stop-start nature of the score. Radiating
warmth, the Adagio has a deeply reverential feel especially
the section for strings at 2:07-2:48 which radiates a sense
of heavenly veneration. I loved the regularity of the pulse
that Wand controls throughout the movement. The forward momentum
is never allowed music to flag. I felt the climax in the chorale
at the conclusion of the Finale quite awe-inspiring.
Throughout, the rich string sound was glorious and the tuttis
on the brass were exciting and incisive.
For this 2001 reading of the Bruckner Symphony No.4 'Romantic'
Wand uses the original 1878/80 version described by Robert Simpson
as “clean and lean”. Premièred by Hans Richter and
the Vienna Philharmonic in 1881 this is the most accessible
of Bruckner symphonies. Then aged 89 Wand’s performance has
purpose and assurance. The pacing of each movement is judicious.
Wand navigates the broad sweep of the writing with all the confidence
afforded by his extensive experience. I especially enjoyed the
playing of the spacious Andante that felt like an unhurried
amble through the Tyrolean countryside; only the occasional
dark cloud threatens a storm. Following on, the taut and energetic
Scherzo with its brass fanfares and hunting calls felt
fresh, glowing with remarkable energy. The sonorous playing
of the Munich brass is remarkable displaying a striking burnished
timbre. This recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No.4 was recorded
at a series of three concerts in September 2001 programmed with
the Schubert Symphony No. 5 were to be Wand’s final concerts
The least performed of Bruckner’s later symphonies Robert Simpson
referred to the Symphony No. 6 as the “ugly duckling”
of Bruckner’s body of orchestral works. Recorded in 1999, Bruckner’s
A major score is performed using the original 1879/81 version.
Wand shapes his orchestral terrain with impressive clarity and
a sense of spontaneity. The Finale the emotional heart
of the entire score with its unusual tonal conflicts is powerfully
played. I found the conclusion stunning, particularly the heroic
proclamation by the rank of blazing trombones.
It is somewhat disappointing that Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7
in E major is not part of this collection. Justly the most popular
of Bruckner’s symphonies it brought the composer the greatest
success he had known.
The final work here is the Symphony No. Bruckner was working
on at the time of his death. The first three movements were
completed with only sketches left for a fourth. Bruckner said,
“I have served my purpose of earth; I have done what I could,
and there is only one thing I would still like to be granted:
the strength to finish my Ninth Symphony.” At Bruckner’s
own recommendation the unfinished symphony was sometimes performed
with the Te deum serving as the final movement. Here
Wand’s 1998 account uses the original 1887/94 version and is
one of my favourite Bruckner recordings. Demonstrating an assured
understanding of the score’s sudden changes in speed and direction
this reading evinces a splendid clarity. There is a sure sense
of authority in the often tormented opening movement and the
near brutal Scherzo has remarkable conviction too.
I greatly admire how Wand communicates moments of rare spirituality
in this often dark score, especially in the magnificently played
anguished-laden second movement Adagio, the last movement
that Bruckner completed.
Few conductors can have lavished as much care on a composer
as Wand clearly does with Schubert. The two symphonies that
he recorded with the Munich Philharmonic on this release are
Schubert’s two most famous. Wand’s association with the Unfinished
was a long one first conducting the two movement score at Detmold
in the 1938/9 season. In this September 2000 performance the
88 year old maestro with unforced concentration brings out glorious
playing that is subtle, refined and revealing of plenty of detail.
The inspired Wand creates real atmosphere with impressive dynamic
Compared to the Unfinished Wand came to the Great
C major relatively late - first conducting it in 1972 when he
was aged 60. The great success of Wand’s 1977 recording with
the WDR Symphony Orchestra led to a commission to make a series
of Schubert orchestral recordings. This he completed in 1981
to considerable acclaim. The present 1993 recording feels profoundly
personal. Phrasing and commitment are impressive together with
a palpable sense of grandeur in the outer movements. I especially
enjoyed the martial stains of the Andante that combine
splendidly with a bucolic glow. This is a compelling and unforced
performance with a natural flow that will live long in the memory.
Wand made this recording of the Brahms Symphony No. 1 in 1997.
I was struck by the opening bars with those pummelling kettledrums
at 0:00-0:30 taken far quicker than I expected. Wand soon slows
down the proceedings taking great joy in the lofty melodic content
and the varied and dramatic development. Generating significant
tenderness and expression in the Andante the high strings
sound glorious together with notable woodwind contributions
especially from the oboe and clarinet. One can almost smell
the fresh verdant Alpine countryside amid the ländler
rhythms. The Finale is full of wonderfully lyrical
and varied ideas and Wand elicits exemplary playing that is
both powerful and dramatic.
Recorded in 1994 Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 is a fine example
of how Wand consistently delivers fresh and spontaneous sounding
performances. I loved the controlled grandeur and sense of expectancy
in the opening movement. The prominent woodwind parts are played
superbly. There’s gleaming character and polished playing in
the dry-humoured and graceful Andante. Dubbed by the
composer as a Menuetto the third movement contains
dynamic contrasts and a coursing vigour that feel really volatile.
Highly controlled and developing an increasing power in the
Finale one senses that Wand is unleashing a potent
energy. It is like slowly increasing the throttle of a powerful
These live radio recordings from Munich have been digitally
re-mastered to produce gratifyingly clear sound. Please note
that where there is applause it is included in the timings.
These are indispensable gems in performances that lovers of
Austro-German Romantic repertoire will certainly relish.
It should be noted that this set from 2007 is not a new issue.
The review has been written so that Musicweb International has
a commentary on Wand’s legendary recordings with the Munich
Philharmonic. Michael Cookson
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