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Edition - Günter Wand
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1889 version) [53:59]
Symphony No. 7 in E major (version 1881/83) [63:31]
Symphony No. 8 in C minor (original version, ed. Haas), movements I/II [33:39 + 55:49]
Symphony No. 9 in D minor (1894 version) [65:54]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade No. 9 in D major. K320 Posthorn (1779) [39:00]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Oboe Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIg:C1 (c. 1800) [23:32]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (1845) [30:54]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550 (1788) [28:03]
Paulus van der Merwe (oboe), Gerhard Oppitz (piano)
NDR Sinfonieorchester/Günter Wand
rec. live, Hamburg Musikhalle, Germany, 23 December 1985 (Bruckner 3); 18-21 April 1999 (Bruckner 7); 30 April-3 May 2000 (Bruckner 8); 5-7 April 1998 (Bruckner 9); 3 April 1989 (CD 6, Mozart Serenade); 12-14 January 1992 (CD 6 Haydn Concerto); 3 March 1983 (CD 7, Schumann); 29 January 2000 (CD 7, Mozart Sym 40)

The centenary of the birth of German conductor Günter Wand in 2012 sparked a number of fine items most of which were from the archives of radio companies. Probably the last of the great interpreters of the nineteenth-century Austro-German symphonic tradition, it is wonderful to see that in recent decades Wand is finally being given the recognition that his talent richly deserved. The number of high quality radio broadcasts has certainly served Wand well over the years. The source of the majority are from live and studio recordings where the radio company policy was to keep rather than wipe the relay tapes.
This 7 disc set is another in a line of previously unreleased live recordings that Wand made with the NDR Sinfonieorchester of Hamburg within the period 1985-2000.
Wand is still not as widely known as many other conductors of his generation so it might prove helpful to provide a short biography. Born in 1912 at Elberfeld, Germany, he was aged over seventy before his talents became recognised internationally. Listening to these live NDR recordings it comes as no surprise that Wand always insisted on receiving appropriate rehearsal time. Although his relatively few commercial recordings involved considerable duplication of his much loved Bruckner, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann and Schubert his concert repertoire was considerably wider. Early in his career he championed the cause of a number of then 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 the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne he recorded complete cycles of Schubert and Bruckner for RCA Red Seal. With the NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg there were cycles of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies. His reach spread to radio orchestras outside Germany, for example from 1982 he became a regular guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London even conducting them at BBC Prom concerts in the Royal Albert Hall.
In Munich Wand did some conducting with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra but it is his work as a guest conductor with the Munich Philharmonic that is particularly notable. It was in 1957 when Wand, then a relative unknown, first conducted them. In a rewarding collaboration he went on to conduct them over four and half decades, right through the time of Sergiu Celibidache’s tenure as music director. He gave his final concert with them in 2001, aged 89. A couple of years ago I reviewed an extremely well performed and recorded box set of 8 CDs with Wand conducting the Munich Philharmonic in live performances at the Munich Philharmonie during 1993-2001.
Another lucrative source has been the collaborations with Berlin orchestras. Wand’s set of live performances with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin is highly impressive (review). Yet I believe it is those relatively few recordings that Wand made with the Berliner Philharmoniker that are the finest he ever laid on disc. The five stunning recordings of Bruckner 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 from the Philharmonie, Berlin remain my exemplars for these scores.
With reference to this latest Profil set, Wand also had a renowned relationship with the NDR Sinfonieorchester. He served as their principal in the years 1982-91 being appointed honorary conductor in 1987. With the NDR Sinfonieorchester Wand recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven (1986/88) and Brahms (1982/83) for RCA Red Seal and did so to considerable acclaim. The orchestra had been established after the war in 1945 and originally named the Symphony Orchestra of Radio Hamburg. In my view it merits being much better known on the international stage. I was fortunate to review a five disc anniversary box set titled Edition Günter Hänssler consisting of eight live recordings that Wand made with them between the years 1982 and 1996 in the Hamburg Musikhalle and the Cologne Philharmonie.
The NDR Sinfonieorchester maintains an excellent reputation today. In May 2012 at the Semper Opera House as part of the Dresden Musikfest I attended a concert under principal conductor Thomas Hengelbrock. He directed a marvellous performance of the Schumann Symphony No. 3Rhenish’ and Brahms Symphony No. 1.
Bruckner symphonies have long formed the primary focus of Wand’s repertoire. In 1982 Wand said prophetically that: “The older one gets, the clearer one’s vision of perfection becomes.” So it’s not surprising that the first five discs here comprise Wand conducting the NDR Sinfonieorchester Bruckner symphonies 3, 7, 8 and 9. From the period 1985-2000 these recordings are taken from a reasonably wide time-span and as with all the performances in this box were recorded live at the Hamburg Musikhalle.
Wand is the most revelatory Bruckner interpreter I have heard. His highly assured approach keeps an iron grip on the music’s structure and orchestral balance all the while yielding stunning tone colours. His Bruckner 3 is sometimes known as the Wagner Symphony and the score bears a dedication to Richard Wagner, a composer idolised by Bruckner. The work is infamous as the most revised of Bruckner’s symphonies with several versions available. Wand has chosen the 1889 edition. I was immediately struck by his acknowledgement of the grandeur of this music. The second movement Adagio is stunningly performed with a judicious pace that achieves vitality yet maintains solemnity.
Disc two is Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 - one of his best known and the one I admire the most. The premiere was given in Leipzig and was Bruckner’s first real taste of success. The intensity of the development and weight that Wand establishes is remarkable throughout and feels truly authoritative. In the Scherzo the Hamburg players are markedly spirited almost combative and I greatly admired the directness of the Finale with Wand creating a proud and confident character.
The massive Symphony No. 8, using the original version edited by Robert Haas, is split, two movements each, across CDs 3 and 4. At its premiere in Vienna it was tremendously well received with Hugo Wolf describing it as “the creation of a giant, surpassing in spiritual dimension and magnitude all the other symphonies of the master.” Wand finds a remarkable sense of scale and in the opening Allegro moderato I especially admire the feeling of spaciousness and the dark and sweeping dramatic force of the music. With a lucid sense of structure the immense Adagio here plumbs emotional depths conveying a feel of sacred awe.
Disc 5 brings us to Symphony No. 9 in the 1894 version. Dedicated “to the beloved God”, the final movement was left incomplete at Bruckner’s death. Wand’s opening movement is heavy with anguished spirituality. Bold and vigorous playing in the Scherzo yields a lighter weighted fantasy. Within the harrowing music of the Adagio Wand imparts a conspicuously majestic approach that is full of hope.
Two works from the classical period are on disc 6. First Mozart’s Serenade No. 9 K320 known widely as the Posthorn was composed in 1779 in Salzburg for a university celebration. This version has Wand demonstrating considerable prowess and stylishly delighting the ear with freshness, drive and energy. Secondly the Oboe Concerto, at one time attributed to Haydn, is now generally thought to be the work of another. Nevertheless this is still a significant and worthy classical concerto with immediate appeal. With oboe soloist Paulus van der Merwe playing sympathetically there is a lovely reedy timbre from the instrument. His approach is both stylish and assured.
With regard to the Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor on the final disc this is not the same recording Wand made with identical forces as the live account recorded on 21 March 1983 just over two weeks later on Profil 13030. That said, the performances are virtually the same. One of the most famous and best loved of all piano concertos, Schumann successfully combined resolute substance and brilliant virtuosity. It was introduced in 1845 in Dresden with Clara Schumann as soloist. In the opening Allegro affettuoso Gerhard Oppitz’s playing is noticeably calm. Such is the quality of the playing from both soloist and orchestra that it is easy totally to immerse oneself. The effect allows an atmosphere of warm affection to emerge. A highly persuasive performer Oppitz in the Intermezzo - Andantino grazioso is tenderly poetic with playing as light as feather down. In the Finale: Allegro Vivace joy and vibrancy are unquestionably the watchwords.
Next the Mozart Symphony No. 40 is a different recording to Wand’s live account with the same players, recorded over a decade earlier on 17 December 1990 on Profil 13030. Wand’s interpretation doesn’t seem to have altered too much over that period. Mozart composed it in 1788 during a burst of productive activity. This profoundly emotional and dramatic work channels a torrent of romanticism — an intensely affecting meeting of the sad and the idyllic. Wand applies all his usual sincerity and integrity to this plainly unaffected reading. He has an impressive feel for tempo and maintains a decisive pulse throughout. The opening Molto allegro reveals a convincing range of feelings and emotions that in this fresh and alert playing feels newly minted. Delightfully molded by Wand the Andante, with its suggestion of dark undercurrents, is performed with unyielding elegance. There is a fresh outdoor feel to the relatively short Minuetto with Wand and his NDR Sinfonieorchester playing impeccably and with lively and brisker tempi than I expected. The Finale marked Allegro assai ripples with activity. Wand’s exquisitely judged interpretation is high-spirited yet resists any temptation to rush.
Under the Wand the alert and engaging playing of this orchestra is a constant source of delight. They are clearly extremely well rehearsed yet utterly natural and compelling. Originally intended for radio broadcast these recordings have been engineered to an excellent standard being especially clear and well balanced with plenty of presence. There is little in the way of unwanted noise and audience applause has been left in on some of the recordings. Each disc has a booklet containing a concise yet reasonably informative essay.
On this 7 CD set from Profil, Wand admirers will be thrilled with these previously unreleased live recordings including four Bruckner symphonies.
Michael Cookson

Masterwork Index    
Bruckner symphony 3 Bruckner symphony 7 Bruckner symphony 8
Bruckner symphony 9 Mozart symphony 40 Schumann piano concerto