I was initially wowed by Wand's amazing handling of Bruckner's great 8th Symphony and I have, since then, bought all the Gunter Wand/Berlin Philharmonic recordings. They are all equally impressive.
Wand's handling of the ninth is no less inspired. His tempos are firm, yet expressively flexible. The opening movement begins eerily, almost mundanely, but soon erupts in a forceful passion. Wand's amazing ability to build and subsequently release tension is artfully showcased in this work. Climaxes sound unearthly; pianos, like whispers. The frightening and tonally complex Scherzo is equally exciting. Foreshadowing the tonality of Schoenburg and the rhythms of Stravinsky, the Scherzo's demonic qualities are brought out under Wand's hand. However, the real highlight of the disc is the monumental Adagio. Its beauty is unmatched in the repertoire, building powerfully, but fading, like a dream, into nothingness. It is, in a way, a fitting way for Bruckner to leave this earth. Wand's interpretation is equally fitting for this movement. He allows the music to unfold naturally and majestically while still maintaining his precise control. Never has the Philharmonic sounded so alive - even under Karajan, the strings have never sounded so rich, so pure, so beautiful. This is the only recording of the ninth that truly is a fitting testament to Bruckner.