09-02-2014 In the realm of the truly astounding, this Gunther Wand recording of the Bruckner 9th Symphony is a real gem. It was recorded while the Maestro was in his 86th year of life, and , judhing from a recent DVD which I own, he stood for the entire Symphony nd did the whole work of nearly 62 minutes, in one take. Just to be able to conduct anything at that great age is remarkable but for Bruckner? Wow---he was awesome!! And, this CD is proof otf that. recorded in November of 1998, it may have been his final work under the BMG/RCA microphones, as it was done live, but I am not certain of that. He died in 2002 at the age of 90, having been born in Eberffeld, Germany in 1912. This was the same year of fellow maestros Solti, Szell and I think, Kempe. Brought up through the Opera Houses of central/Western Europe he log hundres of hours in rehersals with various orchestras and opera companies. He had gained a reputation as a stern rehersalist and a demanding podium chief.
My opinion ofn the art of interpretation, chiefly for orchestral works is simple. I believe that if a conductor, any conductor, leads the music "straight forward" and obserrves the tempo markings as even the mn-on-the-street would define them, and he doesn't place himself between the audience and the music, then he has done his job, and done it as he SHOULD do it. I don't hand out "extra credit for this, because I expect Maestro X to perform the compositions as they were written. Wse spend far too much time and energy with those inner debates over the most minute of details and nuances, and we really need to step back and view the Symphony as a unified whole. It is the totality if the composer's thoughts at the time of composition, and, if torn up and redone from scratch in a few days, it may sound completely different, as expected. Each day is, naturally, a new dawn with something about it that is different and singularly unique.
Wand does this back step examination of, say this 9th Symphony in d-minor, and presents it as a whole effort, but two additional things come through in his performances. Number One) he conducts from a historical perspective, (Bruckner's historical perspective), thus the maestro reaches back to previous works to add to the blend of ideas, emotions and feelings when conducting, in this example, the d-minor Symphony. His Second feature is that he conducts from the heart. Viewing him on the DVD I mentioned above I was surprised at his dead-pan expression as it did not match the visceral intensity of the sound, but I am sure he spoke in rehearsal about this. He never, that I have seen, showed any facial contortions, podium gymnastics or angst ridden gestures aimed at the orchestra. He never needs to, because that is in the score left to us by the author.
I guess with headphone scrutiny and 100% concentration, I might be able to discern between this recording and the one with the NDR Orchestra made in the 1980's, but for me, it is a matter of the subtle little differences between orchestras----Berlin vs. Hamburg The first one is "world-class," the second is in the"very good' tier. And, as for the interpretation? I'd say about the same, both being powerful, majestic, evocative in places, and presented with respect, devotion and affection for the composer and his work.
I own all the NDR recordings but for #1 and #0, and this valdadictorian 9th is truly the farewell Symphonyof the compoer has left for our enjoyment. His scherzo, the best one that Bruckner ever wrote is bouncy, festive, thumping swirling, whirling and jam-packed with rhythm. As a distant sibling of the 3rd Symphy's own dance movement, this one has more refinement and focus. The opening movement's 26:12 is quite generous and the spatial resolution of the BMG soundstage is more than adequate for this epic foray into the sound universe of Anton Bruckner.
But, it is the long arcing Adagio hat cowns this great Symphonyand even a rushjob by some hack can't obscure the majestic intent of this splendid conclusion. Titled "Adagio:langsam, feierlich" the reasonable length of 25;12 IS ECLIPSED ONLY BY
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