Bruckner: Symphony No. 9

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Günter Wand
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 63244 2
How is it defensible for Günter Wand to record this symphony for the fourth time? Well, for a start, the orchestra is in a different league: good though the radio orchestras in Cologne and Hamburg were, the superiority of the Berlin Philharmonic is palpable from the first string tremolando. The sound has depth and character, coupled with that intangible frisson of a live recording. Then there is the internal balance of the texture. It’s not so much the beauty of the sound that impresses, it’s the honesty of it, and this is a perfect match for a composer whose vision was simple yet profound.

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I have heard Wand use the words metaphysical and philosophical to describe Bruckner’s music, and although these terms may seem flowery and tendentious, how else can one characterise something that seems to have a direct line to the universe, God or nature? What Wand is able to do is draw out this line so that it extends inexorably to the listener. It’s in the details – the impeccably judged tempi and the seamless moving between them; the characterful wind solos; the carefully graded dynamics. All this adds up to more than the sum of its parts: this is a new benchmark. Martin Cotton