Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (Romantic)

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Symphony No. 4 (Romantic)
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Günter Wand
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68839
The names of Bruckner and Wand are inextricably intertwined. Those lucky enough to catch one of the rare public appearances of the octogenarian in recent years will as likely as not have heard him give one of the commanding performances of the Austrian symphonist to whom he seems so temperamentally predisposed. Fortunately, a series of such performances has been captured by RCA and is proving a worthy document of the interpretations of an exceptional Brucknerian.

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One can tell much about the rival approaches of Wand and an interpreter like Salonen – whose Fourth is also just released on Sony – from their respective opening bars. Where Salonen’s preternaturally quiet, atmospheric scene-setting might seem to strive too hard for effect, Wand begins with a forthright statement exuding authority. Not that Wand’s account lacks mystery – his development section is full of it – but his positive opening signals his structural preoccupations, which bear fruit in a monumental climax later.

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Succeeding movements are conceived with equally consummate artistry and executed pretty well immaculately by the Berliners. Indeed, the contribution of the BPO – warmer and more sonorous than Salonen’s Los Angeles PO – is another reason to give the cycle shelf-room, even if you already have Wand’s earlier magisterial Cologne set. On the evidence of the music-making, this remarkable conductor’s energy remains unflagging, his vision undimmed.