LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Gánter Wand
WORKS: Works by Bruckner, Stravinsky, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann & Tchaikovsky
PERFORMER: Soloists; choirs, Berlin PO, Cologne RSO, NDR SO, Chicago SO/Günter Wand
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 901142 ADD/DDD Reissue (1974-98)
Any collection calling itself “The Essential Recordings’ is bound to raise a few questioning eyebrows among fans: mutterings of ‘Why was this included and not that?’ and such like. But as someone who owes some of his most profoundly satisfying concert experiences to Günter Wand, I’d happily give this set to any musical friend who wanted to know what all die fuss was about. Three of Wand’s finest Bruckner recordings are included – Wand’s Bruckner was a reminder that ‘great’ performances didn’t only happen in some remote, mythical past; so too are the other Viennese symphonists for whom Wand showed such incomparable understanding; Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. The inclusion of both Schumann’s Third and Fourth symphonies is especially welcome. Listening to Wand in these works, it’s hard to fathom how this music has been so enduringly misunderstood. The musical logic and emotional drama come to life so vividly and naturally. At the same time you can find yourself wondering how Schumann acquired his reputation for poor handling of the orchestra — the sound is as rounded and richly textured as in any of the other recordings in this set. I admit there were disappointments. The Berlin Philharmonic Schubert Great C major Symphony isn’t as compelling as I remembered it. The phrasing and balancing of tempi is as thoroughly musical as you’d expect, and again the orchestral sound is gorgeous, but I found it a shade too stately and composed (especially the very opening) — until the finale, at least. Those who like their Mozart lean and hard-driven probably won’t warm to die three symphonies included here, but ‘warm’ is exactly how I found them, full of poetry and contained intensity. Again, the Beethoven Nine may seem a touch measured and cool at first, but from that beginning grows a performance of extraordinary power, expressive range and clarity of vision. There are surprises too — a Tchaikovsky Pathétique with both fire and dignity, and a performance of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite which manages to combine musical refinement, affection and even a touch of brusque humour.