Günter Wand Conducts Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 1 – 9 – Cologne Radio Sym. Orch./ Günter Wand – RCA Red Seal/Sony Music (9 CDs) Bruckner: Sinfonien (Nos. 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9) – Berlin Philharmonic/ Günter Wand – RCA Red Seal/ Sony Music E.U. (6 CDs)

by | Jul 22, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Günter Wand Conducts Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 1 – 9 – Cologne Radio Sym. Orch./ Günter Wand – RCA Red Seal/Sony Music (9 CDs)  88697776582, TT: 9:15:43 (imported from Germany) [10/10/10] ****:
Bruckner Sinfonien [No. 4 “Romantic”; 5 ; 7; 8 ; 9] – Berlin Philharmonic/ Günter Wand – RCA Red Seal/ Sony Music E.U. (6 CDs) 88691921952, (imported from Germany) [2/7/12] *****:
I’ve mentioned before that Günter Wand’s Bruckner series has been my choice for some time, in spite of not being able to afford the Japanese multichannel SACD pressings of Nos. 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9. (Only the Symphony No. 8 on the Japanese SACD import is $45 by itself!) Now, however, here are all nine of the symphonies— I never had 1 & 2 previously—in beautifully remastered enhanced quality (though not multichannel SACD), and for only $34. Wand later recorded a boxed set of five of the nine symphonies with the superior Berlin Philharmonic, also from Sony at $46. He had intended to record the entire Bruckner cycle again, but his death intervened. Diehard Bruckner fans will want to consider both new sets strongly, filling in on the missing Nos. 1, 2, 3 & 6 in the Berlin Philharmonic set with the Cologne Symphony discs in this set. (Karajan and Jochum also did complete sets with the Berlin Philharmonic, but Wand is still my Bruckner man.) (There is now a different cover for the Wand RCA set.)
The initial two symphonies are Bruckner sort of warming up for the full assault of his Third, where the repetition of those heavy block orchestral chords led me to see him as the original minimalist. There’s also a Symphony No. 0 which I have somewhere, and even a No. 00, believe it or not, but they’re not in the category of Nos. 3 thru 9. The dynamic contrasts and details in the various sections of the orchestra now seem stronger than ever, probably as much the result of enhancements in the pressing of standard CDs as in the remastering of the original tapes. This is a beautifully remastered to CD set, with the best quality possible on standard CD from these recordings made 1972 thru 1981. And the price on Amazon is only $24 for nine CDs. A major savings is realized by the absence of any liner notes whatever; the CDs are all in simple sleeves with only the movement titles and timings.
The five symphonies in the later RCA Series with the Berlin Philharmonic are all at least slightly superior in both the precise and fuller-sounding playing of what is probably the world’s leading symphony orchestra, plus the later enhanced date of the recordings: 1996 thru 2001. While Wand achieves similar clarity from his players in bringing across Bruckner’s complexities, the more precise and larger numbers of the Berlin Philharmonic are immediately apparent. There is also more ambient information of the hall, which translates very well to pseudo-surround using ProLogic IIz. (These are the same original recordings—down-mixed to two channel—available from Japan as multichannel SACDs at an exorbitant price. The Pro SACD site wants fans to boycott ordering any Japanese SACDs due to their unreasonably high prices.)
Wand is consistent and seems to hit just the right tempi and architectural emphases in the scores. His tempi are never too fast or too slow, and things unfold musically at just the right pace. These were committed to tape in the autumn of Wand’s life, and would have been recorded sooner had Von Karajan invited him to do so with the Berlin Philharmonic, but Karajan failed to ask Wand, and it remained for his being replaced by Abbado and Simon Rattle (who both revered Wand) to ask him to return to Berlin and record. The Berlin Seventh and Eighth are especially impressive in this set.
You could spend a great deal owning and comparing all the various Bruckner cycles, but for my money the best solution is to invest in this bargain new Sony reissue boxed set for its versions of Nos. 1 to 3 and No. 6, plus purchasing the later Berlin Philharmonic CDs for the other five symphonies. (Its present Amazon price is $46.)
TrackList:
Symphony No. 1 in C minor
Symphony No. 2 in C minor
Symphony No. 3 in E minor
Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major “Romantic”
Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major
Symphony No. 6 in A Major
Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Unfinished)
—John Sunier

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