SCHUBERT: Symphonies No. 8 “Unfinished” and No. 9 “The Great” – TDK

by | Aug 9, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Symphonies No. 8 “Unfinished” and No. 9 “The Great” – Conducted by Günter Wand (1995)

With the NDR Symphony Orchestra at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival
Video: 16:9 widescreen color
Audio: PCM stereo
No region code
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: *****

Most of my comments in past recent reviews of the Bruckner series of DVDs conducted by Wand would apply to this disc.  One thing has transpired since the Bruckner Fourth I just reviewed.  Five years had passed and new color video cameras allowed for a 16:9 widescreen image ratio instead of the former 4:3. This opens up some very useful possibilities to increase the visual interest of covering a long concert like this one, without any real soloists or chorus. Not even an unusual percussion instrument to zoom in on, such as the cowbells in a Mahler symphony. There are some nicely-composed widescreen shots, such as of Wand conducting in the distance on one side while we are viewing the orchestra from a back row, over the shoulder of one of the doublebass players.

In some of the long shots one sees the forest of microphones over the orchestra. But the mix is good, seemingly even better fidelity than the Bruckner series.  The Unfinished is such a compelling performance that I was transfixed and watched it beginning to end without reading anything or letting my attention wander. Schubert’s great Ninth is such a massive work, in many ways quite similar in style to the Bruckner symphonies.  A special skill is required to make the giant musical building blocks register with listeners but not to let them impede the interest and forward motion of each movement.  Wand is a master at this and one never has to contend with the “stuck stylus/Philips Glass” feeling, no matter how many repetitions of the same theme we have heard.

 – John Sunier

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