The year 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the
birth of German conductor Günter Wand (1912-2002). Probably the
last of the great interpreters of the ninetieth-century Austro-German
symphonic tradition it is wonderful to see that in recent decades Wand
has finally been given the recognition that his talent richly deserved.
This single disc is one of a number of live recordings that Wand made
with the NDR in Hamburg. I’m not sure if these live performances
have been release before. With regard to the Mozart symphony it is not
same performance that Wand recorded with the same orchestra at the same
venue in March 1994. As the number of high quality releases have demonstrated,
the archive of live recordings of made-for-radio broadcasts has served
Wand’s legacy well over the years. If it was the policy of the
radio companies to archive the Wand broadcasts then there is plenty
of exciting potential for future releases.
Born in 1912 at Elberfeld, Germany, Wand was over seventy before his
talents became recognised internationally. It comes as no surprise that
Wand always insisted on receiving ample rehearsal time. Although his
relatively few commercial recordings involved considerable duplication
of his much loved Bruckner, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert his concert
repertoire was considerably wider. Early in his career Wand championed
the cause of a number of then contemporary composers such as Edgard
Varèse, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Frank Martin, Olivier Messiaen
and György Ligeti.
Wand did valuable work in the post-Second World War development of German
radio orchestras. Notably with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne he
recorded complete cycles of the Schubert and Bruckner symphonies on
RCA Red Seal. With the NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg, where Wand served
as principal conductor, he also recorded cycles of the Beethoven and
Brahms symphonies. In addition he successfully collaborated with the
Munich Philharmonic and the two main Berlin orchestras. His glorious
live performances with the Deutsches
and especially with those few with the
Berliner Philharmoniker number amongst his most successful recordings.
Wand’s live Bruckner Symphonies 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 with the Berliner
Philharmoniker are my reference recordings.
Wand also had an excellent relationship with the NDR Sinfonieorchester
serving as their principal conductor in the years 1982-91. He was appointed
their honorary conductor in 1987. With the NDR Sinfonieorchester Wand
recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven (1986/88) and Brahms (1982/83)
for RCA Red Seal and did so to considerable acclaim. The Hamburg orchestra
had been established after the war in 1945 and named the Symphony Orchestra
of Radio Hamburg. The orchestra’s principal conductors have included
Klaus Tennstedt, Herbert Blomstedt, Christoph Eschenbach, John Eliot
Gardiner and Christoph von Dohnányi. The NDR Sinfonieorchester
Hamburg deserve to be far better known on the international stage.
I was fortunate to review a five
disc anniversary box set
titled Edition Günter Hänssler
consisting of eight live recordings that Wand made with the NDR Sinfonieorchester
between the years 1982 and 1996 at the Hamburg Musikhalle and the Cologne
Today the Hamburg orchestra’s performing prowess remains at an
extremely high standard. In June 2012 at the Dresden Music Festival
I attended a concert by the NDR Sinfonieorchester under Thomas Hengelbrock.
Giving a programme of Schumann’s Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 1
I can report their excellent playing.
German soloist Gerhard Oppitz here plays Schumann’s Piano Concerto
One of the most famous and best loved of all piano concertos Schumann
successfully combines resolute musical substance with brilliant virtuosity.
The score was introduced in 1845 in Dresden with Clara Schumann as soloist.
In the opening Allegro affettuoso
movement the playing has a
noticeably calm assurance. Such is its quality that it is easy to immerse
oneself in the music. The effect is one that allows an atmosphere of
warm affection to emerge from the drama. In the hands of the persuasive
Oppitz the Intermezzo
poetic - as light as feather-down. Joy and vibrancy are the watchwords
in the Allegro Vivace.
Exquisite and poised playing grips the
listener and the orchestra provides admirable accompaniment throughout.
With such enthusiastic applause the audience clearly loved the performance
as much as I did.
Composed in 1788, Symphony No. 40
was written during a highly
productive period for Mozart. This profoundly emotional work contains,
amid a torrent of romanticism, an intensely affecting meeting of the
sad and the idyllic. Classicism and romanticism combine in ideal balance.
I was immediately struck by the sincerity and integrity of Wand’s
plainly unaffected performance in which a decisive pulse is maintained
throughout. Delightfully moulded the Andante
with its slight
suggestions of dark undercurrents is winningly done.
a fresh outdoor feel to the Minuetto -
never forced and never
given unnecessary weight. In the Finale
marked Allegro assai
Wand’s interpretation is appealingly strong and direct. He resists
any temptation to hurry and his tempo feels well judged.
These two live recordings have been engineered to a high standard being
especially clear and well balanced. The applause has been left in at
the end of the Schumann concerto but there is no applause for the Mozart
symphony. These performances will undoubtedly appeal to lovers of the
late-Romantic Austro-German tradition and admirers of Günter Wand’s
conducting will be in their element.
Masterwork Index: Mozart