Gunter Wand & Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: Anton Bruckner Symphony no. 9 in D minor (live)
Günter Wand isn’t a household name in the United States, but in Britain and Germany he is one of the most admired conductors on the 20th Century. Wand came into this admiration late in life. He was 70 years old when he began conducting with the BBC in London.
It was during this time, the 1980s and ‘90s, that he became revered as one of the great Bruckner conductors. That era featured several conductors with extensive Bruckner abilities.
Georg Solti was in Chicago, Carlo Maria Giulini was making recordings with Vienna, Sergiu Celibidache was with Munich and Herbert von Karajan was with Berlin and Vienna.
Günter Wand seemed to appear out of nowhere. He had been conducting in Cologne for 40 years, but when he did appear it was with a formidable repertoire of German masterpieces. He preferred to conduct Bruckner and he preferred radio orchestras because they could afford more rehearsals. With the BBC he had 25 hours of rehearsal before their concerts.
Why all this talk about Günter Wand? His video of Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 is number four on our curated list.
The performance is from 1998 when Wand was 86. The orchestra is the Berlin Philharmonic. Even in the video, the gravitas of the occasion comes across.
The Berliners had established themselves as a great Bruckner orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler and von Karajan. They had been with Claudio Abbado for almost 10 years and he was no slouch when it came to Bruckner.
In 1998 Wand was hands down the greatest living conductor of Bruckner and he was conducting one of the greatest Bruckner orchestras in Bruckner’s final piece of music. So far as I can tell, this is the only complete video performance of Wand conducting Bruckner on YouTube.
Discovering Music - Bruckner - Symphony No 9
Bruckner’s Ninth is a different piece of music from his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies. The Ninth is unfinished. There are only three movements and while the third movement ends with a peaceful tone, this symphony is worrisome and full of dread.
For an in depth exploration of Bruckner’s ninth listen to the BBC episode from Discovering Music.
Near the end of an interview before his concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Wand summed up the musical experience.
“There are certain things that one doesn’t talk about. The musicians, they feel it also; they don’t speak about it. It is not usual, but it’s like meeting in another world.”
This can happen in all types of music but for Wand, Bruckner was the most reliable vehicle.