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Bruckner Symphonies on DVD (Barenboim & Wand)

Bruckner 4 Barenboim & Staatskapelle Berlin 20 June 2010

Accentus/Unitel ACC 0217 blu-ray

A perfect restorative after Christmas and Boxing Day 2012, this is the first release of a monumental achievement, the "superhuman accomplishment of the complete Bruckner symphonies cycle in six June 2010 evenings at the Philharmonie, Berlin".

Barenboim shows many qualities similar to Wand's (below), his conducting taking you (and his players) into the music with minimal movements; often it his eyes and expression which set the mood, with charged stillness as arresting as his response to the climaxes.

Filmed on an array of cameras by a large team, this is a state of the art presentation and the cutting between views seems to be fine to my eyes in the 10s of the ew century, a decade after Wand's as filmed at Scheswig-Holstein.

Once again, I have to confess that we are not omnivorous Brucknerians, who will surely do detailed comparative reviews of this latest series.


Günter Wand Edition Bruckner Symphonies 5, 6, 8 & 9 etc

NDR Sinfonieorchester
Scheswig-Holstein Music Festival


Bruckner's 9th symphony conducted by the veteran Günter Wand (1912-2002) in Lübeck was the most calming listening available in the aftermath of London's 7/7 bombing.

Wand, then around 90 (July 2001), was in total concentrated command, and it is a joy to hear this marvellous score through his facial gestures and precision with the baton (two days before, on the eve of London's Olympics triumph, we had listened to the 5th live in St Paul's Cathedral, an inspiring if totally different experience).

This boxed set (Symphonies 5, 6, 8 & 9, plus a spry Haydn No.76 and a perfectly moulded Schubert's Unfinished ) has been one of our most satisfying orchestral concerts DVDs, which we tend to avoid in favour of opera.

Wand takes you into the music and never puts himself on display. In No 9 he remains super-alert, moves with the scherzo's dance rhythms, and stands throughout the long symphonies seemingly oblivious of advanced age. Listening intently, he registered just two moments in which his face momentarily showed disapproval of minutiae which hadn't escaped his keen ears, but these were performances which he had developed and nursed over the years with this radio orchestra, whose stature his encumbency as director and conductor emeritus from the age of seventy had transformed and sustained over a period of twenty years.

I am not a knowledgeable or committed Brucknerian, but these DVDs have engrossed us and altered our view of a composer for whom patience is a pre-requisite for understanding at any level. Günter Wand takes you with him into the music and looking at his eyes and baton never strikes a discordant note, as with some conductors who visibly play to the audience and the camera with extravagant gesturing.

The sound quality is good in these 1998-2001 television recordings, and my only reservation is the producers' assumption that viewers must be continually diverted with shots of orchestral soloists or sections having 'the tune' for a few seconds (up to some 14 camera changes a minute) but my wife felt they assisted her concentration.

You can, of couse, also listen with the picture off! Either way, these are mature, comsidered accounts; we are fortunate they have been perpetuated, and I look foward to the Günter Wand Edition Part 2.

Peter Grahame Woolf

© Peter Grahame Woolf