Gunter Wand was the Last of What Many Regard to have Been the Greatest Generation of Bruckner Conductors. This Glorious Interpretation of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony was Among Wand's Final Recordings and it features all of the Knowing Characteristics which Sealed his Distinguished Reputation. Tempos Are Often Treacherously Powerful and Broad, and his Ability to Shift Dynamics and Subtly Gradate Orchestral Texture is Peerless. The Berlin Philharmonic Are Remarkably Responsive Throughout Performing with a Clarity and Precision Only an Orchestra with their Many Decades of Experience with Conductors Who've Continued to Champion Bruckner Could. The Sound is Appropriately Big and Full with a Solid Presence that Belies Its Live Recording.
On the rebound from Jochum’s stellar B7 with the Legion Vast from 1964, if there’s anything special in Wand’s account of the Seventh with a latter-day, carbon-neutral, Abbado-ized Berlin Philharmonic from 1999, it’s beyond me. It’s a Bruckner for those who like clean lines, refinement and rationality. There’s nothing dangerous to it in the least (for instance, the Parousia [on paper at least] at 17’56”ff in the first movement is less scary than Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf). No runic incantations emanate from the bass-line. The omission of the cymbal crash is symptomatic of the wider parsimony. Just listen to the bass-light unimaginative opening of the symphony (to 2’11”): it does not get any more ordinary than that. Needless to say, the Berlin Phil sounds like any other orchestra – if not the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Its lack of expressive weight brings the salutary fate of the Poseidon to mind. And one’s left in no doubt that this endeavour was recorded in the Philharmonie and not the Jesus Christus Church with the first massed entry of strings in the Adagio which sound ever so claustrophobic and airless.
Royalty becomes the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. In the age of Rattle, perhaps that’s Wand’s claim to fame in Bruckner.
It is my opinion both that Gunter Wand knew how to do Bruckner justice and that you can't go wrong picking a CD of Wand conducting a Bruckner symphony.
This CD is perfect support for my opinion. Prior to purchasing and listening to it, I could never understand why the 7th is said to be one of Bruckner's better (and more popular) symphonies. I have listened to a number of lackluster performances.
Wand and the Berlin Philharmonic show why Bruckner is great in general and why the 7th is a great symphony. Herr Wand "got" Bruckner and does him justice. This is an awesome CD!