Julian the Apostate, Emperor of Rome, said in reference to doctrinal disputes “No wild beasts are so dangerous to men as Christians are to one another.” This is true. Sad to say, the maxim applies equally to lovers of Bruckner where there’s no more polarising figure than Günter Wand. For some, he's the Prophet of the Word. Others – and I’m susceptible to this argument – see him as a lance-corporal. Truth to tell, I’m more impressed by his Mozart. Operating from a position of strength as we do, whenever the Australian Knappertsbusch Association berates any of his Bruckner, the modern-day equivalent of Katyusha rocket-launchers are fired in our direction and voluminously at that. So be it. We shall fight them in the shadows.
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.
This latest entery in the Wand/BPO Bruckner symphony series is very good. The opening has rarely if ever been played so beautifully by the Berlin cellos or by any other cellos for that matter. The strings through out the disc are amazing as always. Details and dynamic pointing through out the disc are wonderful (though there are a few times where Wand could have let the Berliner trombones play out more--minor point in the large picture however, they can be heard, I just want more). The adagio is very impressive and I am glad that Wand did not add the percussion at the major climax of the movement. The scherz goes along very well and the orchestral playing here is most impressive (the trombones could have played out more here, but I gather Wand disagrees). The finally is very well done with the orchestral sounding very full in the tuttis and the strings still audible which is amazing (only the Berliner Philharmoniker can do this). Wand pushes the tempos at points in the first movement, which to a certain extent reminds me of Karajan's last recording of this same work with the Vienna Phil. Over all this is an outstanding disc and I welcome it most warmly. The orchestra playing is what one expects from this group and it still takes the breath away, which shows the high standard of the BPO. The recording itself is not quite on par with the previous Bruckner recordings in the series but is still good. I see the recording team is the same so this is strange. Wand's apporach is both tough edged and beautiful. I urge RCA to record more Bruckner with Wand & the BPO. I hope they dont stop now. I see Wand is due to conduct Bruckner 8th with the BPO in January 2001--can we hope for an RCA recording of these concerts please? I also urge RCA to record a Bruckner 6th Symphony with Wand and the Berliner Philharmoniker. Do not stop the series now.
Sheer vital energy with great brilliance. Rapturous sound with surging pulsating vitality. Great textual transparency especially in the woodwinds. The concept here is one of surging power and brilliance compared to for example Chailly's 7th with the RSO Berlin, which is much more romantically luxuriant and resplendent. Two entirely different approaches i.e. Wand vs. Chailly but both spectacular. A magnificent and brilliantly articulated performance. Magnificent recording. Surpasses Wand's other two recordings of the 7th. This is the one to have.
A fine recording and performance of this favourite symphony. The best? I couldn't say that because I've not heard that many, but my references are Harnoncourt for recording and urgency and Jochum for just about everything else