After great century of radical artistic experiments and many new ideas in music esthetics, old symphonic form in its late romantic shape still remains most significant form in repertoire of every philharmonic orchestra of civilized world. These works are demanding highest quality, quantity, space and volume of orchestral sound. Most popular and are symphonies by Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvořak, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler. Symphonies of these and many other composers are basic repertoire of musical education and every symphonic orchestra. Some esthetic ideas, especially those which are understanding history of musical forms in categories of progress, indicate symphonies by Bruckner and Mahler as the greatest achievements in 19th century history of this form. Especially these two composers are great symphony innovators and their cycles of symphonies are milestones in the history of music.
As far as Mahler’s symphonies were instant hits, symphonic works by Bruckner were somehow neglected. Although historians of music were talking about both composers in the same breath, in modern times critics and artists were paying more attention to Mahler, considering Bruckner’s symphonies as too much of formalistic and academic. This situation had changed in last decades of 20th century, when many great artists tried to revive interest in Bruckner’s legacy, especially symphonies. From contemporary the point of view these refreshed symphonies showed how attractive is late romantic symphonic music and how much potential it has. In sixties and seventies these works were in repertoire of every ambitious conductor and orchestra. Following these phonographic editions some conductors took on the challenge to record complete set of Bruckner’s symphonies.
|Günter Wand — Anton Bruckner — Symphony in C Minor No. 8 (1979)|
One of conductors famous for achieving best results in this challenge was Günter Wand (1912-2002) conductor and composer famous throughout postwar decades for his work on post of music director in Cologne Opera. Born in Elberfeld (today part of Wuppertal), he started his career in the age of twelve attending production of Johann Strauss operetta The Gypsy Baron in his native city. In his twenties he took his first post as music director of city theatre in Allenstein (today Olsztyn) where he founded first orchestra and gave many successful productions of operas by Bizet, Verdi and Wagner. His great career started in 1939 when he started work as conductor of Cologne Opera, after the war he took the post of Generalmusikdirektor what was associated with the position of 1st conductor for both of the Cologne Opera and in Gürzenich Orchestra. In late 1970’s Günter Wand recorded with Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester complete sets of symphonies by Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner. In 1980’s he was conductor of NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg and made new series of recordings. In last years of his life he made recordings of selected Bruckner’s symphonies with Berliner Philharmoniker.
First recording of Bruckner’s symphonies with Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester was great artistic success of Günter Wand, who was known for his reliable and amenable attitude to historic works. Since he was convinced the first interpreter’s obligation is to reveal composers intention and to create musical performance as close to original as possible, he was ideal conductor for bringing new works or establishing new standards for known compositions. Wolfgang Seifert called Wand “one of the most unusual and independent interpreters”. For Bruckner’s symphonies Wand’s performances were the act of pure congeniality. This is one of three Bruckner’s symphonies in this key – the same first two symphonies. Recorded in 1979 Symphony in C Minor No. 8 was probably the most difficult challenge. This mighty work (here 83 minutes) is great construction of absolute music. Although there are no reasonable programmatic explanations of this symphony, later it was nicknamed ‘Apocalyptic’. Recorded with WDR Orchestra, album shows great scale of sound and expression of Bruckner symphonic form. This great achievement deserves five stars.