Before I type a word about my project this morning, I need to express my sorrow at the passing of Greg Lake, the “L” of ELP, and one of the founding members of King Crimson.
I interviewed Greg at length via phone in the mid to late 1990s. I met him in London, and then again backstage at a concert in Milwaukee. His voice – and his songwriting ability – were remarkable. He was gifted.
One of the reports of his passing can be read here.
Rest In Peace, Greg. And thank you for all the wonderful music.
Back to regularly scheduled programming…
This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major (WAB 105) – nicknamed “Tragic,” “Church of Faith,” or “Pizzicato” symphony (for reasons I’m still discovering), is German-born Gunter Wand (1912-2002).
Maestro Wand’s name had come up a time or two when I read reviews online of Bruckner’s symphonies.
So, when I first started my project – back on October 3rd – he was one of the conductors I looked forward to hearing.
And hear him I did on Day 16.
Then again on Day 32.
Then again on Day 48.
Most recently on Day 64.
Today is the fifth time I’m listening to Mr. Wand conduct a Bruckner symphony – coincidentally, Bruckner’s Fifth.
This is the first time I’ll hear Maestro Wand conduct Bruckner’s Fifth. But I also have the Gunter Wand box set that ends each cycle of symphonies. So, I’ll listen to him today, and then again in about two weeks. Both times he will be conducting Bruckner’s Fifth.
I wonder if I’ll be hearing any other conductor twice in the same symphony? Or will Gunter Wand hold that distinction for the rest of my 144-days exploration?
You may well ask, “If you’re following these conductors in alphabetical order, why did you jump from Chailly yesterday to Wand today?”
A superb observation.
Here’s my answer: Because the conductors are also sorted by the box sets they’re in.
In this case, Wand can be found in The Bruckner Collection. That’s “C” for Collection. Within that box set there are several (3-4 at first glance) conductors of Bruckner’s works. Rather than list all conductors separately, I chose to categorize my project by box set – 16 in all.
So, the sorting order is box set, then conductor – by alpha.
Speaking of The Bruckner Collection, for a fine-looking 20-CD box set, don’t you think a booklet of notes would have been in order? Apparently, the Profil record label didn’t think so. Not cool. (More about that oversight later.)
One of the wondering aspects of living in the Internet age is meeting people from all over the world who share one’s passion. In this case, I was privileged to encounter Søren Frederiksen from the Bruckner Facebook group who offered his insights regarding what I’ve been calling “magic” when I hear a symphony and immediately fall in love with it.
I get ‘magic’. I myself use the term ‘musicality’ a lot. When it comes to classical, soul, jazz, techno or whatever. If there is convincing musicality, which is felt emotionally and viscerally – not in thoughts or analyses, there may be many flaws in both playing and recording (I do Wagner back from the 30’s) and still a great pleasure. Then you may have recordings played precisely and recorded magnificiently, but the ‘something’, the ‘musicality’, the ‘magic’ is not there. So: ‘musicality’ and ‘spirit’ are important categories to me, and with Bruckner, when I get both (Jochum, Celi, Blomstedt, f.i.) I’m in!
I thought that was a powerful choice of words.
Thank you, Søren!
Now, for the nuts and bolts of today’s performance:
Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major (WAB 105) composed in 1875-1876
Gunter Wand conducts
Wand used the “Original version 1875-78”, although I have no idea what version that is. According to its entry on Wikipedia, there is no “Original version 1875-78.” Maybe the notes on the CD sleeve refer to the 1878 version
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin plays
The symphony clocks in at 76:51 (but doesn’t deserve a “Yikes!” modifier because it’s just a longer symphony – at least, that’s my guess at this point. When I encounter one that tops 80 minutes then I’ll write “Yikes!”)
This was recorded in Berlin, Germany, on October 6, 1991
Wand was 79 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 51 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Profil Record Label
Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, “Original version 1875-78”), from this particular conductor (Wand) and this particular orchestra (Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin) is as follows:
I. Introduction (Adagio) — Allegro. B-flat major……………………………21:31
II. Adagio. Sehr langsam. (Very slowly) D minor……………………………15:47
III. Scherzo. Molto vivace D minor…………………………………………………14:21
IV. Finale (Adagio) — Allegro moderato. B-flat major…………………..25:17
Total running time: 76:51
Okay. Now for the subjective stuff…
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 0 (there aren’t any…I hate that)
How does this make me feel: 5
This had the Wow Factor for me. Loved the pizzicato in the first movement (Allegro) around the 4:20 mark and at the start of the second movement (Adagio). What can I say? I’m a sucker for pizzicato.
Each of the movements began slowly but had parts in them that swelled and were electrifying.
The build up in the Finale starting at 18:22 is astonishing. Love the drama of it. And, of course the big, big finish that ends in justified applause was the moment in this symphony. Normally, I don’t like applause because it takes me out of the music and seems self serving. But this…this was well deserved.