Day 131: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Wand)

This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109 (dedicated “to the beloved God”) is German-born Gunter Wand (1912-2002).

The orchestra is new to me, even though I’ve heard a lot of Wand and a lot of symphonies in the past 130 days:

Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR.

Back when I first contemplated this 144-day project, before I started it in fact, Maestro Wand’s name came up a time or two when I read reviews of Bruckner’s symphonies. Brucknerians like to discuss conductors who are gifted at interpreting Bruckner. Such people sometimes mentioned Gunter Wand. So, when I started this journey – back on October 3rd, 2016 – Wand was one of the conductors I most looked forward to hearing.

And hear him I did on Day 16, Symphony No. 1.

Then, on Day 32, Symphony No. 2.

And again on Day 48, Symphony No. 3.

And again on Day 64, Symphony No. 4.

And again on Day 67, Symphony No. 5 (from the Bruckner Collection box set – from which this performance comes).

And again on Day 80, Symphony No. 5 (from the Wand box set).

And again on Day 96, Symphony No. 6.

And again on Day 112, Symphony No. 7.

And again, most recently, on Day 128, Symphony No. 8.

I’ve heard a lot of Gunter Wand during my project. In fact, this will be the 10th time.

NOTE: I listen to conductors in alphabetical order. “Wand” should not have followed “Chailly,” therefore. Yet, Wand does because he’s part of the Bruckner Collection box set. The “C” in “Collection” trumps the “W” in “Wand.” That’s why Gunter Wand follows Riccardo Chailly.

Before I reveal what I thought of this morning’s listening, here are the objective stats about the performance:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109, composed 1887-1896 (nearly 10 years!)
Gunter Wand conducts
Wand used the “Original version” (whatever that means), according to the CD sleeve
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR plays
The symphony clocks in at 58:04
This was “a live recording of a concert in the Basilica of Ottobeuren on June 24, 1979,” according to the CD sleeve
Wand was 67 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 72 when he died before finishing the Ninth
This recording was released on the Profil record label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. He would have this time, too. But he died before completing movement four. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor), from this particular conductor (Wand) and this particular orchestra (Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso (D minor)…………………………………………………………………23:55
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft (D minor); Trio. Schnell (F-sharp major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………10:23
II. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich (E major)……………………………………………………….23:46
IV. Finale. (D minor, incomplete)……………………………………………………………………0:00

Total running time: 58:04

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 0 (there aren’t any – shame on them!)
How does this make me feel: 5

Seriously, I don’t know what more I could have asked from a performance of Bruckner’s Ninth. This pushed all the right buttons for me. It was compelling, haunting, powerful, majestic, sublime. Sometimes all at once.

I was gripped by every movement under Wand’s deft hand – from the terrifying Misterioso to the magical Scherzo to the heart-wrenching Adagio.

This was a fine recording of a very fine performance. All the instruments were in balance. The horns were not brassy and piercing. Indeed, the entire orchestra seemed to play as one powerful unit.

This may have been the best I’ve ever heard from Gunter Wand.

Highly recommended.

“Huzzah!”

NOTE: This Bruckner Collection box set would be darn near perfect if it didn’t omit liner notes. Seriously, this 20-CD set includes virtually no information about the conductors, orchestras, or Bruckner’s symphonies. That’s an oversight that will prevent this from ever being a set I could recommend – especially to a Bruckner newbie.

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