Day 144: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Wand)

I made it!

Today is the last day of my 144-day journey of discovery of the conductors who and symphonies that interpreted Anton Bruckner’s nine major symphonies.

It’s also the last time I will set foot in a Panera restaurant.

Yesterday, I had to leave one Panera because their Internet kept slowing down to a crawl until I was waiting a minute or more for each Web page to load.

So I split.

This morning, I had to do the same thing, only at another Panera in a different part of the city – my favorite Panera, as seen in the picture above.

Either Panera’s Internet technology is little better than two tin cans and a string, or else there’s a problem with the Internet provider Panera uses.

Doesn’t matter. I can’t afford to waste valuable time and money in a restaurant that I’ve found to be unreliable.

So, starting tomorrow – which begins the next leg of my journey (63 More Days With Bruckner And Me) – I will be in a different spot altogether. Not sure where yet. But Panera is out.

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 Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester.

Back when I first contemplated this 144-day project, Maestro Wand’s name came up a time or two when I read reviews of Bruckner’s symphonies and who people considered to be his best conductor-interpreters. Wand was looked upon favorably by several Brucknerians. 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).

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.

Then again on Day 128, Symphony No. 8.

Then again, most recently (from the Bruckner Collection box set), Day 131, Symphony No. 9.

All told, today will be the 11th time I will listen to Gunter Wand, and the second time I’ll hear him interpret the Ninth.

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

brucknerwandboxBruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109, composed 1887-1896
Gunter Wand conducts
Wand used the ??? version, edited by God knows who
Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester plays
The symphony clocks in at 58:04
This was recorded at WDR Cologne, Germany, in 1979
Wand was 67 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 72 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the RCA/Red Seal 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 (Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso (D minor)…………………………………………………………………23:59
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft (D minor); Trio. Schnell (F-sharp major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………10:25
II. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich (E major)……………………………………………………….23:40
IV. Finale. (D minor, incomplete)……………………………………………………………………0:00

Total running time: 58:04

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 3
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 0 (there aren’t any – shame on them!)
How does this make me feel: 3

This recording seems fuzzy to me. No depth to the orchestra. It is loud and piercing (the brass instruments, primarily). But it’s not rich and complex. The entire thing comes at me as a whole.

What I mean by that is there’s not a wide separation of instruments. It’s like the Grateful Dead in their Wall of Sound touring days. This is a wall of instruments.

Plus, I’m not feeling the love, here. The magic isn’t there for me. The enthusiasm seems to be missing. They’re playing well. But not wholeheartedly.

At least, that’s how it sounds to me.

You may listen to it and find it absolutely flawless.

All I can say is there’s something missing when I don’t get thrilled by the Ninth’s Scherzo, or nearly moved to tears by the Adagio. (Even the final 2-3 minutes of the Adagio didn’t fill me with awe.)

It’s still beautiful music. Still some of the best Bruckner ever wrote. But it lacks the oomph I heard in previous conductors and orchestras, which is kind of too bad since this is the close of my 144-day chapter.

It would have been nice to go out with a bang.

The most positive thing I can say about Maestro Wand’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Ninth is that it was a very brisk 58 minutes.

NOTE: Tomorrow, meet me over at 63 Days With Bruckner And Me as I begin a new cycle, starting with Daniel Barenboim.

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