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Wand Edition - Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 / Wand, Et Al


Release Date: 05/20/2003 
Label:  Rca Victor Special Imports Catalog #: 89109   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Edith WiensHildegard HartwigKeith LewisRoland Hermann
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony OrchestraHamburg State Opera ChorusNorth German Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews


Since his death, Günter Wand’s reputation seems to have declined from being the Grand Old Man of the German classics to, well, yesterday’s news. This is a terrible shame. He was a stellar conductor, and this Beethoven cycle remains one of the reference versions. A reader wrote to us recently asking why it was that we haven’t reviewed it, although it always gets listed as a “reference recording” in articles on other Beethoven symphony editions. The reason is simply that it was issued originally in 1989, a decade before we existed, and has only reappeared once since, and then it was not released domestically. Indeed, this latest incarnation sort of crept back into the catalog unannounced.
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Wand recorded a few of the symphonies again after this set was released, but unlike Bruckner, or Brahms, this remains his only complete Beethoven cycle to achieve international distribution, a signal achievement that happily avoids the confusion caused by his multiple Bruckner Eighths and Ninths or triplicated Schubert “Great” Symphonies. This is one of the most consistent of all modern Beethoven editions, capped by a Ninth that stands among the select performances of that work on disc. Wand achieved superlative results the old fashioned way: by demanding extensive rehearsals before performances and recordings.

You may well ask what he accomplished with the extra time, given that the music poses no special technical problems to modern players. Wand used to describe himself as “an old conductor of the new school.” In other words, he was a disciple of Toscanini, with that conductor’s belief in fidelity–never slavish–to the text, and a firm rhythmic underpinning coupled to relatively strict tempos. There are other ways to play Beethoven, of course, but as we all know this one works particularly well when the conductor achieves the ensemble discipline of the high order on display here. Let’s consider a few examples.

Many conductors like to insert a pregnant pause before the start of the coda in the Ninth’s first movement. Beethoven did not ask for one, and Wand gets the feeling of “pregnancy” by making a slight ritard and then moving straight on. He then takes special care to clarify the creepy repeated bass line that slowly builds through the string section, balancing it against the principal melody in the oboe. The result has a thrilling inexorability that few other versions match. This attention to what is happening below the melodic surface also pays big dividends in the first movement of the Seventh Symphony, where a moderate tempo combines with unusual rhythmic precision to create an incredibly powerful forward momentum.

As the above suggests, one of the things that makes these performance so special is Wand’s ability to create a truly athletic feeling of movement at any tempo, and in order to do that he has to pay attention not just to tiny details, but also to larger phrases and musical paragraphs. How many listeners hear the end of the scherzo of the Fourth Symphony as a final orchestral crash followed by a coda consisting of a two-note horn crescendo followed once again by the same final chord? But that is not what Beethoven wrote. What he wrote, and what Wand lets us hear, is that the horns play through that non-final, final chord with three more notes, piano, and the two-note crescendo is actually the continuation of their phrase. Listen for yourself. The result has such powerful logic. For once that tiny coda doesn’t sound like a mere appendix, but a delightful joke in which the full orchestra shouts down those misbehaving horns.

These examples characterize the interpretations generally. I don’t have to spend more time describing how Wand integrates these small details into the larger whole–that the Fifth Symphony has all of the grit and grandeur that Beethoven intended; that the funeral march in the “Eroica” is one of the most noble on disc; or that the “Pastoral” captures the music’s earthiness and rusticity with memorable fidelity. This approach also elevates the “lesser” works—Symphonies 1, 2, and 8—in the sense that we hear how full of similarly rewarding detail they are, and thus how naturally they fit into the curve of Beethoven’s musical development.

Exceptionally well recorded, this Beethoven cycle belongs in every serious collection, alongside, or even in preference to, those by Szell, Barenboim, and maybe a couple of others. It’s that special.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [1/2014]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in C major, Op. 21 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
2.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
3.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
5.
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
6.
Symphony no 6 in F major, Op. 68 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria 
7.
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 
8.
Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria 
9.
Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Edith Wiens (Soprano), Hildegard Hartwig (Alto), Keith Lewis (Tenor),
Roland Hermann (Bass)
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg State Opera Chorus,  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  North German Radio Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria 
Language: German 

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