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Bruckner: Symphony No 6 / Wand, Munich Philharmonic

Bruckner / Munchner Philharmoniker / Wand
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 6047   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 Günter Wand, cond; Munich PO PROFIL 6047 (57:37) Live: Munich 6/24/1999

Bruckner regarded the Sixth as his boldest symphony. According to the late Robert Simpson’s The Essence of Bruckner : “The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh symphonies represent Bruckner’s period of greatest confidence as a composer; apart from the unfinished Ninth, they are the only ones in which he never made wholesale revisions.” Unfortunately, the Sixth was not Read more published until 1899 (three years after Bruckner’s death) in an altered version by the composer’s pupil Cyril Hynais, who introduced several odd subito piano e crescendo effects, made a roughly 20-bar cut in the Adagio, and added a repeat in the Trio (the Hynais edition, recorded in 1952 by Mahler pupil F. Charles Adler, has appeared in a deleted two-disc Tahra CD set). Bruckner’s original score was first published by Haas in 1935. The later Nowak edition (performed here by Wand and elsewhere by Klemperer and Keilberth) is virtually a reprint of the Haas.

In reviewing the willfully eccentric Norrington Sixth ( Fanfare 32:3), I noted that “among current offerings, the Sixth is more effective in excellent studio accounts by Klemperer (EMI) and Keilberth (Japanese Teldec). There is also an eloquent and heartfelt live 2000 Rögner/Berlin Radio.” Sadly, that Rögner (on a now deleted Audio CD) has not held up well on repeated listening. There are just too many minor bloopers, and its use of dynamic effects from the corrupt Hynais edition disqualifies it from serious consideration (likewise Chailly on Decca and Nagano on Harmonia Mundi for the same reason).

Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from the often pedantic and aloof Wand at Munich. His 1976 studio Sixth from Cologne (RCA) was coarsely played and suffered from a brusque Adagio. His later live accounts from NDR Hamburg (different RCA releases) were better, but the strings sounded thin and the trumpets were not well controlled. Thus, it’s with more than a little astonishment that I must confess this Wand/Munich Sixth has become my favorite stereo version. The fact that it’s a live account led by a conductor who was all of age 87 at the time strikes me as downright mind-boggling.

Comparisons with Klemperer/New Philharmonia (17:02 / 14:42 / 9:23 / 13:48 = total 54:54) and Keilberth/Berlin Philharmonic (17:06 / 14:40 / 8:46 / 15:18 = total 55:50) turned out to be most revealing. Wand (17:03 / 16:02 / 9:09 / 15:19 = total 57:37) has now persuaded me that the elusive Sixth, with its many lyrical interludes, is really closest in feeling to late Schubert, while Klemperer and Keilberth play it in a more vehement Beethovenian mode that can sound a bit relentless. In particular, Keilberth’s Berlin brass section seems to have only two dynamic levels: forte and fortissimo . In the great Adagio, Klemperer’s brisk tempo pushes the music too hard, while the even faster Keilberth merely skates across the music’s surface. Klemperer was never one to dawdle in Bruckner’s slow movements; that’s probably why his best Bruckner seems to be the live Bavarian Radio Fourth on EMI, where the slow movement is marked as andante and not adagio . Wand is a master at gauging proportionate tempos, whereas Keilberth often seems a bit out of sync: The latter’s Sixth is the only recording out there with a finale that’s nearly a minute slower than the Adagio. Oddly, Keilberth’s Eighth at Cologne ( Fanfare 31:5) had that same strange disparity (faster Adagio versus slower finale).

However, I come here not to bury Klemperer and Keilberth but to praise Wand, who is very warm and expressive in a way I have never encountered before in any other Sixth. My only objection (more of just a minor quibble) is to a brief and unmarked ritardando at about 8:42 in the finale: It merely impedes progress. But egad, just listen to the utterly exquisite string playing in the same movement (6:53 to 7:27) or to Munich’s beautifully blended brass playing throughout. It simply doesn’t get any better than this. While I remain fond of the Klemperer, especially in the Scherzo and the finale (I’m now less enamored of the Keilberth), it’s this amazing live Wand reading that comes closest to being my ideal Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

FANFARE: Jeffrey J. Lipscomb
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 6 in A major, WAB 106 by Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Günter Wand
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879-1881; Vienna, Austria 

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