Gunter Wand Box Set

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Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 1, 3 & 4, Overtures Coriolan & Egmont
Franz Schubert: Symphonies Nos 8 'Unfinished' & 9
Robert Schumann: Symphony No 4
Anton Bruckner: Symphonies Nos 5 & 9
Johannes Brahms: Symphonies Nos 1 & 4

The Magic Wand: During the 1980s, it was said that, "Karl Böhm died the day after he died." This expression reflected the sad fact that sales of Böhm's records ended when he did. With Günter Wand (1912-2002), the situation has been very different. His recorded output was limited because it was not until he passed the age of 70 that he became an internationally recognized podium figure. Wand’s relatively few commercial recordings involved much repetition of the symphonies of Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner. Exploiting the existence of stacks of broadcast relay tapes of concerts in Cologne and Munich, Hänssler Profil has come to praise Wand, not to bury him. Their Günter Wand Edition has reached 19 volumes at last report. The present set is a supplement to the Edition. It enshrines a concert series led by Wand in the early 1990s with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (originally the RIAS SO which first achieved distinction under Ferenc Fricsay). It is a landmark box which will be welcomed by collectors familiar with the conductor. It can also serve the uninitiated as a representation of his core repertory at a critical, indeed penultimate, stage of a long life and late blooming career.

Inside the Box: Günter Wand had a unique understanding of Beethoven’s First Symphony. Most major interpreters of the Nine tackle the curtain-raiser, almost as an afterthought and treat it accordingly. Wand was the master of this surprisingly tricky work. This account is superb and surpasses his studio and live recordings for RCA. The performance of the Eroica is as fine as may be found on any recording and the Fourth displays swift Apollonian graces. With the Schubert and Bruckner, the concerts come into the orbit of Wand’s later award-winning live recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic (RCA). Listen and believe: the DSO Berlin trump the BPO every time. The Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven overtures are just as impressive. The box is packaged in five volumes in single and full-sized double jewel cases. At less than one hundred dollars retail, it represents excellent value.

More Profil Boxes: Hänssler Profil does a splendid job in compiling retrospective boxes. Hopefully the entire Günter Wand Edition will be available in a single, hefty crate. This was done in 2006 for the Carl Schuricht Collection (20 CDs, bonus DVD) based on broadcast tapes from Stuttgart, 1950-1966. The label also issued a three-disc and DVD set of the complete Fritz Busch recordings in Volume 30 of the Edition Staatskapelle Dresden. Both sets could be described as essential for the historically-minded collector.

Stephen Habington