Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (1889 version ed. Nowak)
NDR Symphony Orchestra/Gunter Wand
rec. live, 12-14 January 1993, Musikhalle Hamburg, Germany
RCA Victor 09026-61374-2 
This is Gunter Wand’s last, live recording of Bruckner’s Third Symphony, one of three he made with the NDR Symphony Orchestra. He always used the final, 1888/89 version, which has the cuts made with Schalk’s help and the coda of the Scherzo omitted. As far as I can see, it has not previously been reviewed on MusicWeb, although Wand’s other recordings of the Third have been very favourably received, so this Presto re-issue is most welcome.
In truth, this is as well played, conducted and recorded as many a recording of this now out-of-favour version of the Third. Wand was an Old School Bruckner conductor: grandeur and patience obtain. Just occasionally, he could be a little stolid – always the risk with such an approach, especially as our ears have been opened to the ways of such as François-Xavier Roth – but there is nary a hint of that flaw here. Right from the very opening of this, perhaps my favourite of all Bruckner symphonies, this is a sweeping, dynamic reading, beautifully executed by the Hamburg orchestra; the horns are especially noble. In many ways, I think a case could be made for using the first movement as an entrée for anyone unacquainted with, but curious about, Bruckner’s music and Wand’s account here would be as apt as any.
The Adagio is surprisingly swift – indeed, one of the fastest in the catalogue of this version of the symphony – but does not sound rushed, merely tenser and more urgent than usual and the weight of the NDR sound and the intensity of their phrasing counteract any possibility of glibness. The Scherzo is charming: lilting, uplifting and bucolic, just as it should be, book-ending a grimly malicious and demonic little Trio. Keeping the finale of the Third homogeneous and coherent is always a challenge but I captivated by the rhythmic spring in Wand’s steady handling of its rustic polka sections; he sustains momentum and the movement dances towards a conclusion as it should and the Wagnerian peroration over the last minute is magnificent.
Wand’s timings and delivery are in fact similar to that of another of my favourite recordings of this version, by Paavo Järvi (review) directing another superb, regional German orchestra in a live 2014 performance also on RCA.
This is obviously a composite recording from two concert performances and the engineers have succeeded in replicating the undisturbed clarity of a studio recording while maintaining the energy and atmosphere of a live occasion. There is absolutely no extraneous noise from the audience apart a slight stir in the intervals between movements and some page-turning from the orchestra, and no applause.
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