Günter Wand's Indian summer is surprisingly well documented on DVD. This Bruckner 5 from the Proms follows similar video releases of the 6 th, 8 th and 9 th Symphonies from the same period with the NDR Sinfonieorchester. Wand's conducting technique, and the aura that he projects from the podium, make each of these well worth watching. Even from audio-only recordings, it is clear that Wand was a living embodiment of Bruckner's art. That impression is all the stronger for actually seeing him at work…
This is billed as the first release "from the original mastertape," whatever that means with a recording this old. What matters isn't how original the tape is, but rather what condition it's in. In fact, happily, this is the best-sounding incarnation of this particular performance, from Furtwängler's Nazi heyday (1942).
Few conductors have made a greater contribution to our present-day understanding of Bruckner than Günter Wand (1912-2002).
This first box includes Bruckner symphonies nos. 5, 6 and 8 in their original or restored versions as well as an elegant, but rarely performed Haydn Symphony and the "Unfinished" symphonies by Bruckner and Schubert. Later, TDK released the second box of 4 DVDs including the popular Bruckner Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 and symphonic works by Brahms and Schubert.
…In his late years, Wand restricted his repertoire almost exclusively to the symphonies of Anton Bruckner (which he had never conducted until he was over 60), Schubert, Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart. Wand regarded Bruckner as the "most important symphonist after Beethoven". Wand's biographer Wolfgang Seifert believes that "it is no exaggeration to say that Günter Wand has made an indispensable contribution toward the understanding of Bruckner in our time."
In his final performances with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in August 2013, Claudio Abbado conducted Anton Bruckner's unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor, and this recording is drawn from the best takes from those concerts. Considering that this rendition came near the end of Abbado's life and stands as a worthy testament to his achievements, it's easy to read too much into the interpretation, and to view it as a mystical or transcendent reading because of the circumstances. On the one hand, Abbado's understanding of this symphony was as thorough as any conductor's, and the Lucerne musicians played with seriousness and dedication, offering a version that has impressive power and expressive depth. On the other hand, there are many competitive recordings that either match Abbado's for strength and feeling, or surpass it in purely technical terms of sound quality and reproduction. Certainly the sound is exceptional, according to Deutsche Grammophon's high standards, and this stereo recording is exceptionally clean and noise-free.