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<<  -- 2 --  David Wilkins    Mr Valiant-for-Truth


From the very opening the micro-qualities are apparent: the weight of the lower strings, the concentration of the woodwind, the glory of the brass. Wand allows no place for self-conscious over-emoting. (Many years ago I attended a Zubin Mehta Los Angeles Philharmonic Proms performance that overwhelmed at the time but could hardly recall a week later.) Service to the score is everything and it's the gift of a lifetime's experience to be able to assert such control [listen -- CD1 track 1, 6:25-7:18]. The climaxes are, as expected, shattering in sonorous terms but always retain their vital importance in the overall architecture. Tenutos and silences are as important and are given their full measure. The recording, made at live performances in the Berlin Philharmonie, is amply clear and reverberant without needing any added cod-Cathedral acoustic. Karajan once pointed out that, 'perhaps you have to go to the church at St Florian's to understand why his music is as it is, with so many pauses and such great spaciousness.' Well -- that's a thought, but Pierre Boulez' recent Vienna Philharmonic performance recorded in St Florian's -- as wonderful as it is in many surprising ways -- seems hindered rather than enhanced by an acoustic that, inevitably, fudges some of the detail.

Wand takes the Scherzo at a steady pace -- less immediately exciting than some, perhaps -- that better allows him to exploit the music's fluidity. The vigour is generated from within the body of sound (a feat that, recalling Szell, he also works so magically in Beethoven and, supremely, Schubert's 9th) rather than glossily imposed [listen -- CD1 track 2, 4:33-5:35]. In the Trio section, the contradictions of Bruckner's nature -- rustic and naïve but also charming and sophisticated are captured in playing that often has the delicacy of a Brahms intermezzo.

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Copyright © 24 February 2002 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, Sussex, UK






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