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<<  -- 3 --  David Wilkins    Mr Valiant-for-Truth


In the great Adagio of soul-searching and penitence, the playing of the Berlin Philharmonic, the preparation, takes the breath away right from the scrupulous bowing of the initial string accompaniment. And when before have clarinets and horns been so mellowly blended? (Not even, I think, by Karajan's remarkable instincts as a colourist.) As the movement progresses there is, of course, flexibility of tempo as measured against a metronome but everything seems so solid and inevitable. There are times when you think that the Berliners couldn't possibly produce more tone (not just volume) but, somehow, they do. The tragedy is not worn ostentatiously on the sleeve but seems more profound (universal rather than personal) for the nobility of its restraint. The consolation achieved at the movement's end I find, more literally than usual, near ineffable [listen -- CD2 track 1, 26:06-27:27].

Concentration is the watchword of the Finale. There is no fear of its episodic structure because Wand has complete confidence both in the music and in his glorious instrument [listen -- CD2 track 2, 20:10-21:04]. There is swagger aplenty, cockiness and brutality when required. Some pretty 'unchurchlike' emotions are evoked along the way to remind us of the error of wrapping Bruckner in too much sanctity or righteousness and, at the end, a wild peroration of uninhibited C major joyousness.

I am not often comfortable with the kind of hyperbole of response that this performance has evoked in me. I tend to nag away for the faults I must have missed, the critical insights that elude. But no, on this occasion I can find none. It really is that good. In all of his music making -- and never more so than in his service to Bruckner -- Günter Wand has been nothing less than a Mr Valiant-for-Truth. If the trumpets are now sounding for him on the other side, I only hope they've had plenty of rehearsal time!

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






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