Conductor Gunther Wand is one of a handful of musicians who was working before World War II, whose career remains viable at the end of the twentieth century. In contrast to the best known of his peers, Sir Georg Solti and the late Rafael Kubelik, he is the opposite of the jet-set, international conductor, and limits the number and scope of his engagements, primarily in Europe. Although Wand has composed a small number of works, including ballet music, orchestral songs, and one cantata, he is known by most listeners as a conductor.

Wand studied at the Cologne Conservatory, initially as a composition and piano student. His conducting technique is almost entirely self-taught. He began his career in Wuppertal and Allenstein as a repetiteur and conductor, and was later made chief conductor in Detmold. In 1939, he was appointed a conductor, and subsequently first conductor, with the Cologne Opera, with which he remained until the opera was destroyed by Allied bombing raids in 1944. He then became conductor of the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra for the remainder of the war, until April of 1945. With the end of fighting, he returned to Cologne to begin reconstructing the city's musical life, first as music director of the Cologne Opera, where he remained for three years (1945-48), and as director of concerts, initially a 10-year-appointment that was later extended for life. He also taught music in the city, and became a professor at the Hochschule fur Musik in 1948. He also became head of the Gurzenich Orchestra, a post he held until 1974.

Wand began making appearances as a guest conductor throughout Europe during the early 1950's, including his British debut with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1951. His guest appearances included concerts in the Soviet Union and Japan. His professional life, however, remained centered in Cologne, where he was at the center of the revived city's musical life. In addition to his performances of the mainstream German-Austrian repertory--Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Bruckner--he has been a major advocate of the works of such contemporary composers as Ligeti, Varese, and Zimmermann, and has recorded the music of Frank Martin and Anton Webern.

Wand resigned his Cologne positions in 1974 and moved to Switzerland, where he became a regular guest conductor of the Berne Symphony Orchestra. After 1974, he began working more closely with the various broadcast orchestras in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and has also been hailed for his performances of the operas of Mozart and Verdi. Wand has recorded exclusively for RCA/BMG, including all of Bruckner's symphonies--a major feat at the time--with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as Schubert's extant eight symphonies; and he has since recorded the the Schubert symphonies with the NDR symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic. From 1982 until 1991, he also took over the post of music director of the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg, and among his recordings are the complete Brahms and Beethoven symphonies. Those recordings have attracted a substantial international following, acclaimed for their attention to the details of the written score and the spirituality of the playing.

Gunther Wand's performances are noted for their precise attention to detail, and special care in matters of stylistic propriety. He continues to record for RCA/BMG in the 1990's, and has a major international following. ~ Bruce Eder

BeethovenSymphonies 1-9BMG[6]

BrucknerSymphony No. 9 (w/NDR Symphony--live recording)BMG[6]

SchubertSymphonies Nos. 8/9 (w/Berlin Philharmonic) BMG [8], Rovi

Günter Wand probt Beethoven (1994) | NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Le secret de la troisieme porte, le chef d'orchestre Günter Wand
Johannes Brahms: Sinfonie Nr. 1 mit Günter Wand (1997) | NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Bruckner: Sinfonie Nr. 9 mit Günter Wand (2001) | NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
R. Strauss Horn Concerto nr. 1. Soloist: Ab Koster, Conductor: Günter Wand.General Rehearsal 1987.
Beethoven: Sinfonie Nr. 6 mit Günter Wand (1994) | NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Johannes Brahms: Sinfonie Nr. 2 mit Günter Wand (1984) | NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
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