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An Anniversary Tribute [Box Set]
Johann Sebastian Bach, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Franz [Vienna] Schubert
An Anniversary Tribute [Box Set]
Genres: Special Interest, Classical


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Another Splendid Furtwangler Box in Original Masters Series
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 12/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Let me start by saying it took me a while before I began to fully appreciate Wilhelm Furtwangler as a conductor. When I began collecting classical CDs, I realized early on that I preferred vintage stereo recordings to newer digital performances. However, historic mono recordings were a horse of a different color. I just couldn't select something that didn't sound very good as my one and only version of a given piece, even if it meant scrapping something as amazing as Furt's Beethoven 9th. But don't worry I have since come to my senses -- first, why own only one of a given work, and two, Furtwangler is indeed one of the master conductors of the 20th Century. And while I don't own dozens of his discs, I do now consider some of his recordings to be the best representations available (Schubert 9th, Schumann 4th -- see my reviews), despite the mono sound.

Anyway, recently I've picked up both of the Furtwangler Box Sets in DG's Original Masters series, and I certainly feel they were worthwhile purchases (and terrific values to boot). This latest set, "An Anniversary Tribute," features five discs of music and one interview disc (in German of course, rats!) in performances ranging from Bach and Gluck to Strauss' "Metamorphosen." However, serious Furtwangler fans should be aware that several of these selections have been available previously, and may duplicate their collection. In particular, there is a 1944 Bruckner 9th, most recently OOP on the Music & Arts label and fetching ridiculous prices in the Amazon Marketplace (thankfully, sanity is now restored), and a 1952 Brahms 1st available on DG 415 662-2, among others. Also of note, now that UNI owns both DG and Decca, there is a 1951 Schumann 1st with the Vienna Philharmonic that was originally released on Decca but is now included in this "DG" set. All in all though, this is another first rate set in the "Original Masters" series."
Furtwangler caught mostly at his best
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"All of Furtwangler's recordings, live and studio, are now in the public domain, and since he was the most recorded conductor of his generation, barring only Toscanini, the choice has become bewildering. If you add the live concert recordings made by the Nazis during the war, often in very good sound for the time, it takes a professional archivist to keep up. John Ardion's invaluable book, "The Furtwangler Record," is a must-own for serious collectors, but since his untimely death there has been no update, to my knowledge.

What we have here is a treasury of live recordings, and since Furtwangler disliked the studio, he is caught at his most spontaneous and alive. I am not a completist, so despite the fact that 80% of this set consists of duplications, I hadn't heard the splendid Leonore Over. #2, the 1952 Brahms First, or the Weber Euryanthe Over. -- all live up to the great man's reputation. Stylistically, the Mozart 39th and Bach Suite #3 may be unsalvageable given their weightiness and slow pacing. The postwar Beethoven 8th from Berlin is probably the best we have from him, but the 1951 Schumann First from Vienna feels ponderous.

While we Furtwangler fanciers discuss all the fine points, the newcomer will want to know if this is a good box set to buy as an intorduciton. The answer, I think, is a guarded no. Only German speakers will benefit from the bonus disc of Furtwangler being interviewed, and none of these live readings. however inspired, is equal in sound to the best studio recordings from both DG and EMI, not to mention excellent remasterings from Testament and Naxos (the latter mostly available overseas or online from British sources). The reissue label Tahra also has excellent sounding performances of the Brahms First and Beethoven Ninth that surpass anything here. So as much as I venerate Furtwangler, I'd turn to this collection somewhere down the line.

P.S. In all fairness, noted Furtwangler authority Henry Fogel believes that the Brahms 1st included here may be the single greatest performance Furtwangler ever gave that has been saved on disc."