Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard [Classical] Wagner, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Lucerne Festival Orchestra|
Furtwängler conducts Wagner
The Magic and the Panoply of Wagner
Thomas F. Bertonneau | Oswego, NY United States | 11/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I believe it is Mr. David Hollingsworth, whose many comments appear on Amazon.com's website, who says in one of them that the old recordings (I am paraphrasing) catch fire in a way that contemporary ones, even with their superior digital sound, do not. Mr. H adds that the spirit of archival performances often overcomes their technical primitivity and so recommends them over newer merchandise. I agree and would stipulate further that although the sound of old recordings is certainly different from the sound of new ones, it is not unequivocally inferior. On a website dedicated to his transfer-work, Mark Obert-Thorn explains that even the wax masters made electrically on cutting-tables in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s contain a great range of frequencies, lacking only extreme highs and lows. What the past wanted, Obert-Thorn argues, was adequate playback equipment. The digital age overcomes that problem by dubbing from the masters (platters or early tape) to the compact disc, which we can then listen to on devices capable of fully realizing the acoustic "inner secrets" of the originals. Obert-Thorn himself and a dozen other musical archeologists and restorers have proven their point by placing in the forum remarkable documents like the 1932 Stokoswki/Philadelphia performance of Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder" (Pearl), the 1927/28 Abendroth/LPO performances of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 by Brahms (Biddulph), and Beecham's vintage Delius (Naxos). The conductorial work of Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) lies at the heart of the revival of archival material. At least two enterprizes, Music and Arts and Tahra, seem to have been founded on the idea of resurrecting his art. Testament, a British label with ties to EMI, has also brought forth superb reissues of WF's work. (See my remarks on Bruckner 8, Brahms 1, and the Brahms Concerto No. 2 with Edwin Fischer.) The anthology of excerpts from Wagner furnishes more evidence, if any were necessary, for WF's supremacy in this repertory in the twentieth century. In addition, Testament herein release two unpublished Furtwängler performances: A glowing "Lohengrin" Prelude from Lucerne (1947) and a truly grand "Tannhäuser" Overture from Vienna (1949). Tender and intense all at once, WF's reading of the Prelude reminded me of Baudelaire's words about this music after he heard Wagner himself lead the orchestra in Paris in 1861: "I felt freed from the constraint of weight... I evoked the delectable state of a man possessed by a profound reverie in total isolation... I became aware of a light growing in intensity... an ecstasy of joy and insight." In the Overture, Baudelaire heard "graceful cadences and majestic rhythms... a feudal ceremony, a march-past of heroes, in gorgeous apparel, all of lofty stature, all men of will and simple faith, as magnificent in their pleasures as they are terrible in their wars." The poet's words serve as well as any to suggest the magic and the panoply that Furtwängler finds in the music. The "Siegfried Idyll" included in the program originally appeared on a 78rpm set. Its interest lies in its being WF's sole foray into this music and in showing him at work in the medium of the chamber orchestra. The two extracts from "Die Götterdämmerung," "Siegfried's Rhine Journey" and "Siegfried's Funeral Music," generate respectively tremednous exhilaration and tremendous pathos. With excellent notes, this issue constitutes one of the superuior entries in the Furtwängler revival on compact disc."
Wagner at his best
All's Music | Jackson, MI United States | 10/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wagner, as we all know, could not always be relied on to say the right thing. However, on this disc, he does, with the help of outstanding German conductor Furtwangler and the splendid Vienna Philharmonic. It's hard, indeed, to imagine more beautiful playing. Only the recordings suffer a bit from their age, but if you know the work all these artists do, you already are aware of the occasional sonic limitations.
For me, the "must hear" piece is the "Siegfried Idyll". Such a warmth of feeling is simply outstanding. If you know Furtwangler's way with this music you will enjoy the care given to these remasterings by the folks at Testament (NOT the brand of cigarettes advertised by Woody Allen)."