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Furtwangler - Legendary Post-War Concerts
Furtwangler, Berlin Philharmonic, Ludwig van Beethoven
Furtwangler - Legendary Post-War Concerts
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #4

Here, Tahra gathers Wilhelm Furtwängler's best postwar concert performances in a handsome four-disc set shaped like an elegant book and refurbishes the sound. These 1951 to 1954 performances exemplify Furtwängler's art at ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Furtwangler, Berlin Philharmonic, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms
Title: Furtwangler - Legendary Post-War Concerts
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Tahra France
Release Date: 2/13/2001
Album Type: Box set, Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830), Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaCD Credits: 4
UPCs: 3504129105419, 713746198824

Here, Tahra gathers Wilhelm Furtwängler's best postwar concert performances in a handsome four-disc set shaped like an elegant book and refurbishes the sound. These 1951 to 1954 performances exemplify Furtwängler's art at its best. Sonics are superior to their previous releases, with expanded dynamics, reduced noise, and much more orchestral detail. But they're in mono sound derived from sometimes flawed sources, so don't expect stereo heaven. Furtwängler buffs will always argue about which performance of his staple repertory pieces was the best. Such debates are not always irrelevant nitpicking, since Furtwängler was the most spontaneous of conductors, constantly making fresh interpretive choices. The Lucerne Beethoven Ninth lacks the unique balance of the famous 1951 Bayreuth Ninth, but it's an excellent performance with a moving Adagio. The other Beethoven works are clear-cut choices, searing intensity matched with humane, spiritual values. The Eroica's Funeral March movement may never have been done better--by anybody. The fourth disc, devoted to superb Brahms readings, has the worst sound but is never less than listenable. Even those who own Tahra's previous issues of these works will find it hard to resist the new set, with its refurbished sonics. --Dan Davis

CD Reviews

Amongst Furtwangler's best
Andrew R. Weiss | Raleigh, NC USA | 08/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"These performances date mostly from 1954, the last year of Furtwangler's life. Within months after this performance Beethoven's 9th at the Lucerne Festival, Furtwangler would allow himself to succumb to pneumonia and be dead at 68. His hearing was seriously affected by a course of antibiotics during a previous bout of pneumonia in 1952, prior to the performance of the "Eroica" presented here. So one could say that Furtwangler, in these performances, was suffering the same hearing debilitation that his favorite composer, Beethoven, also had suffered. Whatever the reasons, the Beethoven performances in this set are spectacular.

The Eroica, with the Berlin Philharmonic from 1952, has similar contours to the studio recording with the Vienna Philharmonic of the same year, but the intensity of expression is magnified greatly. No-one did the Funeral March better than Furtwangler, and while this version may lack the apocolyptic fervor of his wartime performance, it is more balanced and the sound is far superior. I agree with the amazon reviewer: there is no contest, this is the best Furtwangler "Eroica", and one of the best of any.

The Pastorale and 5th symphonies are presented in that order, as Furtwangler presented them in concert, and come from a 1954 concert with the Berlin orchestra. The Pastorale is very slow, ruminative, moving to a different and more bucolic pace; again, it is similar to the studio Vienna Philharmonic version from 1952, but there is a lingering, sweet quality, almost as though Furtwangler were losing himself in Beethoven's countryside for the last time. The 5th is similar to his other post-war versions, but there is an a private quality to the piece, even the dramatic 4th movement, as though Furtwangler were speaking of overcoming his own private demons and obstacles. IThe sound on these is fine.

This brings us to the 9th, the performance which Furtwangler himself called his favorite and of which he said to his wife, "This time I had one foot in the other world." This performance is with the Philharmonia, not one of Furtwangler's hand-trained orchestras, but they are quite responsive to him. By 1954, the orchestra was already beginning to make the transition in its sound from its Karajan-trained origins to the heftier, craggier sound preferred by Klemperer, and it probably sounds more "Germanic" than in any other Furtwangler/Philharmonia recording I've heard. While the 1951 Bayreuth performance holds a special place in my heart and is probably the single greatest performace of the piece ever recorded, there is a special quality to this one. The adagio surpasses any other Furtwangler performance we have in its lyricisim and its spiritual quality. In general, "spiritual" is the word I'd use to describe it. Even in the more violent passages in the first and second movements there is a sense of inner calm and peace, of Furtwangler's soul looking back at the struggles of his life and making his peace with it all in this performance of his favorite piece of music. Rather than a celebration of human joy, the last movement soars toward heaven with a different, more calm and peaceful, divine joy. If his 1942 9th is screaming and agonized, this performance is its antipode. I can see why Furtwangler loved this performance above all others; so do I.

The 4th disc is devoted to two Brahms performances -- the 1951 Hamburg performances of the First Symphony and the Hayden Variations -- which are released in better sound on Music and Arts' complete set of Furtwangler's Brahms Symphonies. The Hamburg Brahms First is a stunning, wrenching performance, outdone only by the surviving stump (last movement only) of Furtwangler's last wartime Berlin concert in 1945. It bears listening, but I'd go for the Music and Arts set; you'll also get his equally stunning performances of the 2nd and 4th symphonies. Perhaps even more than with Beethoven, I can say you really haven't heard Brahms until you've heard Furtwangler do it.

Tahra rereleased this set in a standard CD-jewel-box format, and that set makes periodic appearances on amazon's French website ( It was on that website that I obtained the set, and I'd suggest you look there. From what I can tell, Tahra is not intending to rerelease the set again anytime soon. That is a pity. These performances of Beethoven are so special that they deserve to be in anyone's collection.

It's really difficult to give an out-of-print and hard-to-get set an "essential" rating, but there it is. These are essential performances; snap them up if you find them."
A treasure to collect!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 09/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

Among the annals of the Western music, this admirable historical compilation and refurbished sound should be included among the most transcendental achievements, not only of the Nineties decade, but the Century.

First at all, we have a priceless booklet, whose illustrations and invaluable information works out as formidable lobby for these four CD's.

The First CD includes one of the most overwhelming and unforgettable performances of Beethoven's Third Symphony. Recorded on December, 8 1952 in Titania Palast.
It's worthy to remark, the impressive dramatic lexicon, the multidimensional lectures derived from this mesmerizing version, imbued of a mythical aura, captivating reflection and mesmerizing approach. It's useless to realize the profound affection and perpetual fascination this work exerted on Furtwangler, as well as the Fifth, Seventh and Ninth ones, too. Indeed after having lived that hellish year and a half after the end of the WW2 in which it was demonstrated not only his absolute innocence, Furtwängler `s health and spirit `s strength was visibly affected by this horrid and absurd fact, that molded and even shaped his accustomed performances, conferring them of major tragic pathos.

The Second album contains Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth symphonies, recorded on May 23, 1954. Featured of enriched and if I may, wiser vision, plenty of dark poetry and taciturn accent.

The Third album includes his widely acclaimed Ninth of 1954, in which the quality of sound is so limpid and marvelously refurbished that you will be deeply shocked due the clarity and accurate engineering effort.

Finally, the Fourth album contains possibly the most extraordinary achievement ever made of Brahms Variations on a theme of Haydn and additionally one of the most famed performances of Brahms First Symphony, that was by far his favorite symphony of the beloved Hamburg's son.

This four CD set not only received the notable distinction in 1995 as the record of the yea, besides I would say the historical transcendence of this edition has been recognized all over the world by thousand and thousand people.

When you make this must-purchase, you will be enriching your particular collection, and you will be proud to have in your possession one of the most sublime musical treasures ever made.
What to say?
T. Avramov | Ceske Budejovice, Czech republic | 08/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Just simply, these performances are among the best of anything, anytime, anywhere and by anyone. Eroica is for me the best version ever - powerful and gentle at once. The Ninth is also for me probably the best ever or at least one of the bests. Fifth and sixth are of the same rank, typical post-war Furtwangler, power and subtility and some kind of mystical vibes. War recordings are much more running, wilder. Brahms First is fantastic, however I prefer 1947 version from Lucerne. So this is maybe in one pack the greatest music one can ever buy (depending on his or her taste, of course)."