A representative introduction to Furtwängler's art
Marc Haegeman | 02/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"We are not exactly short on recordings by Wilhelm Furtwängler, and for collectors and aficionados of the great German conductor this box of 6 CDs with live recordings from 1944-1953 will undoubtedly be a severe disappointment. The only rarity is the (otherwise unnecessary) Tchaikovsky "Pathétique" from Cairo, 1951. All the rest are reissues and have been released by various labels in different couplings.This set is therefore mainly destined for anybody wanting a well-programmed and representative introduction to the art of Furtwängler. Except for the already mentioned Tchaikovsky, the "Rapsodie espagnole" by Ravel, and the "Symphonic Metamorphosis" by Hindemith, interesting but not really indispensable, the rest of the box is required listening. There are stunningly revelatory cuts of Brahms 2nd (Vienna, 1945), Beethoven's 7th (Berlin, 1953), Schubert's 8th (Berlin, 1952), Bruckner's 8th (Vienna 1944), and a formidable disc of orchestral excerpts from Wagner's operas. On top of that the Vienna 1944 recording of Beethoven's Leonore III is a real killer. The "Haydn Variations" by Brahms, "Manfred" by Schumann, "Don Juan" by Strauss, and the "Symphony" by Franck are equally rewarding.It goes without saying that the sound quality of these live recordings from the 1940s and 1950s is variable, although within context everything is acceptable and well remastered (There is some serious distortion though in the final movement of the Franck "Symphony").This set comes in yet a new limited-edition historical series "Original Masters" from Deutsche Grammophon. The liner notes emphasizing the rarity of the recordings (so-called "buried musical treasures") are however to be taken with more than a grain of salt. The presentation of the CDs in paper bags with a transparent cover isn't exactly a great idea either.Indispensable for those music lovers willing to find out what Wilhelm Furtwängler is all about."
One of DG's best Furtwangler compilations
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The reviewer above has done a very good job summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of this colleciton. Furtwangler was at his most inspired in concert, and fanciers go out of their way to seek out duplications of his work just to hear what the great man was thinking and feeling on a given day. that said, the sonics are consistently inferior to Furtwangler's studio work, which therefore involves a trade-off. If you are used to murky WW II radio boradcasts, the ones gathered here are fascinating, such as the Brahms Second and Franck D minor Symphony, which come from Furtwangler's last concert in Vienna in 1945 before he fled to Switzerland (purportedly having learned that he was on a Naxi death list) -- the Franck is especially fervent, so it's a shame the sound is gritty and patchy. Furtwangler didn't record all that many Wagner excerpts in the studio, so all the ones gathered here are invaluable, each as splendid as Wagner condcuting ever got in the twentieth century.
As much as I venerate Furtwangler, newcomers should first seek out better-sounding studio work. It's all in mono, but the sonics consistently sound better than anything Toscanini ever got. Now that all of Furtwangler's recordings, live and studio, are in the public domain, there's been a feast of remastering, also, making DG's work seem fairly primitive. With hundreds of CDs to choose from, there's no simple way to approach Furtwangler, but a good place to start is John Ardoin's book, "The Furtwangler Record," which badly needs updating and yet manages to cover the vast majority of his discography."