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Furtwängler: Best of the World War II Legacy*4 CDs Special Price* Box set

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Oct. 28 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: SRI CANADA
  • ASIN: B00001W09Z
  • In-Print Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,498 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Disc: 1
1. Symphony #3 In Eb, Op. 55: I. Allegro con Brio - Wilhelm Furtwangler
Disc: 2
1. Sym No.5 in c, Op.67: I. Allegro Con Brio

Product Description

Product Description

These are the best World War II performances of Beethoven's symphonies under the baton of Furtw„ngler. Previously released versions on our label were acclaimed in Fanfare, American Record Guide, Pulse!, Absolute Sound, Diapason, Musica, and numerous other journals. Symphony No. 9 has been completely re-mastered for this edition by Aaron Z. Snyder from a new source and sounds better than any prior issue.


These may be the most gripping performances of Beethoven's symphonies you'll ever hear. No, not necessarily the most enjoyable or even the most accurate, but gripping--to say the least. In these wartime performances of Symphonies Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9, Wilhelm Furtwängler is at his most expressive, angry self. Conducting six of the world's greatest symphonies for audiences in Nazi Germany, Furtwängler has an inner turmoil that seems to shoot straight through his baton. He drives the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics to the edge of disaster, but miraculously they keep up--rising to the occasion. The Eroica and the Ninth are particularly emotion-filled; the latter features the great Bruno Kittel Choir and the BPO in fine form, but they--like everyone else here--are overshadowed by the conductor's bipolar mood swings and furious pacings. Brace yourself. These are shocking, awesome, thought-provoking performances that--thanks to a great remastering--have never sounded better. --Jason Verlinde

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD
These are phenomenal examples of Furtwangler's art in very fine transfers. I can't imagine any serious Beethoven collection being without them. With that said, these are all live concert readings in fairly rough sound, despite M&A's fine efforts. These readings really put most of their counterparts in EMI's Furtwangler Beethoven set in the shade. However, for the average listener, it will be necessary to come to terms with your willingness to choose between the inspired readings here versus the better sound of later Furtwangler performances elsewhere. Here is a brief summary of this set's contents, plus a few recommended alternatives.
Disc 1: The 1944 VPO Eroica is an incredibly white-hot reading - quite simply one of the greatest Beethoven performances ever recorded. I first owned this on a miserably transferred Vox Turnabout LP that was so sharp that the Eroica was virtually in E major instead of E flat. M & A's transfer is correctly pitched and is the finest I have heard. However, I think that most listeners may derive more pleasure from the beautiful sound of the 1952 BPO version found on Tahra 1054/7. The performance is less intense, but the sonics are vastly superior. It is also far more committed than the studio reading on EMI.
This 1943 BPO Coriolan Overture is the greatest statement of the score ever to reach my ears. What extraordinary passion and commitment! The 1944 VPO Leonore Overture is superb - it's even finer than the reading in the 1950 complete Fidelio with Patzak & Flagstad.
Disc 2: This 1943 BPO 5th has been my benchmark ever since first hearing it on a Unicorn LP. The crescendo from the Scherzo into the Finale here has to be heard to be believed - it is one of the grandest moments in all of recorded Beethoven.
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Format: Audio CD
This is the cream of the crop of Furtwangler's wartime recordings. As many other reviewers have said, there is a white hot intensity here that has not been equalled by anyone in the sixty years since. However, what I would like to point out is that here you not only have great emotional expressiveness (more like an emotional explosion, especially in the Ninth), but you have great nobility and spirituality, in a way that only Furtwangler could achieve. I would like to specially mention the recordings of Eroica, the Coriolan Overture, and the Ninth in this regard. The first movement of Eroica is so perfectly paced here. Instead of the rather indiscriminate Allegro con Brio of Toscanini and most other conductors, here we have a deep, thoughtful performance, that starts at a deliberate pace, and gradually accelerates to a brilliant, thrilling climax. Also this is by far the most powerful Funeral March that I have ever heard. After I had listened to it when I first got this set, someone noticed that I looked upset; when I took a breath, I noticed not only that I was very depressed, but that my teeth hurt: the performance was so powerfully tragic that I had been grating my teeth, and was holding back tears! The highlight of this set has to be the wartime Ninth. Already the tone is set at the beginning of the first movement, with sort of a haze, and with strings playing descending fifths once in a while: as Furtwangler himself observed, what we hear is the primeval chaos. Furtwangler's primary interpretive tool here is the choice of the tempo, which gradually picks up until the theme burts forth with great force. The third movement is so beautiful.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
I have not made my way through the entire set yet, but am moved to write about 7th and 9th.
The first movement of the 7th opens with tremendous energy. The second movement seems to stalk the nervously coughing audience, dancing its beautiful, ominous way among them.
The first time I heard the 9th was on my commute home. The third movement is sublime, heartbreaking -- I was just not ready for the affect it had on me. The music has such a gentle, compassionate, at times tragic voice, ultimately building in power to remind you that through the music you are touching the infinite, both terrible and beautiful beyond comprehension, and then returning to gentleness again after revealing the weight of its truth.
And then there's the historical context. I think that anyone who wants to gain insight into Germany, its extremes, brilliance, capacities for ecstacy and darkness, could do worse than experience this recording. I feel that I understand the country and its soul better for having heard this material.
The sound quality on the 7th and 9th is something you adapt to. For some reason the Germans taped with a high recording level so that the loud passages distorted. The sound on the 5th is much better. That said, Maggi Payne and M&A have done a superb job of reconstructing the sound from these early tape recordings. I'm very grateful to them for doing this important work.
As an aside, it's interesting to read Furtwangler's response to those advocating a literal approach to interpreting Beethoven in the accompanying notes.
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