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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 4 in E flat Romantic (1878-80) [63:59]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Munich, 29 October 1951
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major (1876) [68:34]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Berlin, 25-28 October 1942
Symphony No. 6 in A major (1879-81) minus the first movement [36:11]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Berlin, 13-16 November 1943
Symphony No. 7 in E major (1881-84) [63:52]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Rome, 1 May 1951
Symphony No. 8 in C minor (1884-87, rev. 1889-90) [77:08]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Vienna, 17 October 1944
Symphony No 9 in D minor, (1891-1896) [59:00]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Berlin 7 October 1944
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Nocturnes (1899): Nuages [7:30]; Fêtes [7:01]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Rome, 1 May 1951
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tannhäuser; Overture (1845) [13:34]
Orquesta Sinfonica Venezuela
rec. Caracas, 21 March 1954
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Rosamunde; Ballet Music No.2 [5:43]; Entr’acte No.3 (1820) [6:46]
Teatro Colón Orchestra
rec. Buenos Aires, 5 May 1950
Wilhelm Furtwängler
ANDROMEDA ANDRCD 9008 [6 CDs: 63:59 + 68:34 + 76:49 + 63:52 + 77:08 + 59:00]


Let me add one more to life’s two certainties; taxes, death and bloody hard work with Andromeda. These people are like basking sharks, forever doomed to swim the discographic depths jaws open in search of reusable plankton. They’ve recently gone mad and issued two huge sets devoted to surviving live Bruckner from Knappertsbusch and, as here, Furtwängler. They bulk out the sets with weird, undigested morsels; Rosamunde and two of Debussy’s Nocturnes in this one alongside the rather more explicable Tannhäuser overture - but the recording from Caracas. Fêtes is unidiomatic; Furtwängler’s attitude to Debussy was in any case simultaneously arrogant and provincial.

Since one of the most familiar features of Furtwängler’s discography is the pitiful lack of a commercially recorded complete Bruckner symphony we all know what we’re getting here. But let me spell it out for you anyway. These particular Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic performances are really too well trodden by now to cause any surprises but you’ll want to know what’s on offer.

The Fourth is the Munich performance by the Vienna Phil given in October 1951. It’s been out often enough – older timers might have caught it on Priceless D14228, Palette PAL1074 or on Virtuoso 369-7372. Newer comers will have picked it up on Orfeo C559 022 1 – a two CD set. As a performance it is probably inferior to the better recorded one in Stuttgart, which was given a week earlier. This Munich performance is not quite as responsive or as well played. Nevertheless the immensity of the transitions will compel interest either pro or contra. The audience is rather restive especially, of course, in the slow movement. As usual he plays the Schalk-Löwe edition.

The Fifth is one of four wartime broadcasts in this set. It was given in Berlin in October 1942. Others find the actual sound splendid but I find it rather occluded for its time. The heft of it however still registers powerfully. And the performance is better performed and one should probably concede better conducted than the post-war Vienna Philharmonic performance from Salzburg. In Berlin things are tougher hewn and powerfully impressive; the audience coughs and horn fluffs are here insignificant. This performance has been out on Music and Arts CD538 and on the DG set 427 7742/427 7732. You may possibly have come across it on Bella Musica BMF 967.

Unfortunately the first movement of the Sixth has not survived. In any case this wasn’t a work which the conductor found especially congenial. He first performed it shortly before this broadcast – November 1943 – and then never returned to it. This is the only survivor and the more to be valued for that reason but obviously recommendation is limited by reason of its being a torso. It’s been out on Tahra.

The Seventh was on Hunt CDWFE362 and Music and Arts CD698. This one is from Rome 1951 with the touring Berlin orchestra which I have always preferred to the strangely uncommitted Cairo performance of the same year. Neither however is preferable to the best version, the 1949 Berlin – a towering achievement, memorably expressive.

No.8 is with the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded there in October 1944, ten days after the final recording in this set, that of the Ninth Symphony. The Eighth was on Toshiba CE28 5757-8, also on DG (Japan) POCC2346 and probably most usually for the majority Music and Arts CD764 and Tahra FURT 1084-1087. This one has a blazing authority and commitment; the adagio is immense and tragic, unerringly and compellingly directed. The sound is immediate. He uses the modified Haas edition here whereas later in Vienna he used the Schalk.

The Ninth was on DG (Japan) POCC 2347 and DG 445 418-2GX2 and Music and Arts CD 730. It’s slightly less well recorded than the Eighth but it is the only surviving example of his way with this symphony. We know from his own testimony that a performance in St Florian three days later than this preserved one was of great significance to him. But this one could scarcely have been less fine, so intense and searing is the resultant performance. This is probably the most consistently impressive and utterly necessary of all Furtwängler Bruckner recordings.

Andromeda is not known for effecting any significant changes to source material. But the advantages of this set, are twofold - price and drawing together disparate material into one box.

Jonathan Woolf


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