Since one of the most familiar features of Furtwängler's discography
is the pitiful lack of a commercially recorded Bruckner symphony
cycle we all know what we're getting here. But given the competing
performances that exist some separating of versions might be in
order. I will note at the outset that this M & A set goes
into the question of the editions used very briefly, with very
different conclusions to those reached hitherto, especially by
John Ardoin. This mainly concerns the apparent use by the conductor
of Gutmann’s editions in Nos. 4 and 7 and the 1932 Orel in No.8.
It includes Ardoin’s extensive and informed commentary on the
performances. One further point – the transfers have been effected
by Aaron Z Snyder; more on that at the end.
The Fourth is
the Stuttgart performance given by the Vienna Philharmonic
in October 1951. As a performance it is possibly superior
to the in any case less well-recorded one in Munich, which
was given a week later. The Munich performance is not quite
as responsive or as well played even though the immensity
of the transitions will compel interest either pro or contra.
The audience is rather restive especially, of course, in the
slow movement in Munich. But in Stuttgart the audience was
quieter and the orchestral sound stage was more immediate;
the performance therefore blazes with an extra intensity.
Ardoin noted that Furtwängler habitually used the Schalk-Löwe
edition but as noted above M & A identify it as the 1888
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 before - CD538
- and on the DG set 427 7742/427 7732. You may possibly have
come across it on Bella Musica BMF 967.
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
The Seventh is
not the one from Rome in 1951 with the touring Berlin orchestra,
which I have always preferred, but the (to me) strangely uncommitted
Cairo performance of the same year. Neither however is preferable
to the best version, the 1949 Berlin - a towering achievement,
memorably expressive. Still, the Seventh, here held to be
the 1884-85 Gutmann was the only one of the symphonies of
which Furtwängler left behind a commercially recorded trace
– the Adagio was recorded – and his way with it, even in Cairo
is to be savoured.
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; M & A going further to identify the
Haas modifications as being the use of the 1892 Lenau edition
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.
Furthermore the edition used is noted as being the 1932 Orel.
So finally that
word about Aaron Z Snyder’s digital remastering. He uses what’s
called the “revolutionary new harmonic balancing” technique
but beyond that M & A aren’t saying what this actually
means. I’m assuming however that it’s analogous to something
like Andrew Rose’s XR technique. I’m going to reserve critical
judgement until the full mechanics are made known but what
I can say, prima facie, is the amazing sense of immediacy
generated by the transfer process, whether by rebalancing,
or whatever. I played these transfers against some of the
ones mentioned above, also against Andromeda’s, and the results
were pretty startling in brilliance, definition and bass response.
I'm truly happy that you are pleased
with the results of my efforts to improve
the sound of these recording. The restoration
required a considerable amount of hand-correction
due to the numerous defects in the recording
media. In particular, there were quite
a few dropouts in the Eighth Symphony
which needed to be repaired, along with
the usual hum and clicks which afflict
most recordings from this era. (Actually,
hum is still a problem even in the all-digital
I wanted to address one issue in particular,
namely the revolutionary new harmonic
balancing technique which I used.
In all honesty, I despise this type
of advertising since it may imply knock-your-socks-off
audio to some, while to others it may
imply pure fakery. It's not Andrew Rose's
XR system, since I actually don't know
many of the steps in his process, but
I can say that I use a program which
Andrew first used for his restorations
and then publicized, much to my benefit:
Har-Bal. It's not a miracle program,
nor does it correct deficiencies in
a recording without a lot of human intervention.
It is, nonetheless, an extremely useful
tool to help the restorer get close
to the ideal equalization for a recording
by matching the frequency response curve
of the recording being restored to that
of a known-good recording. Once that
process has been accomplished, the user
still has to do hand corrections the
old-fashioned empirical (but, thank
goodness, digital) way. Since Har-Bal
is, as I say, "just a tool",
and since I use many tools to get my
results, I chafe quite a bit at the
advertising methods. I hope they don't
turn anyone off.
Regarding the editions of the symphonies
used by Furtwängler, I tried in
most cases to indicate the publisher
and the year of the edition used by
Furtwängler. Too often the name
of the editor(s) indicate something
which isn't really true. For example,
calling the edition of the Fourth Symphony
the Löwe-Schalk edition implies
that the score is riddled with alterations
done without the knowledge of the composer.
In actual fact, recent scholarship has
shown that this edition is truly authentic,
and represents Bruckner's final effort
in revising the symphony. In the case
of the Ninth Symphony, I should have
mentioned that Furtwängler modified
the dynamics in two spots in the third
movement to be in line with the now-discredited
Löwe edition of the symphony. Old
habits die hard. (Even Siegmund von
Hausegger, in the first-ever recording
of the so-called "Originalfassung"
of the Ninth Symphony, modified a few
spots in the score to match the Löwe
edition!) The case of the Eighth Symphony
is an interesting one, especially with
regard to the wartime performance. Furtwängler
never accepted Haas' insertion of one
section from the 1887 Adagio into the
1890 Adagio, and here, as in later performances
of the Eighth, he eliminates this section.
Even more interesting is the fact that
in the finale, he follows the 1892 publication
in two spots: the tuba plays its short
solo near the end of the first subject
exposition an octave lower than written
(as is normally done by a tuba) rather
than as written (the word "loco"
appears by this section in the Haas
and Nowak editions, but is missing from
the 1892 edition); and in the development,
a breathtaking Luftpause, found only
in the 1892 edition, is observed. Neither
of these two features is observed in
his later performances.
In the case of the Seventh Symphony,
I was given the choice of either the
Cairo or Rome performance from 1951.
Since the Rome performance came from
a set of lacquers, which, as is the
case with most lacquers, had rather
noisy surfaces, I opted for the Cairo
version. This recording was hardly without
its own problems (drop-outs, clicks,
hum), but the most offensive feature
was the severe compression of the dynamics,
especially at loud climaxes. I've corrected
these spots to the best of my ability.
Finally, I have to admit that I was
amused by your observation that the
audience in Stuttgart was quieter than
in Munich. While I must admit that I've
never heard the Munich performance so
as to be able to make a comparison,
I myself found the Stuttgart audience
quite noisy -- so noisy, in fact, that
I removed or suppressed many of the
truly offending coughs. I wish I had
had enough time to do them all! Yes,
it is possible to do this without affecting
the music, but the work is quite labor-intensive!
Incidentally, I also fixed the fluffed
horn solo at the beginning of the first
movement. It's hard to believe that
the Vienna Philharmonic could play so
Once again, thank you for the positive
reaction. It makes my efforts seem worthwhile!
Aaron Z Snyder
(BTW: I use the "Z" to distinguish
myself from all the other Aaron Snyders
out there. It's shocking to see how
many there are. One of them is a skateboard