Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1837)
Overture ‘Leonora’ no.3 , op.72a (1806) recorded Vienna 1944
Symphony no.7 in A, op.92 (1813) recorded Berlin 1953
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Symphony no.8 in B minor, "Unfinished"(1822) recorded Berlin 1952
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Overture "Manfred", op.115 (1848) recorded Berlin 1949
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, op.56a (1873) recorded Berlin 1950
Symphony no.2 in D (1877) recorded Vienna 1945
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)

Symphony no.8 in C minor (1887) Vienna 1944
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

"Don Juan", op.20 (1888) Berlin 1947
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Symphony no.6 in B minor "Pathétique", op.74 (1893) recorded Cairo April 1951
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)

Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943) recorded September 1947
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Symphony in D minor (1888) recorded Vienna 1945
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Rapsodie espagnole (1907) recorded Walheim 1951
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
"The Mastersingers" - Prelude to Act 1 (1867) recorded Berlin 1949
"Tannhäuser" – Overture (1845) recorded Rome 1951
"Tristan and Isolde" – Prelude and Isolde’s Love-Death (1859) recorded Berlin 1954
"Twilight of the Gods" – Siegfried’s Funeral March (1874) recorded Berlin 1949
"Parsifal" – Good Friday Spell (1882) recorded Alexandria 1951
Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic/Wilhelm Furtwängler
Recorded at various venues between June 1944 and April 1954
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON Original Masters 474 030-2 [78:35+72:18+77:00+67:09+77:58+61:38]


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This treasure-trove of a boxed set shows Furtwängler not only in his "core" repertoire of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner etc., but also in music we do not so readily associate with him, such as Hindemith, Ravel and Franck.

A number of the performances here must rank as among the very greatest ever committed to disc. The 1947 Don Juan on CD 4 is superb beyond description. Furtwängler allows the music its head in terms of impetuosity when appropriate, but also gives it such space and breadth in the more lyrical moments that the piece is literally transformed. Listen to the sublime way he draws out the cadence to the main central episode – the hiatus before the last few bars is daringly long and pregnant with sensuality (CD4, track 1, 9:35-10:33). Equally, the headlong rush at the final climax, followed by the collapse into death and dust seems – and I don’t think it’s fanciful to remember the point in history when this was recorded, i.e.1947 - so poignant and deeply felt.

Many other tracks soar to the same thrilling heights. CD1 has a magnificent Beethoven 7th Symphony, with dancing rhythms, processional dignity and rich humour. And the Brahms 2nd Symphony on CD2 is equally wonderful in its evocation of Brahms’ inner and outer landscapes. I grew up with an Ace of Clubs re-issue of Furtwängler’s Brahms 2, (though the orchestra in that case was the LPO) and this radiant version has all the same virtues of poetry married to structural discipline. Rob Cowan’s brief but informative notes point out that this recording was made in Vienna even as the Russian army was arriving in the city, throwing it into panic and chaos. Shortly after, Furtwängler himself escaped to Switzerland.

The version of Bruckner’s Eighth on CD3 is a magnificent interpretation, and particularly interesting in its illustration of the conductor’s attitude to this composer. In recent times, we have become used to readings which emphasise the epic, slowly-unfolding nature of these symphonies. That was not Furtwängler’s way - not, at least, in this, the most dramatic of all the Bruckner’s works. So often the conductor pushes the music forward with dangerous urgency, and the great climaxes in the first and third movements are moments of terrifying confrontation. The broad Scherzo, too, benefits hugely from this unwillingness to let the music drag, as does the prolix finale. The ultimate pay-off is a resolution, which seems to have been always ‘just around the corner’, rather than a jolly long time coming, as is too often the case!

The performance of the Tchaikovsky Pathétique is a pretty stunning one, too. Once again, Furtwängler gives full rein to the lyrical outpourings, yet deals brilliantly with the neurotic crises of the middle of the first movement, with the result that the recapitulation and coda are uniquely moving. Only the rather steady March is a little disappointing.

CD5 brings, to my ears anyway, the weakest performances. The Hindemith Metamorphosis gets a rather clod-hopping performance, though the ill-focused recording (of, I think, a live concert) doesn’t help in this witty and colourful music. The Franck Symphony has a powerfully dramatic first movement, a poetic Allegretto, but a disappointingly laboured finale. The final item on the disc, Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole suffers more than any other music from shortcomings in the orchestral playing – generally scrappy ensemble, some pretty appalling wind intonation, and so on, though we should remember that this music was probably quite new and unfamiliar to the VPO in those long-dead days.

The final disc contains some ‘bleeding chunks’ of Wagner – though on reflection overtures are probably exempt from that charming epithet! An exultant and superbly paced Meistersinger Prelude is followed by a less well played and recorded Tannhäuser Overture, still enjoyable and worth hearing. The Prelude and Liebstod from Tristan will be of special interest to those who know Furtwängler’s 1950s recording of the complete opera, and, as there, the Prelude is built up with inexorable power and passion. The same spirit pervades the darkly impressive reading of Siegfried’s Trauermarsch, and the wonderful Good Friday Music from Parsifal.

As I wrote at the start of this review: a treasure-trove. And I think these recordings will prove of special interest and value to those who aren’t yet familiar with Furtwängler, and want to know what the magic consisted of. It’s all here, you just have to listen: the elegantly flexible phrasing; the abiding sense of long-term structural awareness allied to an ability to illuminate every important detail; and, perhaps most striking of all, an ability to steer his players and listeners towards the most overwhelming climaxes, whether exultant, as at the end of Brahms 2, cataclysmic, as in the first movement of Bruckner 8, or sexual, as in the Liebestod. And all of this comes over clear as a bell, without the assistance of modern technology – except of course for the team at Berliner Studios who have achieved the excellent mastering.

An outstanding historic issue, then. I’ve already mentioned Rob Cowan’s useful notes, and I should also say that the booklet is nicely put together, with some entertaining contemporaneous press articles and cartoons.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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