It is difficult to
imagine a Tchaikovsky six getting off
to a better start than here. Thanks
to the excellent transfer, all the detail
of the dark-hued Adagio comes through
magnificently; the Allegro steals in
under the tightest of control. As the
reading proceeds, details, miraculous
in themselves (try the gossamer string
ascent at around 6’30) become part of
a whole that remains completely within
Furtwängler’s long-range conception.
Yet despite a feeling of tight reins
in operation and not letting the music
go, the sudden orchestral ‘scream’ remains
shocking. But Furtwängler’s approach
remains fundamentally Germanic, imparting
a massive feeling to the ongoing argument.
Sometimes the music flows along like
unstoppable molten lava. A pity there
is some swish towards the end of the
This Germanic view
does in fact impede the Allegro con
grazia, which remains decidedly unballetic.
Some listeners may find the period portamenti
distracting, but to my mind it works
perfectly; probably because the players
so obviously believe in Furtwängler.
third movement continues his view that
there is less light in this work than
frequently accorded it. This is grittily
determined playing. The finale’s opening
is bitingly impactful, yet it does not
have the searing interruptive intensity
of Bernstein (DG). Yet Furtwängler
is a master of the shadows - there is
no movement into clear, bright light
here. As the movement progresses, Furtwängler
goes deeper and deeper, even including
frenzy among the black emotions on display.
Not for everyday listening.
affinity with Tristan is the
stuff of legend. To say the Prelude
in this 1938 reading steals in is an
understatement. The anacrusis is all
but inaudible but it is there!
The inclusion of this as ‘filler’ is
instructive, however - and possibly
not as Naxos intended. The first few
bars are incredibly natural, as if Furtwängler
is breathing this music as his air-supply.
This is far more natural, in fact, than
anything in the whole of the Tchaikovsky,
whatever that interpretation’s merits.
This is great conducting. True,
the violins at around 7’11 have some
shrillness, but there is no doubting
the unstoppable momentum Furtwängler
Perhaps the miracle
of this Wagner is that for once the
Transfiguration’s emergence from the
death of the Prelude sounds entirely
natural. Of course it is impossible
not to miss the voice here, but the
feeling of redemptive peace at the end
is worth every second.
Transfers are, as always
with Obert-Thorn, expertly managed.
Hiss is emphatically not intrusive,
and the orchestral sound is possessed
of much body. Recorded at a time of
great upheaval and tension in Germany,
the emotional impact of these performances,
especially the Wagner, demands hearing.
see also reviews
by Christopher Howell and Jonathan Woolf