is difficult to imagine more doom-laden Gluck than the Alceste
Overture featured here. Furtwängler aims straight for the
composer's emotional heart and hits bullseye. There is plenty
here to invite ridicule from authenticists, it is true, but
surely even the most die-hard period-instrument follower cannot
deny Furtwängler's excavation of Gluck's basic instincts - and,
in doing so, Gluck's ability to shock? There is so much to admire,
not least the positively beautiful string sound at around 7'33.
is not the only Alceste Overture from Furtwängler, but
it is the earliest - there exist versions from 1951 and 1954
also - not that one would guess it from the excellence of these
transfers (Ward Marston). The Mozart 'Gran partita' emerges
out of the Gluck effortlessly. It was recorded in the Brahmssaal
of the Musikverein with Walter Legge as Producer. Douglas Larter
did the engineering honours.
Wind Serenade K361 is given a reading of such gravitas yet with
such an awareness of life in all its guises that it surely cannot
be bettered, There is a transcendental rightness about it all
that comes from pure unanimity of approach. The players are
at once at one with Furtwängler and on top form. Warmth is the
watchword for the two slow movements, and indeed it is the Adagio
third movement that is the crowning glory of the disc; it is,
in fairness, almost matched by the Romance, the fifth movement.
If there is a criticism, it is that the finale (Molto allegro)
could be more unbuttoned, but then again frolickery was never
really Furtwängler's thing ...
Serenade, K525 Eine kleine Nachtmusik, is the
later of the Furtwängler readings; there exists one from 1936/7
with the Berlin players. It is a nice idea on Naxos's part to
balance a wind-only piece with strings-only, but it has to be
admitted that it is not on the same exalted level. Over-serious
and towards the end of the second movement almost luxuriant,
this big-blooded account simply needs more life. In fairness
the finale nods at last in this direction.
important release, well engineered, on the strength of K361
which luckily takes the lion's share of the playing time. The
other two items are of interest to investigators of performance
practice in various eras of old (Alceste) and to completists