This disc rather sums
up the virtues and failings of this
Melodiya series devoted to Furtwänglerís
wartime recordings. The cache taken
to Moscow after the war included performances
itís proved impossible to document with
any remote degree of certainty. No one
has yet shown that Furtwängler
conducted Stenka Razin, though
it is true that much earlier in his
career he did conduct the Glazunov Violin
Concerto. As Iíve written before, the
generic notes address this issue in
a half-baked sort of way and justify
the inclusion of this and other material
on insufficiently rigorous grounds.
The DG sets devoted to the material
didnít include any such unverifiable
The list of preserved
Furtwängler Eroicas is a
long one. There are at least nine of
which Iím aware, ranging from this Vienna
performance in 1944 to two Berlin performances
in 1952. The only other orchestra with
which he left behind an Eroica was
the RAI. Still, this wartime performance
is, in my experience, the most overwhelming
and magnificent of them all. Itís a
reading of the utmost gravity and eloquence
and one of the conductorís greatest
explorations of a symphonic statement.
The power here is trenchant but not
overbearing. The sense of immediacy
is coruscating and the directional pull
of the music is pretty well unrivalled.
Its logic and force emerge as if anew.
And the Funeral March is here
a supreme statement Ė intense but somehow
still composed, still eloquently controlled.
The marshalling of horns and trumpets
brings an intensely nobility of expression.
This is a performance that releases
the intensity of the work in a way that
his post-War performances didnít quite
manage. Later he evoked a more classical
nobility which, whilst it proved preferable
in Schubertís Ninth, didnít perhaps
suit the Eroica so well.
As for the Glazunov
Iíve always understood this to be a
misattributed recording made by Leo
Borchard and the Berlin Philharmonic.
There are certainly powerful reasons
for some to have thought it by Furtwängler
Ė the freedom and power, the flexibility
and melodic elasticity, the sense of
almost improvisatory drama is reminiscent
of the older man and commandingly so.
But this is Borchard.
Given the foregoing
choice will be determined by your desire,
if you donít already have one, for another
It is however the most dramatic and,
insofar as these things are ever absolute,
the most intense. With the Glazunov
you get Borchard and a first class performance
thatís also on an all-Borchard Tahra
disc Ė but thatís not what itís claimed
to be on this Melodiya disc.