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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 9 in C major, D.944 Great (1828) [50:07]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Waldseligkeit Op 49 No. 1 [2:46]
Liebeshymnos Op.32 No.3 [2:39]
Verführung Op.33 No.1 [8:41]
Winterliebe Op.48 No.5 [1:30]
Peter Anders (tenor)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
rec. Berlin, 6 December 1942 and 15 February 1942 (Strauss)
MELODIYA MEL CD 10 01108 [65:46]

There are six surviving Furtwängler performances of the Great. This wartime traversal is the earliest followed by the Vienna 1943. Then there are the four post-War ones; Berlin in 1950, 1951 and 1953 and Vienna in 1953. To the collector who may have a couple or just one the thought will doubtless occur that any more will be an indulgence or else a sign of incipient Furtwängler worship. To this one can note that the December 1942 performance is by a very long way the most wilful, free and dynamic of the six, a performance in which the conductor treats his canvas with the widest – and some may find, wildest - of brushes.

The expressive means open to him here are particularly those of detonative accenting and dynamic tempo fluctuations, especially pulsatingly exciting accelerandi. The element of granitic and implacable enters early. Those accelerandi sound breathless in the first movement and the destabilising effect they have on the structure of the symphony has also to be acknowledged. One feels the fissures between local incident and wider structural goals to be wider in this performance than in most other symphonic performances directed by him. And it is also true that in his later performances, and especially the 1951 studio recording, the classicist spirit and sense of proportion were very much more observed than in this teeming example of romanticist spontaneity.

But it would be wrong merely to write off a performance of such passion for this reason alone. The pastoral of the second movement is strewn with verdant petals – and there’s nobility here as well as depth. The trenchantly emphatic accents of the third movement are counter pointed by delicious string portamenti. And the overwhelming dynamism of the finale has a fluid dignity that elevates this performance far above more commonplace readings.

Earlier in the year the conductor joined with Peter Anders in four Strauss songs. Anders sings these with youthful virility. His fluent ardour is unstoppable in Liebeshymnos but he’s at his most perceptive perhaps in the long Verführung. Here, without ever breaking the line or drawing vain attention to himself, Anders contours the song with diminuendi and inflexion in an entirely natural-sounding way.

The series notes are generic and as I’ve mentioned before fail to engage properly with the doubtful attributions in this series. The wartime recordings have been issued before of course. DG’s boxes included them but didn’t include those performances of doubtful provenance. That’s not a concern here of course. In this Melodiya series there are many performances stamped with greatness and if you lack them these well transferred reissues – whilst not especially cheap – may prove attractive.

Jonathan Woolf

Melodiya Catalogue



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