Pastoral hasnít survived in quite
as many performances as his Eroica
Ė but itís still a close-run thing.
This wartime Berlin performance was
taped in March 1944, which post-dates
the 1943 Vienna and predates the post-War
examples: Berlin in 1947 and 1954 (twice),
Vienna in 1952 Ė a commercial recording
Ė and the RAI inscription of 1952. With
so much to choose from one needs to
exercise a discriminating judgement.
In point of fact the
differences in interpretative standpoint
between the conductorís various performances
of the Eroica are on balance
more marked than in the case of the
Pastoral. With the latter symphony
itís a question more of degree. The
conception was, perhaps unusually, relatively
static or thatís how it seems on the
basis of a decadeís worth of performances.
Certainly there is nothing like the
level of drama and tension that we find
in the wartime Eroica, which
one can then contrast with the more
classicist instincts of post-War performances.
Or indeed the analogous case of Schubertís
Ninth Symphony which in wartime was
terrifically volatile and afterwards
very much more classical in orientation.
So for Furtwängler perhaps the
Pastoral offered less in the
way of expressive extremes.
That said this is a
slightly more toughly hewn performance
than the earlier one in Vienna. Dynamics
are attended to with convincing energy
and subtlety; harmonic points are brought
out with consummate structural awareness;
note the clarinet pointing in this respect.
The finale is notable for the forward-moving
excitement that the conductor brings
to bear and also the relaxation into
Elysian pastures - transitions accomplished
with all his accustomed skill. This
is assuredly a Pastoral that
admirers of the conductor will want,
if they donít already have the relevant
DG set devoted to these same wartime
The Weber Freischütz
consolidates the desirability of
the disc further still. Itís a cracker
of a performance of a favoured piece.
Heíd set it down on early electric 78
in 1926, again in 1935 and then other
performances exist from 1952 and 1954.
Of course the whole opera was recorded
in 1954 as well. This wartime performance
is a supremely educative example of
Furtwänglerís sheer power. The
tensely marshalled accelerandi are magnetic;
the dramatic saturation of tone and
the stentorian masculine drive are unstoppable.
Add to that the eloquent string curve
and the splendid wind principalsí solos
and you have an overture teeming with
brilliance and passion.
Itís probably best
in this context not to dwell too much
on the Ravel. Itís valuable because
this is the only example of his Daphnis
et Chloé Ė the Suite No.2
Ė but it really isnít idiomatic at all.
The sound, that had proved so malleable
and powerful for Weber, here proves
too congested and thick for Ravel.
Nevertheless itís a
collectorís item and part of a fine
disc. All this material has been available
in DG wartime broadcast sets, as noted,
so that might tip the scales when it
comes to pricing and other matters.