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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 9 in C major, D.944 Great (1828) [50:07]
Rosamunde D797 - Entr’acte No.3 (1823) [7:34]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Symphony), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler (Rosamunde)
rec. Berlin, December 1942 (Symphony); June 1944 (Rosamunde)
TAHRA FURT2006 [58:20]
Experience Classicsonline

Here are two wartime Schubert inscriptions from Furtwängler, the Symphony recording of which is well known, more so in fact than the Rosamunde Entr’acte. There are a number of recordings extant of the Ninth; the Vienna Philharmonic taped in Stockholm in 1943, the Berlin Philharmonic in 1950 and 1951, Vienna in 1953 and finally back in Berlin in 1953. This tauter 1942 performance is, as with so many wartime performances, the most unbridled, unfettered and in many ways most unclassical of the conductor’s performances. Tempo relations were distinctly looser in the 1953 performances, and this relative slackening does perceptibly alter one’s appreciation of Furtwängler’s changing priorities in this work.

The accenting in 1942 was almost explosive - an infelicitous word perhaps given the surrounding circumstances but one that does reflect to a strong degree the trenchancy and vehemence of these moments, as well as the more extreme agogic shifts that he imposes. Accelerandos are tensile, and almost frighteningly intense. His moulding of the symphonic fabric as a whole is malleable, elastic, localised but somehow these individual stresses - in this instance - far from compromising the work heighten certain expressive features of it to an almost unparalleled degree. It should be seen in the continuum of his wartime performances, which form a distinct and discrete component of his repertoire. In fact these performances register so anomalously in his discography that the differences between them and pre- and post war recordings of the same works are amongst the most shocking things on disc. In respect of the Great after the war the tempo modifications and relations were more temperate, although the conductor’s approach remained broadly trenchant and dynamic. But in terms of detail and overall conception this 1942 performance is unrivalled by later recordings.

The pendant here is the Entr’acte No.3 from Rosamunde taped in Vienna in June 1944. He did set down various things from the work, notably commercial 78s in the late 1920s and 1930 though there are examples from 1950 as well.

Tahra has got to grips with the Great rather better than did Melodiya (MEL CD 1001108) which was muffly and noisy. The extraneous noise on the Melodiya has been well noise suppressed or removed by Tahra; in compensation there is more hall ambience in the Russian release, but the Tahra is otherwise strongly to be preferred. I’ve not been able to compare DG 471 289-2, a two CD set, or the Archipels, principally ARPCD0119 though these last are likely to be average transfers on past experience.

Jonathan Woolf



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