This disc is last volume in Russian Compact Disc's fifteen CD
intégrale of the recordings liberated by the Soviet victors from
the German Imperial Radio archives in 1945. They were carried
off to Moscow with other booty and have previously appeared from
Russian sources on LP. With the exception of some Glazunov (Stenka),
ravel (Daphnis suite no. 2) and Sibelius (Violin Concerto,
En Saga) the series represented Furtwängler through the
mainstream German classical repertoire in radio recordings made
during 1942-45 with the VPO and BPO.
This is the only entry
that allows us to hear two composers who had some prominence
in Germany during the period 1920 into the National Socialist
While there is clearly
some groove damage to the Pepping master it sounds very good
indeed as does the even denser Schubert piece.
symphonies we may know from the CPO
cycle. His Second Symphony was written during the dark
days of 1942 so it was still finding its way when this recording
was made. Mind you it could hardly ever have had such an incandescently
intense performance as it receives here. It is stern and haunting
at first then develops a leaping ebullient athletic confidence.
It often refers back to the Regerian organ-loft though without
Reger's occasionally suffocating, flatulent and cluttered textures.
The second movement is calm, unadorned and mellifluous. It is
marred only by groove damage which sometimes produces a frayed
edge to the sound. The third movement rests on rustic play and
might lead you towards a Husarenlied jollity. Pepping
is however free of creaking ländler and clodhopping boots. The
finale returns to the intrepid character of the first movement
with more than a hint of Elgar second symphony and In the
Heinz Schubert was to die in 1945. That was three years after this glowingly
concentrated performance of the towering Hymnisches Konzert.
In this the orchestra - as if not imposing enough – is joined
by organ and the ringingly soulful voices of Erna Berger and Walter
Ludwig. This is music of grandiloquence occasionally falling into
Wagnerian grandiosity as at 2:10. Most of the time however it
is just magnificent. The two solo voices sing the words of the
Mass and the Te Deum. There is some lovely luminous
writing as in the almost ‘Vaughan Williamsy’ pages for solo violin
and the whisper quiet organ at 4:52. The trumpet calls at 5:55
might well be referencing Brucknerian refulgence but they are
elegiacally impressive nonetheless. Schubert creates a great bath
of interleaving string sound and the counterpointing brass grace
melodies have a Bachian splendour all their own. This loftiness
is sustained when the music becomes a boiling cauldron. The voices
enter at 17:00 with Berger's and Ludwig's sung - then spoken -
Sanctus being an eerie echo of Holst's ‘round dance’ in
The Hymn of Jesus. Berger's wailing Sanctus rises
from being piercingly nasal to fuller tonal fruit. From the gleaming
dawn of ppp strings at 21:33 rises a great fugal ascent.
As things become more emotionally heated Ludwig and Berger are
called on to confront the orchestra and rise above it in great
virtuosic streamers of sound. The music has a majestic stride
and rush as at 36:06 as well as the radiance of confidence.
There’s no applause
in either case.
There are general liner-notes
about the conductor but nothing about the works.
These are powerhouse
performances that are athletically affirmative in their reach
These recordings have also been reviewed here by Jonathan
Woolf in the Melodiya version.