One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati








Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


cover image

Not available in the USA.

CD: 8111348
Sound Samples & Downloads

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Overture (1845) [14:02]
Prelude Act 1 (1850) [9:59]
Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey (Prologue) (1876) [12:04] Siegfried's Funeral Music (Act III) [9:17] Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort ... (Brünnhilde's Immolation, Act III) [19:37]
Kirsten Flagstad (soprano) (Immolation)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler (Immolation)
rec. Musikvereinsaal, Vienna 2-3 December 1952 (Tannhäuser); 4 March 1954 (Lohengrin); 8 March 1954 (Rhine Journey); 2 March 1954 (Funeral March); Kingsway Hall, London 23 June 1952 (Immolation)
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111348 [64:59]

Experience Classicsonline

Whilst recording Schumann’s Fourth in the studio Furtwängler became so annoyed with interruptions by the recording team that he announced the Berlin Philharmonic would play the symphony from start to finish and DG could take the results as they stood … like it or lump it (John Ardoin The Furtwängler Record, 1994). And before recording Brahms’ Second Symphony for Decca Furtwängler disagreed with the multi-microphone set-up and insisted on a single microphone, which producer John Culshaw, in his biography, recalled as undermining the fine Decca standards of the day.

Both Furtwängler’s concerns are evidenced in these magnificent Wagner excerpts, recorded for HMV/Electrola in 1952 and 1954. Take the Götterdämmerung Funeral March with the Vienna Philharmonic which develops ominous timpani strokes towards a powerfully realised crescendo, with all Furtwängler’s characteristic control of drama and structure in evidence. But turn to a 1949 live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic (DG or Music & Arts) and the music-making is immeasurably extended. The simpler microphone placement and comparative lack of intervention by the balance engineers means the opening timpani is truly hushed with strings and woodwinds slowly developing themes of grief and loss. We are left in no doubt of the sadness Furtwängler is communicating to his post-war Berlin audience. Then timpani truly roar, with that BPO ‘bowels of the Earth’ sonority Sir Simon Rattle remarked on over fifty years later, as the dynamic range threatens the radio microphones in a manner which is thrillingly true. Listening again I am also struck by Furtwängler’s rhythmic control, too little mentioned by commentators, besides his sheer dramatic power which is universally admired.

Standing alone the other EMI Wagner excerpts are also stunning but are again reference pointers to incandescent live Furtwängler performances which, incredibly, take the drama and even the sound to a higher level. Try, for comparison, Siegfried’s Rhine Journey in London 1950 or the Berlin Philharmonic Tannhäuser Overture in 1951 Rome.

There are several Immolation scenes all magnificently conducted by Furtwängler. The live 1937 Covent Garden is admired but I find Kirsten Flagstad expressively shallow. She was better in 1950 in the live Act III Götterdämmerung in Rome but the RAI sound is weak. The 1950 Milan complete Ring again stars Flagstad but surely the bass-light recording is anti Furtwängler’s unique sound and Walter Legge’s placing Flagstad so far forward of the Philharmonia in the 1948 studio recording is ridiculously unnecessary. This imbalance was corrected for this 1953 Philharmonia recording, made in spare time following the successful complete Tristan und Isolde sessions. As you do! Like the Tristan, the orchestral sound is somewhat muddy and Flagstad is helped here and there by the engineers. A BBC Radio 3 critic said that here Flagstad’s voice took on a Lear-like command but, to be frank, I also hear matronliness creeping in. Age is catching up with this Brünnhilde.

Almost all boxes are ticked in the live Philharmonia Immolation scene now released on Testament. As I said in my original review, here we have an Immolation scene which is the fusion of sound and artistry that admirers of this partnership have long prayed for. Almost everything comes together. Roaring timps, held back in the EMI studio recording, and exciting rubato combine as Flagstad in amazingly fresh voice soars to summon Loge to destroy Walhalla (track 8, 11:12). This is truly the stuff of legend. Furtwängler builds an impressive dramatic arch from doom-laden opening bars building with accelerating rhythmic attack towards an almost frenzied orchestral cataclysm as Valhalla is consumed by flames. True, orchestral details can be hazy but the brass and, in particular the timpani, have a thrilling presence. Furtwängler's bedrock basses and cellos are palpable.

Reissue engineer Mark Obert-Thorn’s name is a byword for quality so these Naxos transfers are not only clear but boast noticeably rich bass colours. So buy with confidence, but please explore further.

David Harbin












Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.