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Not available in the USA.

CD: AmazonUK
Download: Classicsonline

Wilhelm Furtwängler - Great Conductors. The Early Recordings: Volume 4
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Lohengrin: Prelude (1851) [9:37]
Tristan und Isolde: Prelude to Act I (1865) [10:33]
Tristan und Isolde: Liebestod (Act III) (1865) [6:23]
Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Funeral Music (Act III) (1876) [8:24]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dances Nos.1 in G minor [3:00] and 10 in F major [1:57]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (1894-5) [15:05]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
Die Fledermaus – Overture (1874) [8:21]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
rec. 1930-36, Hochschule für Musik, Berlin
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111005 [63:19]


Experience Classicsonline

Since this isn’t a chronological series, it allows for some fruitful programming. So we can enjoy the Wagner sequence in close proximity (admittedly all these pieces were recorded in 1930 anyway), then have the two Strausses – Johann and Richard – bisected by a Brahmsian brace. Naturally you can programme these things any way you want, but I always think disc construction is something of an artful science. Maybe you’d have ended with a bonne bouche of the Hungarian Dances and sandwiched Til between Wagner and the overture to Die Fledermaus?
In any case the running order has a solid Germanic look, leavened by the variety on offer. The Prelude to Lohengrin has the expectedly powerful eloquence. The conductor doesn’t sound especially studio-bound though it’s fair to say that the 1949 performance he made is tenser. He was to record the Tristan duo for EMI in 1938 but these earlier inscriptions – made in the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin - as were they all in this disc - is even more magisterial, even more fluid in its sense of expression. The side joins are seamless. The final chapter of Wagneriana in this disc is Siegfried’s Funeral Music, marvellously sustained, borne up on the current of its gravity and solemn procession – but once again not superior to the post-war 1949 inscription made live in Berlin in terms of expressive bite.
It’s good to hear the 1930 Hungarian Dances. In 1949 he re-recorded them in Vienna, adding No.3 in F major. These ingenious performances are rhythmically speaking very personalised indeed, but they are bracingly different, and rather infectious. It’s also quite unusual to come across the 1936 overture to Die Fledermaus. Fortunately the recording has firm definition, and it’s strongly characterised, though sleeve-note writer Colin Anderson doesn’t like it at all! Six years earlier Furtwängler set down a recording of Till Eulenspiegel that rather set a kind of template for his subsequent recordings of the work, which tend to differ only in respect of intensity not architecture. These were Berlin inscriptions in 1943, 1951, 1953, and two in 1954, with one performance in Vienna in the same year, the last of Furtwängler’s life. Fortunately the 1930 sound is good, and the performance spirited.
With unproblematically fine transfers, this series proceeds in the safest of hands.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Maynard

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