Saturday, July 13, 2013

Furtwängler's Vienna Concerts: 1944 - 1954

Wilhelm Furtwängler, Wiener Konzerte 1944 – 1954 (Orfeo C834 118Y - 18 CDs)
The 18 CDs in this new collection from Orfeo d'Oro include every identifiable recording of Furtwängler's live performances with the Vienna Philharmonic, but no studio recordings. The earliest performances date back to the last year of the Second World War, including a breathtaking recording of Bruckner's 8th Symphony (17th October, 1944, using his own edition). The latest date to Furtwängler's final months. 
Enthusiasts will already have many of the recordings here (particularly the Bruckner, Beethoven, and Brahms performances), and the selection ends up being rather skewed. We get 2 recordings of Bruckner 8, 3 of Beethoven's 9, and 2 of the Eroica, for example, as well as a double dose of the St Matthew Passion. But these are all without exception extraordinary performances and the remastering has produced an impressive sound quality. In addition to the October 1944 Bruckner 8th, stand-out performances for me include the November 1952 Eroica, the January 1945 Brahms 1, and the January 1951 9th Symphony. I'm sure that I have them all already in reasonable remasterings, but it is interesting to listen to them here in the context of Furtwängler's long and evolving career with the Vienna Philharmonic.