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Bruckner: Symphonies 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 [Box set]

Berliner Philharmoniker, Wilhelm Furtwängler Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Audio CD (5 Sep 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: MUSIC & ARTS
  • ASIN: B0012XIGZU
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,820 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historic in every sense of the word 24 July 2009
Format:Audio CD
Any Bruckner acolyte is eventually going to get around to the recordings of Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954), who conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the prewar era, then returned after denazification to resume his career until his death. He was one of the preeminent conductors of his day and, with Toscanini, would probably be the greatest of the departed conductors few, if any, alive today saw perform in person.

Furtwangler was known for his Bruckner and the hypnotic effect he is said to have had over audiences, although not much of that comes through on these finely-wrought remasterings of recordings that range in age from 1944-51. I've heard this quality in other recordings, where Furtwangler seems to suspend time. If you can find a copy of Furtwangler conducting Mahler's "Wayfarer" lieder with baritone Alfred Poell singing, you'll get an idea of what I mean, as the audience holds rapt attention while the orchestra dies away during the finale of "Die zwei blauen Augen von meinen Schotz" (translates to "The blue eyes of my darling.")

Furtwangler's conducting style was, by his own admission, supposed to evoke nature. He thought music was a force of nature and that one grew from the other. Compared to the way authenticists conduct Bruckner's monolithic works these days -- often with a stiff baton, a martial rhythm and little if any flexibility in tempo -- Furtwangler was by turn a mercurial mad scientist, often fiddling with tempo in ways people would be horrified to attempt today. You hear him churn up tempo more often in these works than you hear him slow down to a crawl, something I expected from the conductor when I only knew him by reputation.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great musician 1 May 2011
Format:Audio CD
There are lots of modern Bruckner recordings of outstanding qualitiy. We Germans appreciate Gunther Wand for example. But what an experience to listen to this intense rendition of music performed under the historical circumstances of a dark era coming to a close, a vibrant city dying. The Furtwangler-bashing that had been fashionable for quite a time cannot undo the fact this man was a great musician, these CDs bear evidence of what art is able to overcome. This set of Furtwangler's Bruckner wartime conducting are not to be got in Germany (at least I could not spot it), but it is an absolute must in every serious collection. The delicate way of digital restoration has to be mentioned. I recommend it it poor English but from the bottom of my heart.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historic in every sense of the word 3 July 2009
By Larry VanDeSande - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Any Bruckner acolyte is eventually going to get around to the recordings of Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954), who conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the prewar era, then returned after denazification to resume his career until his death. He was one of the preeminent conductors of his day and, with Toscanini, would probably be the greatest of the departed conductors few, if any, alive today saw perform in person.

Furtwangler was known for his Bruckner and the hypnotic effect he is said to have had over audiences, although not much of that comes through on these finely-wrought remasterings of recordings that range in age from 1944-51. I've heard this quality in other recordings, where Furtwangler seems to suspend time. If you can find a copy of Furtwangler conducting Mahler's "Wayfarer" lieder with baritone Alfred Poell singing, you'll get an idea of what I mean, as the audience holds rapt attention while the orchestra dies away during the finale of "Die zwei blauen Augen von meinen Schotz" (translates to "The blue eyes of my darling.")

Furtwangler's conducting style was, by his own admission, supposed to evoke nature. He thought music was a force of nature and that one grew from the other. Compared to the way authenticists conduct Bruckner's monolithic works these days -- often with a stiff baton, a martial rhythm and little if any flexibility in tempo -- Furtwangler was by turn a mercurial mad scientist, often fiddling with tempo in ways people would be horrified to attempt today. You hear him churn up tempo more often in these works than you hear him slow down to a crawl, something I expected from the conductor when I only knew him by reputation. In fact, Furtwangler's timing for Bruckner symphonies is more rapid than most, as you'll hear when you listen to the contents of this box.

When I compared Furtwangler's recording to my favorite stereo recordings, I found this (where editions vary I cited the stereo edition):

Symphony 4: Furtwangler 67 minutes/Bohm (Nowak edition) 68 minutes.
Symphony 5: Furtwangler 68 minutes/Horenstein 75 minutes.
Symphony 6: (3 movements) Furtwangler 36 minutes/Lopez-Cobos 40 minutes.
Symphony 7: Furtwangler 62 minutes/ Bohm (Nowak) 65 minutes.
Symphony 8: Furtwangler 67 minutes/ Jochum (Nowak) 72 minutes.
Symphony 9: Furtwangler 58 minutes/ Walter 59 minutes.

You'd expect Furtwanlger to be more rapid than Bruno Walter but not Jochum, the modern era (stereo) Bruckner specialist that was the most like Furtwangler in approach and tempo. This was one of the most eye-opening experiences for me to learn -- that Furtwangler's way with Bruckner was actually fast but not superficial.

These recordings eschew the 1950s-era Nowak editions that were championed by the likes of Jochum and Herbert von Karajan and few are the "original" editions often recorded today. Bruckner's symphonies are often named for either the editor (such as Nowak and Haas) or the first conductor to present them. The recordings in this box include the earliest editions of the Symphonies 4 (Gutmann), 5 and 6 (Haas), 7 (Gutmann) and 9 (Orel) while the Symphony 8 is a mixed version of Haas and Schalk. No recording here runs onto a second CD, making them all shorter than 80 minutes.

Everything Furtwangler does in this box is first rate and compares favorably to more modern recordings even though they are all concert recordings replete with flubs. The recording of 4, from 1951 in Stuttgart, is one of my favorite recordings of the "Romantic" symphony. It varies enough from the standard Nowak edition to give you pause the first few times you hear it. The playing is a little ragged at first, with horn clinkers a plenty (cleverly wiped out by this remastering in the opening movement), but this does nothing to diminish my fervor for this wonderful recording. Furtwangler's passion for this naturalistic music is clearly displayed in this, the Bruckner he performed most often along with Symphony 7. The Vienna Philharmonic is the instrument here, which I think is much of the reason for my personal fascination.

I offer a minority opinion on the Symphony 7 included in this box, recorded in Cairo in 1951. The Furtwangler Society recommends it secondarily and some critics have lambasted it for too much extraneous noise and poor playing. I look at this recording at one of Furtwangler's very greatest Bruckner achievements because of the overall conception, which is highly romantic, less mystical and verbose than many others. The Adagio from this symphony was played in Berlin's public address system the day Hitler died. It is, with the even greater adagio from Symphony 8, among the composer's greatest creations. I can't express enough how I believe Furtwangler's Cairo recording fully realizes this quasi-religious music to it greatest extent. Only a relatively fast and abrupt ending varies from what I would call a perfect reading of this music.

While not on this exalted level, the other recordings in this box are of magisterial projection. The Symphony 5, recorded 1949 in Berlin, and 9, recorded 1944 in Berlin, are splendid readings. The Symphony 9, in particular, has driven many critics overboard with praise for its often near-manic drama and darkness. Many think Furtwangler's historic recordings of another great Symphony 9, by Beethoven, are in a class of their own. Just as many think similarly about the Bruckner 9 in this box with its end of world drama. It isn't my favorite 9 but I don't argue with those whose it is, for it is masterful. The Symphony 8, recorded 1944 in Vienna, is a powerful, driven recording but not up to my favorite -- the 1949 Berlin version using Nowak's score available from Japanese EMI (Toshiba TOCE 6521, expensive but worth it.)

The one recording a novice, or anyone coming to Bruckner for the first time, should be wary of is Symphony 6. Like the other numbered Bruckner symphonies, no complete recording exists by Furtwangler. The 6 included here is the final three movements, the eloquent and heartfelt Adagio on one disk (with 4) and the concluding Scherzo and Finale coupled with Symphony 9. To me, this is heresy, breaking up the remaining fraction of a symphony like this. Fortunately, I burned my own set of these symphonies from earlier DG and A&E pressings and can listen to an intact 6 anytime I like. I burned Poell's Mahler songs onto my copy of 6, which to me makes a lot more sense than what they've done here.

While some have wavered over the quality of Furtwangler's only recording of 6, I find it as meaningful and satisying as any recordings I've heard from any era. People that are turned on by Furtwangler's way with these symphonies can search the World Wide Web for the fractions of recordings that exist of Symphonies 1, 2 and 3. I've seen these listed around the world but never purchased nor heard them. To hear them in other classic collections, try the new Volkmar Andreae collection on Arts and Music or the Criterion Collection (ASIN: B000C05XSW) that is out of print and more difficult to find.

Anyone that loves the symphonies of Anton Bruckner should own this box and compare Furtwangler's way with their favorite conductors. In most cases, you will hear a comparative edition that likely varies from the ones you've been listening to, and Furtwangler's way always make sense of the music even if he comes off more intemperate than someone like Gunther Wand. For, like this personal belief about music, Furtwangler was likewise a force of nature the world hasn't witnessed since his departure.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seven Veils Removed 6 Oct 2009
By Robert A. Alps - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I have collected and listened to Furtwangler recordings for over 35 years. Furtwangler's only recording of Bruckner Symphony 9 is included in this set. I owned a copy of it on a Heliodor LP and I have three CD copies, all DG. Yet hearing it on this CD was like hearing it for the first time. I have several CD's from Pristine Audio which has been the source of historical recordings remastered using the "harmonic balancing" technique, and I have always found them to sound good. These Furtwangler Bruckner recordings have made the biggest impression on me. Listening to the ending of the Bruckner Symphony 9, I felt for the first time that I understood what Furtwangler was doing and I found that I liked it more than I ever had in the past. There is a clearer sense of a hushed ending, not just quiet. And the final three plucked notes come across so clearly. I am amazed at what I can hear now. The endings of the 4th and 8th are revelatory. I hear things I never heard before. The sound quality in the 5th and 7th is amazing also. If you want to know what is going on in these performances, you must listen to these discs! Regarding the 8th, this recording is from 1944. There are two recordings from March 14/15 1949. A fine transfer of the RIAS recording (03/15/49) has just appeared in an Audite boxed set of Furtwangler RIAS recordingsEdition Wilhelm Furtwängler - The Complete RIAS Recordings. The other 8th (03/14/49) is available from Japan EMI in a nice 24-bit remastering.

Added November 1, 2010. I have just acquired a new recording of the Furtwangler Bruckner 9 from Pristine Audio ([...]) in France. Andrew Rose, who is Pristine Audio , specializes in remastering using a process called XR that is similar to the harmonic balancing mentioned above. The new recording is available on disc or download. It is also available in monaural or artificial "ambient stereo", which is the version I got on CD. I think the Pristine Audio sound is even a little better than Music and Arts, although both stand out from the rest of the field. Again I found the ending of the 9th to be much clearer than on other recordings of this performance.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master Brucknerian 17 May 2008
By J. Grant - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
No matter how many great Bruckner recordings you own, you owe it to yourself to listen to these performances. Nobody conducted Bruckner like Furtwangler because....well they couldn't. The power, excitement and tension he brings to these symphonies is unparalleled. It's very unfortunate that the first movement of No. 6 has been lost, or that would be a sure first choice. As it stands, the 8th is probably the best ever recorded (although his own 1949 & 1954 versions are just as good, with the 54 sounding best[Opus Kura]), while 5, 7 and 9 are anybody's equal, if not superior, though the pace of No.9 may not appeal to all tastes (it's my favorite #9 along with Walter). No.4 is good, but not quite in the same category as the others. Music & Arts newly remastered sound is quite good. If you like Bruckner or Furtwangler, you will love this set.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Furtwängler. The Brucknarian 6 Nov 2011
By New Cosmos International Management Group - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Since many-many years I am a 'freak' of Anton Bruckner. In an early childhood, we were blessed with golden performances of the Flanders Music Festival in my native city of Ghent. I am talking about the early, very early seventies here, when guys like, Boehm, Karajan, and Jochum were still around. I heard all the than available Bruckner symphonies performed in the St Baafs Cathedral of my native city. Sometimes Wiener Philharmoniker (with the young Abbado or Jochum) and also Concertgebouw with Haitink. Some years ago I came across some re-release of Furtwängler who conducted Bruckner symphonies. I was immediately struck by its enormous zest and power. Especially the adagios that I used (and still use!) listen in "ecstatic piety" with Herbert von Karajan. Some weeks ago I got the 'Music & Arts' compilation of the Buckner's 4-5-6-7-8-9 by Furtwängler.
Here comes a brief but profound overlooking of my impressions:

1. Symphony nr.IV. It happens nowadays rarely, really rare... that I am moved to tears. I can tell here..: I listened already three times to this 1951 recording. Every time in the 'adagio' (which is Andante quasi allegretto, here) I was unable to fight back my tears. The Scherzo is pure transcending... And the Finale is one of the greatest performances of Bruckner ever heard in my life. Including those legendary ones back in St Baafs Cathedral.

2. Symphony nr. V. I owned already an Archipel recording of it. It is one of my favorite Buckner symphonies and I have the conductors score, which I love to follow. Of course the Adagio is unsurpassed ever, by any other conductor than Furtwängler; to my knowledge. Maybe I miss a bit the "Karajan pizzicatos" in first and last movements. The scherzo is as vivid as you can imagine. However, here; also Jochum with the Staatskapelle Dresden is quiet interesting...
Tempo of Furtwängler is quiet fast. Which is Furtwängler's stone mark in fast movements, always (also in his Beethoven).

3. Nr.VII; I have the 1951 Rome recording! But I am SO happy to have the Cairo one. I cannot tell you (as a musician) WHY Cairo is better. Tempos and approach differ very little from Rom. But the Cairo version has somehow a bit more 'panache',.. I think.

4. Nr.VI. (Own copies by several other labels, also a rare publication of the Wilhelm Furtwängler Gesellschaft in Wien (Vienna)).
The second movement (with which it starts, due to the disappearance if first movement the tapes were given back by the then President Putin Administration of Russia to Germany in the end of the 1990's is again of greatest-of-greatest transcendence.
I must ad that I love to listen always (before this Furtwängler VIth) to Klemperer's I.Maestoso of November 1965 (issued on EMI-ART).
Maybe the apotheosis of IV. Bewegt, doch nicht zu Schnell (I am emphasizing the last 120 Bars or so) I prefer, Jochum with the Staatskapelle Dresden.
But this VIth as a whole, what there is left available with Furtwängler is, again an unforgettable experience.

**By the way, I like to emphasize here that the MUSIC & ARTS remastering is wonderfully done on ALL symphonies! Thinking on what crab I heard from say, Gebhard (Furtwängler's Ring of 1953), I MUST say here that the recording is WELL balanced, with a profound bass and beautiful high tones, in total absence of the shrillness of some 'remastered' 1935-1950+ recordings.

***I can tell you WHY it is, that so many of those recordings sound shrill in our modern loudspeakers:
those old taped were meant to be played on those (WONDERFULL) old MONO massive speakers (Radio or ... giant 'liquor' closets, for people who were really loving music and ..had a lot of money to buy this extravaganza!).
Those fantastic speakers had deep bass and midtones, but VERY few high twitters, like we have today.
~Secret: if you would put, say a Gebhardt recording on such a one speaker... the reslult might be just fine! However, there may arise other problems than... such as to few bass (which they took away from the original) and would result in a kind of 'telephone of the 1980's' sound.

5. Symphony nr. IX. Another unsurpassable record. I was struck by it from the first to the last' drop' when the hornist in the last bars of the adagio (III. Langsam, feierlich) comes in,'late' and unsure... which let me later on realize that 'everybody was so emotionated... due to the drammatic scenes happening in Vienna in October 1944, in Vienna'.
This is the most emotional IXth ever heard, in my entire life, I must say here.

6. Symphony nr.VIII. The 'body' piece of Karajan. He performed it shortly before his dead (also in Vienna, but in the Musikverein). I know this piece 'insight-out'... with many conductors.
Though, this performance, maybe not the very best one of the set:
I am talking about interpretation here (not the recording, or even not going into small details, in particular... which I could, in fact!
The first movement starts typical 'Furtwaenglerisch'... a steady and slow tempo. Towards the end of part one, which we can judge now due to the SUPREME sound quality of M&A (!) is a bit 'overblown', according to my taste and score knowledge.
I liked the Adagio.Sehr feierlich doch nicht schleppend.
#However, I am missing the 'Karajan' total climax and the 'Harfe' 'raindrop' notes. Maybe because this symphony was 'blessed', being performed in a Church
I guess, who knows St Peter's at the Graben, or Votivkirche (am Schottenring)? We know that Furtwängler loved to go to these particular two churches in Vienna!

*****Conclusion: a FIVE STAR indeed because it is a UNIC recording (yes the 6 symphonies performed on this record).
A MUST have for any Bruckner lover, and even as a first encountering with one of the greatest-of-greatest-masters that Bruckner was... Not forgetting to mention Furtwängler and his Berliner & Wiener Philharmoniker.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly remastered 20 July 2011
By David M. Weible - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
CD releases of Furtwängler performances have generally been plagued by murky sound, particularly those from EMI. These performances have undergone some sort of acoustic processing that gives a surprising degree of definition to the music. Of course, you can't make up for inherent flaws in the source material, on some pieces, the French horns are lacking in presence, in others the percussion. But a serious effort has been made to achieve an optimal result, and with considerable success. Perhaps it is easier now, but I had to wait quite a while before these actually arrived. In fact, Amazon inquired at least once, maybe twice, whether I wanted them to keep trying. Well, I'm glad I (and they) persisted.
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