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Furtwangler Conducts Beethoven - Beethoven: symphonies no 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 9, Leonore & Coriolan overtures

Wilhelm Furtwangler Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Label: music & arts program
  • ASIN: B00001W09Z
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,876 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

M&A 4049; MUSIC & ARTS = BWS - Stati Uniti; Classica Orchestrale

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful Beethoven symphony set 23 Nov 2009
By Hywel James TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
While not entirely complete, this box of four discs offers an excellent and relatively inexpensive introduction to the musicianship of Wilhelm Furtwangler. The six Beethoven symphonies included here were all recorded by either the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra or the Vienna Philharmonic under Furtwangler during the Second World War and thus in addition to demonstrating very immediately the approach of this legendary conductor offer a moment of huge and terrifying historical significance.

The sound quality is somewhat variable and on one of my discs there is a tiny fraction cut from the opening bar of the Fifth symphony, but these drawbacks are of minor importance in relation to the value of the set as a whole. An excellent booklet based on notes by John Ardoin comes with this set which puts most sleeve notes to shame.

Highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storming the cosmos! 5 Aug 2010
Format:Audio CD
Furtwangler's interpretations of Beethoven were unique, and these documents of his wartime performances in Germany are astounding, full of unspeakable sublimity and fury. This 4-disc set includes live recordings of 6 of the 9 symphonies -- 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 9 -- plus two overtures. All of the symphonies are with the Berlin Philharmonic, except the 3rd, which is with Vienna. The booklet includes 27 pages of fantastic commentary by John Ardoin, from his book THE FURTWANGLER RECORD (1994), including quotes of Furtwangler himself on Beethoven. Ardoin lists the available live Furtwangler recordings of each symphony, and situates the current one vis a vis the others (the recent EMI Great Conductors release includes a 1953 3rd and a 1944 5th never before released). Ardoin holds this December 1944 3rd by the VPO to be Furtwangler's best. This March 1942 BPO recording of the 9th is perhaps the most powerful, but Ardoin maintains that the well-known 1951 Bayreuth performance is better balanced, attaining a more spiritual culmination, less infused with anger (see my review of the EMI recording).

Perhaps the most fantastic moment of all is the transition to and opening of the final movement of the 5th, which Ardoin calls a "sunburst of sound." It is a cosmic triumph! This is the sort of realization that Furtwangler's idiosyncratic passion can produce, and it is more than worth getting past the imperfections of the mono sound and periodic coughs to experience this powerful music with such vision and soul.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As intensive as a bombing 23 Jun 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Fantastic concerts. The only negative aspect is the noise of people coughing or moving around, especially during the the quieter episodes of the symphonies, which is frustrating. Otherwise, the 5th, 7th and 9th symphonies are simply astounding and unforgettable. I couldn't refrain to shed a tear several times, and that is very telling how tension is managed by the genious of the Maestro and the incredibly efficient execution by the orchestra. The drums particularly, are most impressive. I give 5 stars because I can't give more.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  39 reviews
121 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal Historic Set For Collectors 10 Jun 2004
By Jeffrey Lipscomb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
These are phenomenal examples of Furtwangler's art in very fine transfers. I can't imagine any serious Beethoven collection being without them. With that said, these are all live concert readings in fairly rough sound, despite M&A's fine efforts. These readings really put most of their counterparts in EMI's Furtwangler Beethoven set in the shade. However, for the average listener, it will be necessary to come to terms with your willingness to choose between the inspired readings here versus the better sound of later Furtwangler performances elsewhere. Here is a brief summary of this set's contents, plus a few recommended alternatives.
Disc 1: The 1944 VPO Eroica is an incredibly white-hot reading - quite simply one of the greatest Beethoven performances ever recorded. I first owned this on a miserably transferred Vox Turnabout LP that was so sharp that the Eroica was virtually in E major instead of E flat. M & A's transfer is correctly pitched and is the finest I have heard. However, I think that most listeners may derive more pleasure from the beautiful sound of the 1952 BPO version found on Tahra 1054/7. The performance is less intense, but the sonics are vastly superior. It is also far more committed than the studio reading on EMI.
This 1943 BPO Coriolan Overture is the greatest statement of the score ever to reach my ears. What extraordinary passion and commitment! The 1944 VPO Leonore Overture is superb - it's even finer than the reading in the 1950 complete Fidelio with Patzak & Flagstad.
Disc 2: This 1943 BPO 5th has been my benchmark ever since first hearing it on a Unicorn LP. The crescendo from the Scherzo into the Finale here has to be heard to be believed - it is one of the grandest moments in all of recorded Beethoven. This 5th is also available on Tahra 272, coupled with a superb 1945 Pastoral conducted by Hermann Abendroth. The Tahra transfer is a little better, but the difference is very slight. I only play this 5th once in awhile, so as not to diminish the impact of its rather "over the top" interpretation. For more frequent consumption, I tend to play the 1937 Berlin studio (on Biddulph 006) and the magnificent 1954 BPO on Tahra 1054/7. The live 1947 BPO (on deleted M&A) is also fascinating, if a shade eccentric. All in all, the 1954 BPO on Tahra offers the best combination of inspired playing and satisfying sound.
I am rather ambivalent about this 1944 BPO Pastoral. It's VERY dramatic, but perhaps a bit too much so for the nature of the work: parts of it feel too slow, while other are a trifle hectic. The VPO studio EMI is much mellower and has better sound. The 1954 BPO on Tahra 1054/7 offers what I feel is the best trade-off: a great performance in extremely good sound.
CD 3: This 1943 BPO is THE great Beethoven 4th in my view. The 1943 BPO 7th is Furtwangler's most dramatic account - it's my favorite. However, the more measured EMI studio account is also very fine, and the sound is vastly superior.
CD 4: This stunning 1942 9th is the most dramatic reading ever. The Adagio is Furtwangler's most expansive - what incredibly rhapsodic playing! The Scherzo is magnificent. In the Finale, the extended chord before the "Turkish Music" is wonderfully inspired. The choral work is intensely committed, and the soloists are excellent (except for Tilla Briem's high notes). As with the 5th in this set, I can't listen to this performance very often - it's almost painful in its raw power. The great live 1951 Bayreuth on EMI has a much better soprano (Schwarzkopf at her very best), far better sound, and perhaps a more optimal balance of mind and heart. Both, to my mind, are absolutely mandatory listening, along with the weightier, more meditative 1954 Philharmonia from just 3 months before Furtwangler's death (best heard on Tahra 1054/7).
This M&A set is a vital component of any representative Beethoven collection. It also features notes taken from John Ardoin's "The Furtwangler Record," although Ardoin's comments on the Leonore III in this set are curiously omitted. But I am sure that anyone interested in Furtwangler will want to have the whole book anyway.
79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No option for six stars..so I'll settle for five 3 Jun 2000
By M. Welch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
If this is not a five star set, then you should deduct two stars from every other recording on Amazon.
Unless you are a period instrument purist or a digital diehard (or maybe someone who dislikes passionate musicmaking), there is little excuse for not buying this set on the spot. Ok, so maybe, as some previous reviewers stated, the performance practices are probably not the same as in Beethoven's time, and the recordings lack the pristine sound quality of Conductor X or Y's most recent bland cycle, and.....WHO CARES! If you are the type that buys music for these reasons, then I will say a prayer for you.
I'd like you to try a little experiment, turn the volumn up on your speakers(if you have speakers), go to the sound samples area and try out the fourth movement of the fourth symphony. Even though we are limited to a minute of music, it is amazing how much drama and intensity Furtwangler brings out of this even numbered and therefore supposedly lightweight symphony. Most conductors can't even approach this on the more dramatic odd numbered symphonies.
The third and ninth symphonies on this set are most likely the greatest perfomances ever recorded, and the rest are near this level. The sound quality is excellent for 1940's recordings and more than sufficient to bring out the quiet moments as well as the big climaxes. One note of caution however, once you become accustomed to these perfomances all other beethoven recordings will start to sound like MUZAK.
91 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Performances -- Absolutely Acceptable Sound 1 Mar 2000
By Dan Sherman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
These are quite simple some of the very best perforamces of the Beethoven symphonies (and overtures) that I have ever heard, Furtwangler makes the symphonies almost terrifying -- perhaps appropropriate for their wartime setting. These are somewhat heavy performances, and sometimes the humor and high spirts of Beethoven is lost (most notably in the Pastoral). Nevertheless, these are absolutely unique recordings that will make you listen to familiar music in a new way and hear things you have missed before. This is a great investment, no matter how many collections of the symphonies you have.
As to the sound, unless you are totally allergic to older mono recording, these are very good recordings for the time with relatively little dimness in recorded sound and generally lacking any sort of congestion in louder passages, yes, modern sound would be great, but the ear quickly adjusts. If you have any interest in Beethoven, these disks are worth having.
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TRIUMPHANT 19 April 2001
By TC - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Ferocious, passionate, desperate, monumental... these are just a few of the words I would use to describe the "Furtwangler Conducts Beethoven" series offered here by Amazon.com and the Music & Arts label. Technically reconstructed by musical engineers using state-of-the-art equipment, Furtwangler's musical offerings from wartime Germany sound as fresh and inspiring as any interpretation of Beethoven I have ever heard. Although debate seems to have been raised concerning the quality of these Furtwangler pieces, true audiophiles who remember the age of vinyl will find a bit of charm in the occasional pop and minimal static displayed on some of the tracks. Accolades to the technical staff who re-mastered these pieces!
Furtwangler remains a bit of an enigma to audiences both inside and outside of Germany. His role as one of the most respected conductors in National Socialist Germany still elicits uncomfortable reactions from fans of classical music. Torn between dismissing him as a pawn of a totalitarian state or a musical genius who transcended the political era in which he flourished, Furtwangler fans have been comfortable to let the ambiguous conductor occupy a sort of ideological gray era for the past 55+ years, neither lauded nor condemned. Thankfully the staff at the Music & Arts label, and purveyors of classical music the world over, have decided to finally let the music do the talking! A resurgence in Furtwangler's work has insured that many more offerings of the conductors work are to come - hopefully from the controversial "war years" that marked the apex of his career.
The "Furtwangler Conducts Beethoven" CD introduces itself with Furtwangler's titanic offering of Symphony #3. Recorded in 1944 in the heart of Hitler's Third Reich (by then already reeling from massive Allied bombing raids and catastrophic reversals on the Eastern Front), Furtwangler manages to sum up the desperate urgency of the German people in their moment of national distress. On that night, Symphony #3 clamored, stomped and devoured everything in its path. I have, quite simply, never heard such a ferocious, awe-inspiring interpretation of this Symphony. It is unparalleled.
The comprehensive liner notes indicate that Furtwangler was obsessed with Beethoven Symphony #5 in C minor, and here we are offered an interpretation from June of 1943. Yet again Furtwangler pushes the work to new heights. The boldness of the opening musical volley paves the way for a fiery, ground shaking, thunderous reading of a piece that Furtwangler obviously felt was meant to bombard audiences into submission! Critiques of Furtwangler's work have suggested that the frightful stress and strain of the instrumentation detracts from the work - but that is exactly why Furtwangler shines brightest when conducting Beethoven! It is as if the God of Thunder himself has descended to deliver bouquets of lightning!
Symphony #9 in D minor represents what could be considered the most moving track on this 4-disc collection. Fittingly, it is also the last selection on the last disc. Furtwangler fluctuates between driving his instruments (and undoubtedly musicians as well) to the edge of exhaustion, to then turning back from the chaotic abyss to allow the subtle, sweeping portions of the work to lull you into safer places. It is recommended that you not listen to this track while driving, as you are likely to swerve off of the road! Recorded in March of 1942, before Stalingrad and El Alemein, before the monstrous firebombing raids of precious Hamburg and Dresden, Furtwangler seems to have understood the steep precipice upon which his entire country teetered.
The other selections on "Furtwangler Conducts Beethoven" are just as moving and just as powerful as the tracks I have mentioned. The tracks have been carefully selected and best typify Furtwangler's fiery brand of conducting. No fan of either Furtwangler, or even Beethoven, can afford to neglect the selections offered here by Music & Arts. Although the historical background of the tracks adds a unique dimension to the work, Furtwangler's interpretation of Beethoven is truly, truly timeless and transcends both the war and the era in which he flourished. Submerge yourself in this work, and you will forever listen to music differently.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storming the cosmos 17 April 2005
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Furtwangler's interpretations of Beethoven were unique, and these documents of his wartime performances in Germany are astounding, full of unspeakable sublimity and fury. This 4-disc set includes live recordings of 6 of the 9 symphonies -- 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 9 -- plus two overtures. All of the symphonies are with the Berlin Philharmonic, except the 3rd, which is with Vienna.

The booklet includes 27 pages of fantastic commentary by John Ardoin, from his book THE FURTWANGLER RECORD (1994), including quotes of Furtwangler himself on Beethoven. Ardoin lists the available live Furtwangler recordings of each symphony, and situates the current one vis a vis the others (the recent EMI Great Conductors release includes a 1953 3rd and a 1944 5th never before released -- see my review). Ardoin holds this December 1944 3rd by the VPO to be Furtwangler's best. This March 1942 BPO recording of the 9th is perhaps the most powerful, but Ardoin maintains that the well-known 1951 Bayreuth performance is better balanced, attaining a more spiritual culmination, less infused with anger (see my review of the EMI recording).

Perhaps the most fantastic moment of all is the transition to and opening of the final movement of the 5th, which Ardoin calls a "sunburst of sound." It is a cosmic triumph! This is the sort of realization that Furtwangler's idiosyncratic passion can produce, and it is more than worth getting past the imperfections of the mono sound and periodic coughs to experience this powerful music with such vision and soul.
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