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2.0 out of 5 stars B for Bruckner, B for boring, 20 Jan 2013
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Autonome (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This broadcast of 10.04.1954, in great sound, represents in my view the end of the "First block" of Bruckner recording history. This block started in 1924 with Oskar Fried conducting the Kapelle der Staatsoper Berlin in the 7th to commemorate the composer's 100th anniversary (and this beautiful recording is available to members at the Bruckner Society of America), and this period prolonged itself with Furtwängler's war recordings. But because Furtwängler was in many ways unique and out of this world, it probably makes sense to extend this time period to the recordings made by Furt after the war - which means that the last Furtwängler recordings overlap with the recordings of Andrae and van Beinum and the "second period" of Eugen Jochum.

As far as farewells go (this 8th symphony was the last documented Bruckner symphony conducted by Furt before his death in November 54), this document is pretty dry and lifeless. Three minutes longer than the insane recording made in Vienna ten years earlier, it really does not move at all. The first movement is completely static, unmoveable, and the scherzo is similarly non-commital even if the Wiener Phil are impressive when Furtwagnler let the sound go. The slow movement is unbearably sad but there is no tension and no spine. The same could be said of the Finale. Some proto-psychiatrists will probably say that this recording is in a way a farewell to life, that Furt is more and more leaving his corporeal essence etc...but I will just give my humble opinion: I think he was just having an off day.

I really did enjoy covering this Jochum/Furtwangler 1930s-1940s and early fifties time period, since these two conductors were really dominating the Brucknerian broadcast and recording material at the time. This is all the more interesting that both conductors were friends and that Furt tried all his life to promote the career of his colleague Jochum, 16 years his junior. Interestingly enough, some of the first recordings of Jochum show some "Furtwanglerian mimics" in Bruckner (the 5th from 1938 in particular) that would disappear quite quickly. As for Furtwängler, he was a parangon of instability in Bruckner, sometimes amazing and unforgettable (8th - 1944 referred to above, to be heard and cherished at all costs, 4th - 22.10.1951 so singing and lyrical, Adagio of the 7th (1942) and excerpts from the 6th (1943) both in a great album crafted by Pristine Classical), sometimes bending the music to his own inscrutable moods (9th 1944 - manic, 7th 1951 - depressive, 5th 1942 - a travesty). As for Jochum, try to find his amazing 3rd released by Music and Arts (1944) and enjoy one of his only recordings with the Wiener Philharmoniker, a beautiful 7th from 1939. Don't forget the above-mentioned 7th, recorded by Oskar Fried in 1924, a great way to open the discography - and the US premiere of the 9th with Klemperer and the New York Phil in 1934: an obliterating experience...
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Bruckner : Symphony No.8
Bruckner : Symphony No.8 by Vienna Philharmonic Wilhelm Furtwängler
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