If you only want one CD by this conductor this might be it,
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This review is from: Beethoven - Symphony No 5; Wagner - Parsifal Prelude and Good Friday Spell (Audio CD)
The great German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler was a conducting legend who some might claim as the greatest of all. His discography is one of the richest in the catalogue. Symphonies, concerti, operas, there are many that remain essential in the catalogue. But where to start? Or what single disk would one recommend to a collector wanting this for a collection. This disk might just be that. But it has something for the connoisseur also.
I will come to the main item in a moment, But the brief Symphonic Concerto here is unique in that it is one of Furtwangler's own compositions. A charming reflective late Romantic piece played by the legendary Edwin Fischer. Fischer was a pianist like Schnabel steeped in the German tradition, but if the latter was more intellectual, the former was perhaps more inspirational. In fact rather like the conductor himself, and this shows aspects of him less frequently on show.
As a Wagner conductor, Furtwangler, in my view, has no equal. Fortunately, we have a number of examples of this in complete operas. The legendary Tristan Und Isolde (Furtwangler, Philharmonia Orchestra), two versions of the Ring, and a Meistersinger. Alas, there is no complete Parsifal, which as the notes observe, is a work that was suited to the incandescence he was able to draw out of the orchestra. The two pieces, the Prelude and Good Friday Music on show here suggest this would have been a special experience. The Prelude has never sounded so numinous and spiritual.
Of course, the main attraction is the Beethoven 5, a work we think we know well. Furtwangler was also one of the greatest conductors of Beethoven also. This recording is conducted at a faster pace than his later recording with the Vienna Philharmonic. The Berlin Philharmonic sound has an astringency, and the music paced, well. In a BBC CD Review this recording was the historic recording recommended. (In many ways it equals their main modern recommendation, namely Carlos Kleiber's Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7). The famous victory opening has rarely sounded grander. The slow movement dances, and the final movements sweep through to fittingly dramatic climax. I was left feeling elevated
Of course there is a disadvantage in the recording with this performance being from the nineteen thirties. But the performances more than compensate for that. One gets a good sense of the balancing in the orchestra which is subtle and muscular. All in all a great tribute to this greatest of conductors. Good value also. If you only want one CD by this conductor this just might be it, though it would be an act of self-denial if only satisfied with one.