Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven, Anton Bruckner
Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwangler
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Size: 271 MB
Beethoven – Symphony no.5
01. Allegro con brio
02. Andante con moto
Bruckner – Symphony no.6 (II-IV)
05. Adagio. Sehr Feierlich
06. Scherzo. Nicht schnell
07. Finale. Bewegt doch nicht zu schnell
a monumental reading of the finale
As my introduction to the Bruckner Fifth, I listened to three different recordings to compare them: this 1942 reading by Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic, his other with the Vienna Philharmonic of 1953, and Gunther Wand’s 1996 live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic.
What jumps out at you in this interpretation is the finale. Where in the other two performances the last movement came across as long winded, its message and meaning not fully clear to me, in this reading it is absolutely gripping. Wow! I have never encountered a more impressive example of the interpreter’s art. Furtwängler reveals so very much of what’s in this score; it’s truly an epiphany, truly in a class by itself, and neither of the other two intepretations come anywhere close to it.
The second and third movements go together, to my mind, and they are served well enough here. But the second, slow movement is in fact better served in both of the other readings I’ve mentioned, and the third, the scherzo, is at its best with Wand. As for the first movement, I’d take Wand’s over both of Furtwängler’s offerings. Not only is Wand’s take on it the equal of Furtwängler’s here (it seems to me that Wand pulls out all the stops right away, indulging more fully in the opening movement where Furtwängler in this recording saves the fireworks for the finale), it’s also extraordinarily well-recorded. The recorded sound of this disc is remarkable considering its age, with the depth and breadth of the old Berlin Philharmonic’s sound adequately captured, but it doesn’t even begin to match the majestic, high-resolution, chest-rumbling thunder that leaps out of your speakers with Wand’s disc.
In sum, then, Furtwängler’s Berlin reading here is the best of the three readings by a comfortable margin. But Wand’s is not far behind (it’s just that Wand is a little plodding and muscle-bound at times, where Furtwängler manages to remain more lithe and graceful in this gigantic score), and has the considerable advantage of state-of-the-art recorded sound. As for Furtwängler’s Vienna Phil. reading, though, I didn’t care for it so much. It seemed too reserved, too careful, overly thoughtful and introspective; I think this reading with the Berliners is much better.
Give this one a listen, and commit the finale to memory. It’s just great.