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chrisg
11-12-2000, 12:37 AM
But first a disclaimer - my knowledge of historical recordings is very limited. For years I ignored mono recordings in general and live mono in particular; I just couldn't get past the sonic problems in the few I did hear. About a year ago I broke down and tried some Wilhelm Furtwangler, and was bowled over. This is an approach to the music I'd never encountered; extreme tempos variations within movements, powerful dynamic contrasts,
long pauses, and a tendancy to slow down (with a wonderful singing string tone) in quiet passages and accelerate through loud ones, especially at the end of the finales. Within a given work, and sometimes even within a movement, you'll hear some of the slowest LvB tempos ever, as well as some of the fastest. Hiss is very much a Romantic approach that somehow manages to make his interpretations add up to a perfectly coherent whole.

WF devotees recommend the Tahra and Music & Arts labels most often as the best sounding transfers. Pirate recordings abound, and are listed in scathing fashion on the M&A website. My favorites, all on Tahra unless otherwise noted:

Sym #3, live, VPO '44: Dramatic and incisive, I prefer this to the '52 BPO version, which
is recommended at least as often.

Sym #5, live, BPO '54 or '43: Very similar, with the wartime a bit more tense, the '54
overall a tad slower and more Romantic. The opening bars in both are very slow, with
long pauses between them and the start of the allegro. The movement builds with incredible power to the coda, gears shifting all the way. WF makes every re-entry of the
opening bars an event in itself. Mvt. 2 is fairly slow, but with blazing trumpets and a
long, drawn out ending that uses complete silence to great effect. The finale (esp. in
'43) starts rather slowly by HIP standards, but picks up speed as it goes, leading to a
thrilling, brass blazing conclusion taken at a pace that must be heard to be believed.
His '54 studio 5th with the VPO sounds fairly routine to me next to the live versions.

Sym #6, VPO '52 (EMI studio): The opening movement, taken astonishingly slow, is one
of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Gorgeous phrasing from the VPO throughout.
The finale, taken rather quickly, is truly a hymm of thanks to the heavens, with the ending itself drawn out gloriously.

Positively, therapautic.

Sym #7, BPO '43 live: The famous "wartime" 7th, unfortunately I only have it on the
Grammofono 2000 label in murky "Cedar-ized" sound. I found out later that this label is
frequently cited for pirating the work of others and reprocessing the sound. The
performance itself is thrilling, with a flat out finale; like the 5th ending at an incredibly fast speed.

Sym #9, Philharmonia, live '54 (Lucerne): Discussing the various Furtwangler Ninths is a thread unto itself. This one has everything, including superb mono sound. I haven't heard the equally famous '51 version, but I've read that in sound quality it's no match for '54. Underwater chorus is one crack I remember. Any comments on that?

I also have the famous '42 BPO performance on Tahra, which many a WF fanatic would name as the greatest thing he (or anybody) ever recorded. This is absolutely relentless
in its driving intensity; I hear it as an angry Ninth being hurled at the audience, which included much of the Nazi brass. This is a stunning performance like no other, but what I miss is the joy - many fans would disagree. I admit that here the awful sound quality really gets in the way for me, the other wartime recordings are much better.

Some other things to come, but I'd like to read others recommendations for conductors
to explore. So far, I've got Mengelberg and Toscanini on my list. Comments?

cg

Peter
11-13-2000, 11:33 AM
Like you Chris I've always had a problem with mono - and I have to admit my knowledge of historical recordings is fairly limited - I heard the Furtwangler 1954 9th a few years back and was impressed - I'm not so sure now though. I think the liberties taken would be too much to live with.

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'Man know thyself'

Kevin
11-21-2000, 06:04 PM
Sorry to take so long to respond to this. Some Toscanini you might consider would be the RCA Gold Seal Toscanini Collection Volume 25 with the 5th(recorded 1939 with the NBC Orchestra), also includes Egmont and Septet. There is also Vol. 23 with the same orchestra which includes the 3rd and the 8th, both from 1939. Also, don't miss Vol. 64 with the historic 7th and some Haydn with the New York Philharmonic from 1936.
The sound is good for mono and the age.

Kevin
12-18-2000, 12:08 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:
[B]But first a disclaimer - my knowledge of historical recordings is very limited. For years I ignored mono recordings in general and live mono in particular; I just couldn't get past the sonic problems in the few I did hear. About a year ago I broke down and tried some Wilhelm Furtwangler, and was bowled over. This is an approach to the music I'd never encountered; extreme tempos variations within movements, powerful dynamic contrasts,
long pauses, and a tendancy to slow down (with a wonderful singing string tone) in quiet passages and accelerate through loud ones, especially at the end of the finales. Within a given work, and sometimes even within a movement, you'll hear some of the slowest LvB tempos ever, as well as some of the fastest. Hiss is very much a Romantic approach that somehow manages to make his interpretations add up to a perfectly coherent whole.

WF devotees recommend the Tahra and Music & Arts labels most often as the best sounding transfers. Pirate recordings abound, and are listed in scathing fashion on the M&A website. My favorites, all on Tahra unless otherwise noted:

Sym #3, live, VPO '44: Dramatic and incisive, I prefer this to the '52 BPO version, which
is recommended at least as often.

Sym #5, live, BPO '54 or '43: Very similar, with the wartime a bit more tense, the '54
overall a tad slower and more Romantic. The opening bars in both are very slow, with
long pauses between them and the start of the allegro. The movement builds with incredible power to the coda, gears shifting all the way. WF makes every re-entry of the
opening bars an event in itself. Mvt. 2 is fairly slow, but with blazing trumpets and a
long, drawn out ending that uses complete silence to great effect. The finale (esp. in
'43) starts rather slowly by HIP standards, but picks up speed as it goes, leading to a
thrilling, brass blazing conclusion taken at a pace that must be heard to be believed.
His '54 studio 5th with the VPO sounds fairly routine to me next to the live versions.

Sym #6, VPO '52 (EMI studio): The opening movement, taken astonishingly slow, is one
of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Gorgeous phrasing from the VPO throughout.
The finale, taken rather quickly, is truly a hymm of thanks to the heavens, with the ending itself drawn out gloriously.

Positively, therapautic.

Sym #7, BPO '43 live: The famous "wartime" 7th, unfortunately I only have it on the
Grammofono 2000 label in murky "Cedar-ized" sound. I found out later that this label is
frequently cited for pirating the work of others and reprocessing the sound. The
performance itself is thrilling, with a flat out finale; like the 5th ending at an incredibly fast speed.

Sym #9, Philharmonia, live '54 (Lucerne): Discussing the various Furtwangler Ninths is a thread unto itself. This one has everything, including superb mono sound. I haven't heard the equally famous '51 version, but I've read that in sound quality it's no match for '54. Underwater chorus is one crack I remember. Any comments on that?

I also have the famous '42 BPO performance on Tahra, which many a WF fanatic would name as the greatest thing he (or anybody) ever recorded. This is absolutely relentless
in its driving intensity; I hear it as an angry Ninth being hurled at the audience, which included much of the Nazi brass. This is a stunning performance like no other, but what I miss is the joy - many fans would disagree. I admit that here the awful sound quality really gets in the way for me, the other wartime recordings are much better.

Some other things to come, but I'd like to read others recommendations for conductors
to explore. So far, I've got Mengelberg and Toscanini on my list. Comments?

cg[/BYou might also listen to some of the work of Erich Kleiber. For some he embodied the mythical Toscwangler, combining in balance the best virtues of Toscanini and Furtwangler, yet still possessig his own unique voice. Try his Eroica and 5th on the Decca Legends series with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The sound is almost like stereo, its quite excellent, but the performance may be the best rcorded version of the 3rd ever.

Rod
12-18-2000, 01:21 PM
Originally posted by Peter:
Like you Chris I've always had a problem with mono - and I have to admit my knowledge of historical recordings is fairly limited - I heard the Furtwangler 1954 9th a few years back and was impressed - I'm not so sure now though. I think the liberties taken would be too much to live with.


Wheras I have a problem with the very latest recording technology. The pseudo 20 bit stuff (pseudo in that it is recorded 20bit, but we get a lower resolution copy to work on the current CD standard). They are always right in your face - I always prefer a sence of distance between the listener and the player. If new technology means hearing the fleas on the pianists back, I'd prefer mono. Although perhaps this is more to do with the taste of producers than technology.

Rod

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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin