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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Disc One
  • Symphony #3 "Eroica" * (December 1944)
  • Coriolan Overture (June 1943)
  • Lenore #3 * (June 1944)
  • Disc Two
  • Symphony #5 (June 1943)
  • Symphony #6 (March 1944)
  • Disc Three
  • Symphony #4 (June 1943)
  • Symphony #7 (October/November 1943)
  • Disc Four
  • Symphony #9 "Choral" (March 1942)
Tilla Briem, soprano
Elisabeth Hongen, contralto
Peter Anders, tenor
Rudolf Watzke, bass
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
* Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
Music & Arts 4049
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I want to start with an editorial comment. The Classia D'Oro label has recently flooded the market with a plethora of "historical" recordings. The quality of these varies from excellent to awful. Unfortunately there is no way to judge the quality except for the discs I have reviewed. This may change in the next few months. Gramophone has reviewed a few and found them wanting. The main point, however, is that the company is essentially pirating releases from other sources. One of the main sources they steal from is Music and Arts. Classica's work is easy and cheap. All they have to do is purchase one of M&A's CDs, add some reverb or increase the volume and they have a 'new' release. Since much of the material is not under any copyright, no one can do anything. That is, no one can do anything except you, my readers. What you can do is simply not purchase these discs. This is made an easier chore for you because the cost of Fred Maroth's discs (Fred IS M&A) is about the same as the retail price of the other label. I purchased these discs at the "local" Border's for about $26.00. That is about $6.50 each. The Classica discs average $7 to $8.

Let me also recap a point made in my review of the Classica issue of Furtwängler's wartime Beethoven 5th and 7th. I had not heard these before and didn't know that M&A had them. I was bowled over but the 5th has a 4 second pause between the third and fourth movements!!! Kind of spoils the mood. M&A does not have that "issue" and the whole is restored! The sound is better than the Classica issue, too.

Okay, let me make this short. What you have is Furtwängler in performances that are among the greatest ever. If you prefer Toscanini then this may not be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you are reading this at all you are probably interested in either learning more about his art or wanting to add these to your collection. I must confess that this is the first time I have ever really appreciated the 4th Symphony. Furtwängler imbues it with a spirit that links it between the "Eroica" and the Fifth. So many recordings I have heard treat the piece as if it was Beethoven-lite. The "Eroica" is intense. It must be noted that this performance took place just before Furtwängler fled Nazi Germany to Switzerland. It sounds like he had a train to catch. This 1999 remastering is a definite improvement over the previous release from Music and Arts. The sound has more definition and is not as cloudy as the previous incarnation. The "Choral" is one of the most interesting performances I have ever heard. The final movement almost sounds as if it were mocking a Nazi theme. In fact, as I have listened to it I feel a sense that the musicians may have been trying to convey something to their audience; that the whole message of Beethoven (alle menchen verden bruder) has been made a mockery. What I hear is not so much anger as frustration

I could go on. The booklet that comes with the set is very well written and will tell you a lot about Furtwängler's Beethoven. It also includes some of the conductor's own comments about the symphonies.

Get this set. You can order it direct from them.

Copyright © 2002, Robert Stumpf II