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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Overture "Coriolan", Op. 62 (Two performances) *
  • Symphony #3 in E Flat Major "Eroica", Op. 55
* Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
Opus Kura OPK7026 71:36
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This disc contains the best and worst things about Wilhelm Furtwängler. On the one hand, the performances captured here show the conductor's almost visceral energy in the music that made him most famous. He has the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics playing near the top of their war era potential, and the sound could be far worse. However, exciting as some moments are, there is the trademark sloppiness and drag of the conductor's lesser accomplishments. The biggest question is, do you really need this disc?

I lean toward "no". Singularly unappealing brass playing and some strange tempo shifts compromise what must have been an absolute smoker of a reading in person. Naturally, the Funeral March is outstanding, but you can hear it to better effect on EMI (studio version, also from Vienna). The Berlin Philharmonic version on Music and Arts is also exciting. Frankly, most Furtwängler #3s are cut from the same cloth, and the question then becomes how effectively is the great conductor able to convey his vision with his peculiar mix of personal artistic inconsistency and ensemble fallibility.

Both readings of the "Coriolan" are good without being great, and share the same pros and cons of the Symphony. Opus Kura is working with decent pressings, but the sound is still nothing to write home about. Like the rest of the label's Furtwängler issues, the notes are not in English, except that this time, no link to translations in provided. This is a curious release of very questionable value, unless you're a Furtwängler fanatic fluent in Japanese.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman

Trumpet