Wilhelm Furtwangler: The Great EMI Recordings

By Galo, Gary A. | ARSC Journal, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Wilhelm Furtwangler: The Great EMI Recordings


Galo, Gary A., ARSC Journal


Wilhelm furtwangler: the great EMI recordings. Recorded 1938-1954. EMI Classics 9 07878 2 (21 CDs). www.emiclassic.com (Complete contents of all EMI releases is available on the web site).

Wilhelm Furtwangler: The Legend. Recorded 1948-1954. EMI Classics 9 08119 2 (3 CDs).

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen. Martha Modl, Ludwig Suthaus, Hilde Konetzni, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gustav Neidlinger, Alois Pernerstorfer, Julius Patzak, Ira Malaniuk, Eisa Cavelti, Margarete Klose, Alfred Poell, Gottlob Frick, Ferdinand Frantz, Josef Greindl, Sena Jurinac, et. at. Orchestra Sinfonica della Radio Italiana, Rome conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler. Recorded October-November 1953. EMI Classics 9 08161 2 (13 CDs plus Bonus CD-ROM with synopsis and libretto).

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D-minor, Op. 125. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, Recorded 30 May 1953. ICA Classics ICAC 5034 (1 CD).

Furtwangler: Symphony No. 2 in E-minor; Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21. Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, Recorded 30 March 1954. Hanssler Classic CD 94.215 (1 CD).

Wilhelm Furtwangler's recording career with His Master's Voice began in 1937 with a classic recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Wagner's Prelude and "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde and the Prelude and "Good Friday Music" from Parsifal, along Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, were captured the following year, with the Adagio from his own Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, with Edwin Fisher as soloist, culminating his pre-war HMV series in 1939. All were recorded with his own Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Unpublished German Electrola recordings of Brahms' Variations on a Theme of Haydn and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, made in 1943 with the Berlin Philharmonic, really cannot be counted among his HMV recordings since World War II temporarily severed ties between the British company and its German affiliate. Post-War, Furtwangler's HMV career resumed in August 1947 and encompassed an extensive series of recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Lucerne Festival, and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras.

By 1998 EMI Classics had reissued nearly its entire Furtwangler catalog in transfers of varying quality, with a handful of releases on Testament filling in some of the missing pieces. There were some notable omissions, however, including all but one of the late 1930s HMVs--the Tchaikovsky 6th was issued in 1993 as part of a 3-CD Tchaikovsky Historical set (CHS 7 64855 2). Furtwangler collectors relied on Biddulph (WHL 006-7) and, more recently, Naxos Historical (8.110865 and 8.110879) to fill in those items (the Japanese Toshiba/EMI label has also offered multiple reissues of material ignored by EMI in the West; Toshiba/EMI releases can be ordered from HMV Japan, www.hmv.co.jp/en). The 21-CD collection Wilhelm Furtwangler: The Great EMI Recordings gathers together much of the Furtwangler catalog previously reissued by EMI Classics (a complete contents listing for this and the other EMI sets under consideration here can be found on the EMI Classics web site, www.emiclassics.com). At the bargain asking price one would expect EMI, especially considering their current financial straits, to simply reissue previous transfers to keep costs to a minimum. Refreshingly, this is not the case, as many of the items in this set have been remastered in improved sound compared to previous incarnations. The new transfers are, in all likelihood, the same 96kHz/24-bit remasterings that EMI prepared for the Japanese Toshiba/EMI SACD releases, in which case the costs were probably heavily covered by their Japanese affiliate. A 24-minute video with EMI engineer Simon Gibson discussing the remastering of these recordings for SACD can be viewed on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfA61_noOQQ.

Furtwangler's post-war commercial recordings of Beethoven's Symphonies Nos. …

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