Thursday, 30 November 2017

Furtwängler in Beethoven and Schumann

Of the symphonies of Beethoven, I now really only enjoy the third, sixth and seventh. And anyone who has the Eroica conducted by either Furtwängler or Klemperer, needs no other. The two conductors are chalk and cheese in this music, with Furtwängler sounding warm and romantic, Klemperer stark and brooding (especially in the funeral march). I have just been listening to a new original tape transfer of Furtwängler conducting the Eroica in Lucerne (26 August 1953); it's a superb version, with a very reasonable sound quality and wonderful orchestral playing.

The CD also contains Schumann; the Manfred Overture, and the fourth symphony. I can enjoy Schumann as a song writer, and also in quieter music (such as the second movement of the fourth symphony). But most Schumann, particularly when he is rumbustious, passes me by. However, I suspect one would find it difficult to hear better versions of these works than the performances on this Audite CD. All three works are from tapes of public performances, and Audite gives the recent ICA Klemperer transfers of London public performances 1955 and 1956 an object lesson in how to transfer broadcast tapes. None of the periods of coughing and spluttering that so marred the ICA recordings; with Audite, just the very occasional cough and end-of-work applause remind one that these are live, public performances. Why some companies insist on keeping applause puzzles me; are there really people who sit and listen to applause every time they hear that particular recording? Or, even worse, people at home who join in the applause each time?

So now, whenever I want to re-listen to Beethoven's Eroica symphony, I have choices to make: Furtwängler in 1944 with the Vienna Philharmonic -- more forceful and in reasonable sound (with Pristine Audio). Or Furtwängler in 1953 with, presumably, the Berlin Philharmonic -- more mellow and thoughtful (Audite). Or one of my seven Klemperer versions; perhaps the 1955 (mono) Philharmonia, or the 26th June 1957 version with the Royal Danish Orchestra. Choices, choices. But it's nice to have options.

No comments: