BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 – Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/Elsa Cavelti/Ernst Haefliger/Otto Edelmann/ Festwochenchor/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Wilhelm Furtwängler – Tahra

by | Jul 29, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 – Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/ Elsa Cavelti/Ernst Haefliger/Otto Edelmann/ Festwochenchor/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Wilhelm Furtwängler – Tahra Mono SACD FURT 2001, 72 min. *****:

For their very first SACD the Tahra classical reissue label has decided to reissue a new hi-res mastering of their signature CD that won a Gramophone Award in 1995 and has been most popular with music lovers. This recording, one of nine existing live recordings of Furtwängler conducting the Ninth, was made in Lucerne, Switzerland in 1954 just three months before the death of the conductor. It was available on LP, but in compromised sound. The 1994 CD release by Tahra improved on the fidelity, but it was felt that only with SACD could the full sonic experience of the original tapes be realized.  Here is our earlier more detailed review of the CD version. [Gary and I disagree about the bass end of the recording. If it wasn’t deliberately filtered out on the SACD, our differing impressions might be because I have a subwoofer and my main speakers go down to 26 Hz whereas Gary’s don’t…Ed.]

 
The recording most often referred to when one thinks of Furtwangler’s unique interpretation of the massive Ninth is the one he conducted in Bayreuth in 1951, though there is also a valued recording from Berlin in 1942. (I’d rather not think of the dark irony of this great pean to the brotherhood of all mankind being performed in the capital of Nazi Germany in 1942.)  The Lucerne performance is less violent than some of the earlier versions, with greater attention to details in the score, which are brought out with great clarity by the recording. The winds come thru more strongly than some of the other versions, but the real revelation is the gorgeous clarity of the four top vocal soloists. They have almost a three-dimensional quality. The Ode to Joy becomes one of the most heavenly and transporting versions in the history of recording. The pacing never lags, it seems almost driven but not in a violent fashion. The closing instrumental measures race to a breathless conclusion.

There should be some credit for the audio engineers of the Swiss Radio involved in this landmark live recording.  It has some of the qualities of Rudy Van Gelder’s “deep mono” recordings; many listeners would probably never guess this was not a stereo recording. However, the extreme treble is a bit steely and deep bass frequencies are absent.  If you have access to that audiophile bane of tone controls you might want to use them judiciously on this SACD.

 — John Sunier

 

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01