Wilhelm Furtwangler conducts HAYDN: Sym. 88; RAVEL: Rapsodie espagnole; BRUCKNER: Sym. No. 4 (Melodram)

by | Jun 2, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

HAYDN: Symphony No. 88 in G Major; RAVEL: Rapsodie espagnole; BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E-flat, “Romantic”

Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts Vienna Philharmonic
Melodram GM 4.0074 (2 CDs) 36:33; 65:52  (Distrib. Albany)***:

Promoted as “Never Released Before,” this complete concert from
Stuttgart, October 22, 1951 with Wilhelm Furtwaengler (1886-1954) is in
good though not great sound, so members of the Furtwaengler cult are
more likely to gravitate to it than audiophiles. For my money the
revelation is Furtwaengler’s meticulous way with the Ravel, an
infrequent piece of programming for him; only the equally rare Noble
and Sentimental Waltzes of Ravel warranted attention from Furtwaengler.
His “mistress,” the Vienna Philharmonic, emanates a sultry sheen and
finish to the individual sections of this hybrid-Spanish work. The
interior movements, Habanera and Malaguena, are rife in color and
sensuous nuance. While the Feria may not achieve the frenetic abandon
we have with Munch and Reiner, it still makes Iberian sparks fly.

The Haydn G Major Symphony possessed a definite allure for
Furtwaengler, who imbued it with a tragic wistfulness that may be
entirely idiosyncratic. The Largo certainly gives us pause, with the
VPO woodwinds‚ weaving plastic and fluid lines with a serenity even the
occasional audience cough cannot dispel. Melodram has eliminated any
audience applause from the ends of the final movements of the
individual pieces, so the grand, expansive peroration that concludes
the Bruckner Romantic Symphony loses a bit of the released tension of
the moment. Despite a slightly insecure French horn, the Bruckner has
that aural mystery Furtwangler’s best work transmits; the obstinate and
tremolando figures pulsate incandescent power. Some martial and
aggressive striding tempos mark both the expansive Andante quasi
Allegretto and the hunting-call Scherzo. What retards my full
enthusiasm for this fine restoration is the tubby and distant sound,
possibly from a poor microphone placement. Still, given the scarcity of
fresh Furtwaengler material, this addition commands collectors’

–Gary Lemco

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