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Wilhelm Furtwängler - The Complete Wilhelm Furtwängler on Record

Warner Classics

  • £117.45

Format: 55 x CD
ICPN: 0190295232405
Release Date: 24 Sep 2021
Genre: Classical

Wilhelm Furtwängler is a musical titan, one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century. Some would say he is the greatest of all. A supreme, inimitable interpreter of the Austro-German symphonic repertoire, and of Wagner’s music dramas, he remains a towering point of reference for performers and audiences.
The unparalleled scope of this 55CD set makes it an essential for the music-lover. Not only is it the first collection to unite Furtwängler’s entire catalogue of studio recordings, it also encompasses every live recording he made with a view to commercial release. Painstaking research has even unearthed a treasury of previously unpublished material, recorded in Vienna and Copenhagen. The highest artistic and technical standards have been applied in curating this set: each recording has been fully and scrupulously remastered in high definition, while the accompanying commentary and documentation, both authoritative and exhaustive, further illuminates Furtwängler’s philosophy and his genius for bringing a score to life with apparent spontaneity.

Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) is a musical titan, one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century – some would say the greatest.

Considered supreme in the larger-scale Austro-German repertoire (especially Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms and Bruckner), he remains a key point of reference for performers and music-lovers. Furtwängler was closely associated with the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Bayreuth Festival.

In 2004 the Guardian wrote: “Half a century after Wilhelm Furtwängler's death … the claim that he was the most influential and important orchestral conductor of the recorded era (a claim he never made himself) has never been stronger … In his greatest recordings … there is a sense of space and occasion that no recorded conductor, before or since, has matched.”
• For the first time, a collection unites the entirety of Furtwängler’s studio recordings and also the live recordings he made with a view to commercial release.
• In the cause of completeness, the collection draws on both the Warner Classics catalogue (recordings originally made by HMV and Telefunken) and on the Universal catalogue (Polydor, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon). The licensing agreement with Universal provided access to original sources used in remastering (see #3).
• The collection includes four world premiere releases (Wiener Philharmoniker) - see #7.

The highest artistic and technical standards have been applied in curating this 55CD set.
• All recordings have been remastered in high definition, in 192kHz/24bit for 53 of the 55 CDs and in 96kHz/24bit for the remaining two. The contents of 50.5 of the 55 CDs have been specifically remastered for this new complete edition.
• CD 31 (Wagner and Mahler), CD 37 (Bartók), and half of CD 27 (Beethoven Piano Concerto ‘Emperor’) were remastered in 192kHz/24bit in 2020 for the Philharmonia Orchestra - Early Years Box.
• CD 35 (Beethoven) was remastered in 2016 in 96kHz/24bit for The Menuhin Century project, and the documentary (CD55 – see #8) has been remastered in 44kHz/16bit.
• The remasterings have been made from the best available sources, including, where possible, original tapes (36 CDs out of 55) and original 78 and LP matrices. Notably, the 1950 Wiener Philharmoniker recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 has been transferred to CD from the original tapes for the first time.
• The restoration has been scrupulously carried out by renowned specialists Art & Son Studio in the French city of Annecy, whose previous work for Warner Classics has included such catalogue collections as: John Barbirolli, Maria Callas, André Cluytens, Mstislav Rostropovich, Ginette Neveu and Yehudi Menuhin.
#4 Through a tumultuous period in his country’s history, Furtwängler saw himself as the faithful guardian of the great German musical tradition. His approach to a score was not dictatorial: he preferred to let it come to life in a spontaneous-seeming, organic way. Famously, in beating time time for the orchestra his gestures could seem vague. His belief was that any detail of the music needed to be communicated, understood and appreciated “as it sounds” (“… wie es klingt”).

Here are some insights from significant figures into Furtwängler’s musical philosophy, his approach to conducting and his achievement:
• From the distinguished British critic Neville Cardus (1888-1975):
Furtwängler conducted in a manner exactly opposed to the Toscanini objectivity. He did not regard the printed notes of the score as a final statement, but rather as so many symbols of an imaginative conception, ever changing and always to be felt and realised subjectively . . . Not since Nikisch, of whom he was a disciple, has a greater personal interpreter of orchestral and opera music than Furtwängler been heard."
• From the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, who met and played for Furtwängler in 1954:
“Furtwängler had a deep-seated belief that music must evolve. Music is sound, and sound has to become, not just ‘be’. As a result of this understanding, his music was always new, and never just a question of the repertoire … For Furtwängler, a Beethoven symphony was just as new, just as vital as a piece composed yesterday.
Furtwängler was unconventional .... He was unpredictable, and thus followed his own inner necessity. He took musical liberties not because of some kind of personal preference, but because the musical structures required it ... Furtwängler was far more than the ‘master of the moment’ that he is so often called. That is what most impresses me about him: his extraordinary freedom in his responsibility before the work.”
• From the conductor Bernard Haitink:
"I went to Fidelio in Salzburg in 1949 with tremendous expectations. I was trembling with excitement. Into the pit comes this strange-looking man who started the overture, and it was not entirely together, and I thought, 'Well, is that the great Furtwängler?' Then, all of a sudden, with the start of the quartet ‘Mir ist so wunderbar’, something happened, and it was as if there was suddenly electricity throughout the auditorium, and it stayed, and it just built up. The next morning there was a Furtwängler concert of the Bruckner Eighth and again I had this same fantastic experience.”
• The recordings in the collection were made between 1926 and 1954, the year of Furtwängler’s death.
• The majority are devoted to Austro-German symphonic and operatic music of the 19th century, but the full list of composers suggests the range of Furtwängler’s repertoire:
Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Bruckner, Cherubini, Dvořák, Franck, Gluck, Haydn, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Nicolai, Rossini, Schubert, Schumann, Smetana, Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Weber.
• The collection also includes Furtwängler’s own Symphony No 2 and Symphonic Concerto for Piano & Orchestra in B minor; he himself was a composer of substance.
• See index of works below
#6 The orchestras are:
Wiener Philharmoniker; Berliner Philharmoniker; Bayreuther Festspiele; London Philharmonic; Philharmonia; Lucerne Festival Strings; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Among the soloists are:
• Instrumentalists
Yehudi Menuhin; Edwin Fischer
• Singers
Kirsten Flagstad, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Martha Mödl, Leonie Rysanek, Sena Jurinac, Elisabeth Grümmer, Lauritz Melchior, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Wolfgang Windgassen, Ludwig Suthaus.
CD 54 comprises the world premiere releases of four recordings, all made with the Wiener Philharmoniker in 1950:
- Johann Strauss: Kaiser-Walzer
- Wagner: Siegfried’s Funeral March from Götterdämmerung
- Schubert: Entracte No 3 from Rosamunde
- Tchaikovsky/Elegia from the Serenade in C major.

In addition, CD 54 includes the world premiere release, presented in optimum audio quality, of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 ‘Unfinished’ in a live recording, made on 1st October 1950 in Copenhagen for broadcast by Danish Radio.
(NB This is the only live recording in the collection that was not originally conceived for commercial release, but its status as a world premiere release justifies the exception.)
#8 The set includes a CD carrying the documentary Wilhelm Furtwängler – a memoir, narrated and produced by Jon Tolansky. It features interviews with a number of musicians, including the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the clarinettist Gervase de Peyer and the composer Berthold Goldschmidt, and with the conductor’s second wife, Elisabeth Furtwängler.
The collection constitutes an exceptional, groundbreaking tribute to an artist of supreme stature. The recordings are accompanied by a substantial and detailed 160-page booklet (in English, French and German) that includes:
• A comprehensive essay on Furtwängler.
• An article explaining the methodology for sourcing and remastering the recordings, by Stéphane Topakian, former Vice-President of the Société Wilhelm Furtwängler France, and Christophe Hénault of Art & Son Studio.
• Numerous photographs.
• Complete tracklisting and full details of the recordings (date/venue/technical staff/matrices/original catalogue number).
• Biographical timeline.
The CDs and booklet are contained in a premium-quality two-piece box with wallets based on the original artwork.
#10 The repertoire originating from the Warner catalogue will be made available digitally in HD as separate albums on all DSPs by October 2021 (complete release schedule available in June).

Riccardo Muti
The Complete
Wilhelm Furtwängler
on Record (55 CD)
Biographical chronology
• Wilhelm Furtwängler is born in Berlin on 26th January to an archaeologist father and a painter mother.
He is schooled by tutors and from the age of six studies the violin and composes. He also learns the piano.
• He conducts his first concert, in Munich, including Bruckner’s Symphony No 9 and one of his own compositions.
• He becomes assistant conductor at the Zurich Opera.
• He becomes assistant conductor at the Munich Opera, working with Felix Mottl.
• He is assigned conducting posts in Strasbourg and Lübeck.
• He conducts his first concert in Vienna.
• He spends five years as Music Director of the Mannheim Opera, where he conducts local premieres of works by Strauss, Korngold and Pfitzner, and his first performance of Wagner’s Ring cycle.
• He conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time.
• He takes up further conducting posts in Vienna (with the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde), Berlin and Frankfurt and conducts regularly in Stockholm.
• Following the death of Arthur Nikisch, Furtwängler becomes conductor of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker. He resigns from his other conducting posts.
• He conducts his first concert as a guest with the Wiener Philharmoniker.
• Furtwängler conducts 10 concerts in his first season with the New York Philharmonic and then returns for more extensive seasons.
• In 1926 he makes his first recordings (for Deutsche Grammophon).
• In 1927 he resigns from his post in Leipzig and signs a contract with the Wiener Philharmoniker.
• He conducts the controversial first performance of Schoenberg’s Variations op 31 in Berlin.
• He resigns from his post with the Wiener Philharmoniker.
• He makes his debut at the Bayreuth Festival, conducting Tristan und Isolde. One of the performances in the run is broadcast around Europe.
• Marking the 50th anniversary of the Berliner Philharmoniker, he conducts a work he has commissioned from Paul Hindemith, the Philharmonisches Konzert.
• He also tours Europe with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

• In January, Hitler becomes Germany’s Chancellor.
• In April, when conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker in Mannheim, Furtwängler successfully opposes an attempt by the authorities to demote two Jewish members of the orchestra – the concertmaster Szymon Goldberg and the leader of the cello section, Nikolai Graudan.
• In July Furtwängler becomes Vice-President of the Reichsmusikkammer, presided over by Richard Strauss. (Both he and Strauss resign a year later.)
• In November, in a newspaper article entitled Der Fall Hindemith – The Hindemith Case, he defends Hindemith, whose music is out of favour with the Nazis. It becomes a cause célèbre.
• In December, under attack from many sides, Furtwängler resigns from all his posts and is deprived of his passport. In Spring 1935 a compromise is achieved whereby he can appear as a guest conductor.
• Furtwängler is in line to succeed Toscanini as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. This changes when the prominent Nazi politician Hermann Göring publicly (and spuriously) announces Furtwängler’s appointment as director of the Berlin State Opera. An outcry ensues in the USA and Furtwängler’s prospects in New York are ruined. John Barbirolli is appointed the New York Philharmonic’s Music Director.
• In the summer Furtwängler conducts Lohengrin, the Ring and Parsifal at Bayreuth.
• He conducts in at London’s Royal Opera House, in the Coronation Season for King George VI, and at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.
• During the war years, Furtwängler limits his activities.
• He continues to conduct both the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Wiener Philharmoniker; though he does not have a formal post with either orchestra, he is their de facto chief conductor.
• He also conducts other local orchestras in Austria, Switzerland and Sweden.
• While he finds himself obliged to participate in certain official events, he avoids others with the help of a doctor’s certificate and refuses to conduct the Berliner Philharmoniker and Wiener Philharmoniker on their tours of occupied countries.
• He participates in the festivities for the centenary of the Wiener Philharmoniker.
• He marries his second wife, Elisabeth.
• He conducts at the Lucerne Festival.
• After the attempted assassination of Hitler in July, Furtwängler is closely monitored. In December, Albert Speer warns him that he is at threat from Heinrich Himmler and advises him to leave Germany.
• In January, Furtwängler gives his final wartime concerts in Berlin and Vienna and then takes refuge in Switzerland, where he conducts a number of concerts.
• He undergoes denazification in Austria and in Berlin and is cleared.
• He signs a contract with His Master’s Voice
• He conducts in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, Stockholm, Italy and at the Salzburg and Lucerne Festivals. He also tours with Berliner Philharmoniker and Wiener Philharmoniker.
• He conducts Wagner’s Ring at La Scala, Milan.
• He falls ill with pneumonia at the Salzburg Festival and convalesces until November.
• In September he again falls ill with pneumonia and on 30th November dies in Baden-Baden.

The Complete
Wilhelm Furtwängler
on Record (55 CD)
Index of works
BACH Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, I & III
Suite No. 3, Air
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 2
BEETHOVEN Cavatina for String Orchestra (after String Quartet No. 13)
Coriolan Overture
Egmont, Overture
Leonore Overture No. 2
Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral”
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 9 “Choral”
Romances Nos 1 & 2
Violin Concerto
BERLIOZ Marche hongroise
BRAHMS Haydn Variations
Hungarian Dance
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Violin Concerto
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7, II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam
CHERUBINI Anacréon, Overture
DVOŘÁK Slavonic Dance, Op. 46: No. 3
FRANCK Symphony in D minor
FURTWÄNGLER Symphonic Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, II. Adagio solenne
Symphony No. 2
GLUCK Alceste, Overture
Iphigénie en Aulide, Overture
HAYDN Symphony No. 88
Symphony No. 94 “Surprise”
LISZT Les Préludes
MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Overture
Hebrides Overture “Fingal’s Cave”
Violin Concerto
MOZART Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Overture
Die Zauberflöte, Arias of the Queen of the Night: O zittre nicht… Der Hölle Rache…
Le nozze di Figaro, Overture
Serenade “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”
Serenade “Gran Partita”
Symphony No. 40
NICOLAI The merry Wives of Windsor, Overture
ROSSINI Il barbiere di Siviglia, Overture
La gazza ladra, Overture
SCHUBERT Rosamunde
Entracte No. 3
Ballet No. 2
Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”
Symphony No. 9 “The Great”
SCHUMANN Manfred, Overture
Symphony No. 4
SMETANA Má Vlast “The Moldau”
J. STRAUSS II Die Fledermaus, Overture
J. STRAUSS & J. STRAUSS II Pizzicato Polka
R. STRAUSS Death and Transfiguration
Don Juan
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique”
WAGNER Lohengrin, Prelude to Act I
Der fliegende Holländer, Overture
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Prelude, Dance of the Apprentices
Act 3: Prelude
Prologue, Act I, Scene 3
Prologue: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey
Act II, Scenes 4 & 5
Act III, Scene 3
Act III: Siegfried’s Funeral March
Act III, Scene 3: Immolation Scene
Die Walküre (complete)
Die Walküre, Act III
Die Walküre, Act III: Ride of the Walkyries
Parsifal, Act I: Prelude, Act III: Karfreitagzauber
Siegfried Idyll
Tannhäuser, Overture
Tristan und Isolde, Act I: Prelude, Act III: Isoldes Liebestod
Tristan und Isolde (complete)
WEBER Aufforderung zum Tanz
Euryanthe, Overture
Freischütz, Overture
Freischütz, Prelude, Act III
Oberon, Overture

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