Title: Beethoven 9th Symphony
Artist(s): Wilhelm Furtwängler & The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Recording Info: Philharmonie, Berlin - March 21-24, 1942
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, "Choral" (Tilla Briem [s]; Elisabeth Höngen [ms]; Peter Anders [t]; Rudolf Watzke [bs]; Bruno Kittel Choir, Berlin P O; 3/21-24/1942). This is one of Furtwängler's most famous performances, known to collectors as "the wartime Ninth." It has about it a degree of intensity, even ferocity that no other performance in my experience has ever matched. Listening to it is both a moving and exhausting experience. Every release beginning with Vox/Turnabout LPs, has demonstrated the limitations of the original source: dynamic compression, some distortion and congestion, limited frequency response, and a rather dry, close-in orchestral sound. Over time, as transferring techniques have improved, the performance has become easier to listen to. Reissues by Music & Arts, Tahra, Opus Kura, Japanese EMI, and finally Pristine have improved what we heard significantly. Chibas has managed further meaningful improvement. One area is dynamic range he has painstakingly compensated for the compression on the original source, and given us a fuller dynamic range than anything before. He has also achieved his aim of a more present timpani sound and a sense of rhythmic crispness that exceeds prior versions, without losing the beauty of orchestral sound that is a hallmark of the conductor's work. The timpani at the outset of the finale, and the remarkable presence of the double basses, make significantly more dramatic impact than I have encountered on any prior version. This may be one of the most significant of his transfers, and Furtwängler collectors might start here to determine how they will react to his work.