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Furtwangler cultists rightly prefer his wartime recordings to his postwar studio efforts, but this live Brahms first from 1952 is a special case. From the opening timpani thwacks (which yes, come across better here than previously) to the final race to the finish line, this performance blazes with greater intensity than any other. It has been released many times previously, but only now does it sound well enough for sound itself to no longer pose a barrier. The collaboration between HDTT and Eduardo Chibás has proved highly successful; hopefully it will lead to future collaborations. Highest possible recommendation.
Wilhelm Furtwängler can be considered as one of the best, if not the best interpreter of Brahms's and Beethoven's symphonies. But as every "subjective" conductors, he is inconsistent. When he is off, his performance can become sluggish and dull, but when he is on form, the music can be trancend to something even greater than the music itself. And this performance is one of those thing. Music soars with emotion, angst, joy, triumph. I have own several version of this performance, tracking back to the scrappy DG recording to the very good one from the French label Tahra. But this one is different with the prominent of timpany which restores and enhances the tension of this performance. Otherwise, it is very clear and wonderful remastering. You can not expect state-of-art sound from this mono 1950s performance, but it is the best you can have with this legendary performance
Title: Brahms Symphony No. 1 & Variations on a theme by Haydn
Artist(s): Wilhelm Furtwängler & The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Recording Info: Berlin Phiharmonic Orchestra 1952 (op. 68) and 1950 (Op. 56a)
Transferred from tape by HDTT - Remastered and edited by Eduardo Chibás
From the first time I heard this Brahms Symphony No. 1 on LP many years ago, I have always felt that it was the best performance of this work that I know. There are some wonderful performances with other orchestras, including some beautifully played Vienna Philharmonic performances, but this Berlin interpretation has an inner strength and drive that is unique. Only the last movement in a wartime recording with the same orchestra is perhaps superior in incandescence, but unfortunately incomplete.
There are many performances of the Haydn Variations conducted by Furtwängler, and most are very good. This is among the finest. Unfortunately, there is some surface "crackle" in some fortissimo passages, but it is not too bad.
In general, the sound in both performances is excellent, with a deep base and great detail.
- Eduardo Chibás