Who was the greatest conductor of all time? For many the answer can only be Wilhelm Furtwängler. The German musician, born in Berlin in 1886, secured global fame in the 1930s as music director of the Berliner Philharmoniker. While his involvement in Nazi cultural politics casts a long shadow over his reputation, his recordings bear witness to a magician capable of revealing fresh insights into even the best-known compositions.
Wilhelm Furtwängler – Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon And Decca presents a chronological survey of his unique interpretations and marks the 65th anniversary of the great conductor’s death (on 30 November 1954). The anthology comprises 34 CDs, covering every phase of Furtwängler’s recording career on Deutsche Grammophon and Decca as well as his early Polydor recordings, from the late 1920s to the post-war period. A DVD, featuring Furtwängler’s iconic performance of Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival 1954, is also included. The booklet provides insightful essays from critic and blogger Norman Lebrecht, and broadcaster Rob Cowan, plus rare and rediscovered photos. This anthology, featuring studio, radio and live recordings, tells the story of a true 20th century icon whose contribution to modern musical life can hardly be overestimated and can be compared only to legends such as Karajan and Kleiber.
“The treasure-trove here on offer often defies belief”
Wilhelm Furtwängler was a brilliant conductor whose artistry was deeply rooted in the tradition of Romantic idealism and this collection presents cornerstones of the Austro-German repertoire, and, as Furtwängler originally identified himself as a composer at the beginning of his career, his second symphony is also included. The full spectrum of the conductor’s symphonic repertoire is covered. Furtwängler’s experience as a composer and profound study of the formal structures of the symphony informed his unique interpretations of Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner. The “treasure-trove here on offer often defies belief for its impact and intuitive grasp of what sits at the soul of the music played, “observed Rob Cowan. “I can’t recommend highly enough.”
Listeners can explore the nature of Furtwängler’s recordings from before, during and after the Second World War; compare his work with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Wiener Philharmoniker, or of the same composition with different soloists; and judge the respective qualities of his live and studio recordings.
“Critics are forever positing this or that modern maestro as a possible successor to Furtwängler. Dream on is what I say. Sixty-five years after his death, and we’re still waiting,” noted Rob Cowan. The New Yorker declared, “What’s most striking is Furtwängler’s willingness to sacrifice precision for the sake of passion.”
Also available as digital recordings
Wilhelm Furtwängler’s Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon And Decca are also available as 7 e-albums: Furtwängler Speaks About Music (interview in German), Beethoven 5 – his first-ever recording, Early Polydor Recordings, Wartime Recordings, Postwar Radio Recordings, DGG Studio Recordings and Decca Records.
Video blog series: Lebrecht On Furtwängler
The release of Wilhelm Furtwängler – Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon And Decca will be supported by a video blog series by author, blogger and music critic Norman Lebrecht providing a new perspective on the legendary conductor. Norman Lebrecht’s in-depth insights reveal what made Furtwängler so special, the characteristics of his interpretations, and the assumptions that lie behind Furtwängler’s aesthetics. Watch Furtwängler’s Afterlife, the first episode in the video blog series Lebrecht On Furtwängler, now.
Wilhelm Furtwängler – Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon And Decca can be bought here.