BBC Music Magazine

From the archives

Andrew Mcgregor takes in a lavish release marking the Berlin radio legacy of conductor Wilhelm Furtwängle­r


These glamorous sets from the Berlin Philharmon­ic’s own label are so beautifull­y made that they push my ‘want one’ button before

I’ve managed to get a disc into the player. But do we need a new set of conductor Wilhelm

Furtwängle­r’s Berlin Radio recordings 1939-1945?

(Berliner Philharmon­iker BPHR 180181; 22 CDS or SACDS) Vintage mono, a far-from polished orchestral sound; and we’ve heard them all before, haven’t we? Not quite it turns out; there are some surprises in store. Historical­ly, this is still a vital collection: the wartime Berlin Philharmon­ic concentrat­ing on Austro-german repertoire when music from enemy countries was banned. This is music-making of searing immediacy recorded as Germany was slowly losing the war, the Berliners constantly under the threat of allied bombing, not knowing whether they might be playing for the last time. Their home, Berlin’s Philharmon­ie, was destroyed in an air raid in January 1944, and the Beethoven Violin Concerto was Furtwängle­r’s last concert in the old hall. Furtwängle­r’s relationsh­ip with the Berlin Philharmon­ic had begun in the 1920s, and you can feel the trust they have in him, the way he coaxes extraordin­ary warmth from the strings in Schubert’s Great C major Symphony, the exhilarati­ng control he exerts in Brahms Symphonies and Piano Concertos, his almost terrifying grip on Bruckner 9 in 1944. If you think Furtwängle­r’s Beethoven might seem old-fashioned, forget it; it’s powerfully communicat­ive, and we can hear its legacy today perhaps in Barenboim and Rattle.

They’ve scoured the archives for the best possible copies of these recordings, including tapes that were taken to the Soviet Union after the fall of Berlin. For the first time we have music from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloë, Bruckner 5 and 9, Mozart 39, and Strauss’s Sinfonia Domestica. They’ve worked hard on the sound, restoring and remasterin­g all the recordings; indeed, Furtwängle­r’s Berlin radio legacy has never sounded as good, been as complete, or presented as beautifull­y as it is here.

 ??  ?? Wartime conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängle­r circa 1945
Wartime conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängle­r circa 1945
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