Wilhelm Furtwängler

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Coriolan Overture

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Opus Kura's reissue of Wilhelm Furtwängler's wartime performances of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, "Eroica," and the Coriolan Overture will be of primary interest to students of the conductor's interpretations, though anyone who is curious about his career can benefit from hearing these refurbished recordings. They have remarkably clean sound in this Japanese remastering, and though the source recordings for the two versions of the Coriolan, both made in 1943 with the Berlin Philharmonic, are scratchy and a bit off in intonation, the LP of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's 1944 recording of the "Eroica" is relatively free of surface noises and stable in pitch. But beyond the fairly good reproduction here, these renditions give a clear impression of Furtwängler's flexible tempos and elastic pacing, which were hallmarks of the late Romantic convention of interpreting Beethoven. While his tendency to slow down sections to increase tension are antithetical to modern ways of playing this music, it is important to know that Furtwängler's performances were not always torpid or overly reverential in treatment, but quite brisk and exciting in many places. Yet because these are historic recordings, listeners should know these pieces fairly well to appreciate the nuances and problems of the performances and not choose this disc as a first pick for their listening pleasure.

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