Wilhelm Furtwängler

Brahms: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 1

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Wilhelm Furtwängler's many recordings of Brahms' First Symphony include performances with the philharmonics of Berlin and Vienna, the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the North German Radio Orchestra of Hamburg, the Festival Orchestra of Lucerne, the Venezuela Orchestra of Caracas, as well as this one, with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Turin, from a concert on March 7, 1952. While it won't efface memories of Furtwängler's other recordings, it is an incredibly effective and ultimately rousing performance. It gets off to a somewhat rocky start as the Italian orchestra tries to locate the conductor's downbeat, but once it finds it at the start of the Allegro, the musicians fall under his spell, and the remainder of the symphony is as mighty and monumental as one could wish. Radio Symphony Orchestra of Turin does sound like an Italian orchestra; the string tone is leaner and the woodwinds more plangent than a German orchestra's, but Furtwängler's inspirational conducting elicits a powerful performance that invites comparison with his finest recordings with northern European ensembles.

Also included from the same concert is an account of Brahms' Violin Concerto with Gioconda de Vito, whose only competition in the Furtwängler discography is with Yehudi Menuhin and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra from September 1949. De Vito proves the more passionate soloist (though Menuhin's winning tone is nearly irresistible), and Furtwängler gets more intense and more coordinated playing from the Turin orchestra. As extravagant bonuses, Myto includes not only Furtwängler's harrowing performance of Brahms' Second Symphony with the Wiener Philharmoniker from January 1945, but his triumphant performance of Variations on a Theme by Haydn with the North German Radio Symphony from October 1951. These fine performances should be of strong interest to the conductor's fans. The transfers, while sometimes overly atmospheric, are surprisingly sharp, detailed, and vivid.

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