Wilhelm Furtwängler's discography includes four recordings of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 and six recordings of Brahms' Fourth Symphony, and the savvy listener may be able to calculate, based on the aesthetic level and the quality of the sound, just where these recordings with the Berliner Philharmoniker, made June 10, 1949, fall in the lineups. Once either performance starts, though, all such considerations go straight out the window, forced out by the overwhelming magnificence of Furtwängler's readings. Recorded in Wiesbaden on the last night of the orchestra's two-week tour through 12 German towns, these performances have a vitality and an energy that are quite breathtaking. It may sometimes seem to take the music an inordinate amount of time to get rolling, as in the almost tentative opening of Brahms' Fourth, but once they find their groove, Furtwängler and the Berlin musicians are unstoppable. Mozart's G minor Symphony is as grimly relentless in its outer movements as it is ineffably tender in its Andante, while Brahms' E minor Symphony is darkly tragic in structure, yet always heroic in tone, and its closing Passacaglia is unbearably intense. The newly remastered sound of these performances is clear yet atmospheric, and many degrees better than previous releases. Certainly, these recordings are not for everyone -- listeners who insist on digital sound are likely to be disappointed -- but any Furtwängler omnivore will want to hear them.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550|
|Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98|