Wilhelm Furtwängler

Johannes Brahms: Requiem (1948 Broadcast Conducted By Wilhelm Furtwängler)

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Hearing Wilhelm Furtwängler's familiar 1948 Stockholm recording of Brahms' Ein deutsche Requiem again in this new remastering is like visiting a dying friend: one knows the outcome in advance but cannot help but hope for better and thus one is the deeply saddened when the inevitable arrives. Because as much as one might hope for a more favorable outcome, it is clear going in that this is one of the great German conductor's most disappointing recordings. A portion of the blame can be put on the performers. The Stockholm Konsertföerings Orkester is just about up to the work's technical requirements -- the strings slip out of tune far too frequently and the brass are more often than not unable to sustain tone -- while the Musikaliska Sällskapet Kör is clearly not -- its tone is harsh, its intonation approximate, and its articulation mumbled. And the soloists are even less able than that: soprano Kerstin Lindberg-Torlind lacks breath control and baritone Bernhard Sönnerstedt lacks range. But Furtwängler deserves most of the blame. With its dull colors, flaccid lines, turgid textures, torpid tempos, and sluggish rhythms, this performance only damages the conductor's reputation.

Music & Arts' new remastering is an improvement over its old remastering to the extent that much of the tape hiss has been removed and the time between movements has been slightly reduced. But the original sources are so fatally compromised that the final results are still nearly unlistenable to all but the most dedicated fans of the conductor.

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