Wilhelm Furtwängler / Arturo Toscanini / Bruno Walter

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV 550

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Isn't this disc exactly what historical reissues are all about? True, the packaging could be a little less austere, but what else does anyone need to know except who is conducting, what orchestra is playing, what repertoire they are performing, and when it was recorded? When the work is Mozart'sSymphony in G minor, K. 550, you know the repertoire is as good as it gets. And when the G minor is performed three times, once by Wilhelm Furtwängler with the Vienna Philharmonic on February 2, 1949; again by Bruno Walter with the Berlin Philharmonic on September 9, 1950; and then again by Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony, you know the performances are as good as it gets.

The only question is, whose G minor is really as good as it gets? The Furtwängler has abysmal depths and Elysian heights. The Walter has enormous expressivity and immense humanity. The Toscanini has unquenchable fire and inexhaustible power. All three interpretations are superbly performed by three of the greatest orchestras of the time. All three performances are recorded about as well as any pirate recording made half a century ago. So, to answer the question, whichever one you're listening to is the one that's as good as it gets.

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