Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Wilhelm Furtwängler

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 'Pathetique'; R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel; Wagner: Trauermarsch

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If listeners are prepared to expect that this Opus Kura disc is a restoration of HMV and Polydor recordings from the 1930s, painstakingly transferred and mastered for digital playback, and that the surface noise and pops are unavoidable conditions of recordings of this technology and vintage, then they will be pleasantly surprised to hear the extraordinary music that Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic left in these historic documents. The exceptional performances of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, "Pathétique," Richard Strauss' Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, and Richard Wagner's "Trauermarsch" from Siegfried are presented with great care and consistency, so the variables of the recorded volume, original orchestral dynamics, and intonation due to slight changes in motor speed are as minimal as possible, and the continuity of the music is unbroken by detectable side changes or faulty editing. Beyond the technical issues, the performances are finely detailed and richly textured, and the transfers bring out distinctive timbres and parts. Furtwängler's profound expressions of grief in Tchaikovsky's and Wagner's works are vivid and moving, and the merriment of Strauss' tone poem is brilliantly communicated. The Berlin Philharmonic is presented with such depth and dynamic range, it is easy to become deeply absorbed in their playing, and because the orchestra is always compelling, it is easy to go for long stretches without noticing that there are any serious blemishes in the reproduction. That is a tribute to great musicianship.

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