Furtwangler/BPO: Beethoven Symphony No. 4 ("live", 1943) - Eterna 820 312 (blue/white)
Jacket GOOD / LP VG / German pressing
This outstanding LP from Eterna (820 312, East German pressing, blue/white label, mono) features Wilhelm Furtwangler’s powerful war-time account of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major Op. 60, recorded with the the mighty Berlin Phllharmonic Orchestra on incandescent form, in a “live” broadcast from the Philharmonie, Berlin on 27 June 1943. It is imbued with a visionary intensity that resonates in the mind long after the music has stopped.
Of DG’s 1964 LP release of this performance, the critic D.C. wrote in his review for the February 1964 issue of The Gramophone:
“Listening to a Beethoven symphony as interpreted by Furtwangler is a great artistic experience, but only if one is prepared to throw off all current prejudices concerning the way in which a classical symphony should be performed. There is no uniformity of tempo, no 'straightthrough line': each separate element of the music is presented at the particular tempo which allows it to make the expressive effect that Furtwangler thought the true one, and these tempos sometimes vary widely within a single movement. But if one can accept this approach while one listens, the reward is incalculable, for there is, on the other hand, no rattling-through of quick passages, no amiable ticking-over between the great moments-which are the two crucial defects of present-day Beethoven performances. Nor, for that matter, is there any romanticizing or sentimentalizing of the music, which was the crucial defect of much Beethoven-conducting of Furtwangler's own time: his performances have a pure, majestic nobility which cannot be called anything but classical.
“Their great virtue is that every single feature of the music makes its full point, and some of them make valid points which seem to have been lost sight of in recent years, the chief of these being what I can only call a 'numinous' quality. I suppose that most people would agree that there is something peculiarly transcendent and awe-inspiring in Beethoven's symphonic music; yet how often does this characteristic emerge from the performances which we hear today?
“In this recording of the Fourth Symphony it is present all the time, notably in the hushed clarinet meditations in the slow movement, in that fantastic long passage of suspended animation before the first movement's recapitulation, and of course in the slow introduction to the whole work. In this (as in the slow introduction to the Leonora No. 2 Overture), there is a visionary sense of the dark void preceding creation which calls to mind the Biblical phrase about "the spirit of God moving on the face of the waters". Anyone who is curious to know what was Furtwangler's special secret can do no better than play the opening of the symphony on this disc, and reflect on the extraordinary hushed grandeur of the 'cello and bass entries in bars 9 and 21. Indeed, I would unreservedly recommend the whole disc to anyone who wants to get to grips with what is most profound in Beethoven, even though the recording sounds fairly primitive, and even for its period has a noticeable lack of middle-register clarity. I had better add that Furtwangler does not, on this occasion at least, extend his monumental approach to the lighter music: the Minuet and finale of the symphony go with a splendid swing, which is enhanced, rather than spoiled, by the characteristic extra weight in the phrasing.”
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is GOOD. There is a fair amount of edgewear, bumping at corners, and discoloration. However, the jacket remains solid and presentation worthy – not a collector’s copy, but still a decent one.
The condition of the LP itself is VERY GOOD. Though the surfaces are not absolutely silent, and there are a few scattered soft tics, in general the playback is quite fine. Those requiring flawless or NM surfaces are kindly advised to look elsewhere. Overall, this is a very good collector's copy.