Bruckner: Symphony No. 5/Furtwängler

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 4

This is billed as the first release “from the original mastertape,” whatever that means with a recording this old. What matters isn’t how original the tape is, but rather what condition it’s in. In fact, happily, this is the best-sounding incarnation of this particular performance, from Furtwängler’s Nazi heyday (1942). Although the dynamic range is pretty much flat, you do get good clarity and the impression of microphones well-placed to capture the orchestra as naturally as possible.

The interpretation is typically manic: very fast, and very slow. It lurches about impulsively and has thrilling moments–but also some pretty distressing examples of shoddy ensemble, particularly in the scherzo and finale. It was all too seldom that Furtwängler managed to keep his band together to allow him to time his climaxes optimally. A classic case of “overshoot” occurs at the end of the first movement, which sounds terribly rushed. The Adagio, though, is magnificent, and Furtwängler’s use of Bruckner’s authentic score also deserves mention. Unique.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Sawallisch (Orfeo), Abbado (DG)

ANTON BRUCKNER - Symphony No. 5

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