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Beethoven: Symphony No 9 "choral" / Furtwängler, Schwarzkopf, Cavelti, Philharmonia Orchestra, Et Al

Release Date: 10/14/2008 
Label:  Tahra   Catalog #: 2001   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Elisabeth SchwarzkopfElsa CaveltiErnst HaefligerOtto Edelmann
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in d, “Choral” Wilhelm Furtwängler, cond; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (sop); Elsa Cavelti (alt); Ernst Haefliger (ten); Otto Edelmann (bs); Lucerne Festival Ch; Philharmonia O TAHRA 2001, mono (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 75:15) Live: Lucerne 8/22/1954

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This has long been considered one of the great Ninths on disc. Even those who do not always react positively to the conducting of Wilhelm Furtwängler have heard the nobility and profound humanity that underlies this performance, given just two months before the conductor’s death (and his final performance of this work). Elisabeth Furtwängler, the conductor’s widow, believed that he knew this was likely his final Ninth, and that he knew his life was coming to an end as his health was deteriorating seriously.

This Ninth is less frantic, less driven, than his earlier ones. One can appreciate the heightened drama of the 1951 Bayreuth Festival reopening in a different way than the more introspective version here—both are truly great performances and I cannot choose between them. (The Bayreuth is best heard on Archipel 401—the actual original performance as opposed to the edited hybrid Walter Legge left us on EMI.) For superb singing, excellent orchestral and choral work, and the richest overall recorded sound of any Furtwängler Ninth, as well the depth of feeling imbuing every bar, this Lucerne performance belongs in any serious collection. The expressivity of the Adagio will leave you breathless, and the power and grandeur of the finale is unparalleled on recordings.

For those who do not own this performance, this Tahra release is recommended without reservation. The sound is clear and rich—as good as it gets for any Furtwängler recording. For those who own an earlier version, the answer is less clear. I listened to this monaural SACD on a regular two-channel system, hearing both layers; there seemed very little difference between them. A direct comparison with Tahra’s earlier release (1054) showed a bit more clarity, brightness, and openness in this new version. Comparing it with Music & Arts was more complicated, thanks to M & A’s confusing way of numbering reissues.

Music & Arts has released this performance three times, in 1993, 1996, and 2007. All three have been released as 790! They even have the same UPC number! So how do you tell them apart? The earliest credits no transfer engineer; the 1996 version credits Lowell Cross; the 2007 edition was supervised by Aaron Snyder. That last one is the best of the three, and I hear very little difference between that one and this new Tahra version.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that this is a performance for the ages, and anyone who cares about this music should own it. If you have the Aaron Snyder transfer for Music & Arts 790, I see no need to invest in this new issue. For all others, though, this would be as close to essential as a recording gets.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano), Elsa Cavelti (Mezzo Soprano), Ernst Haefliger (Tenor),
Otto Edelmann (Bass)
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 An Exalted Ninth September 14, 2014 By owen  ryan (lakewood, CA) See All My Reviews "Henry Fogel's review says it all. This is truly a performance for the ages. If there is a better one, which I don't think is possible, I have never heard it. The nearest competitor might be Karajan's 1976 recording which I would rate as an 8+ to Furtwangler's 10. Eventhough this 1954 recording is live and in mono, it is surprisingly good. You should be so mesmerized by this performance that you will not notice any small flaws in the recording. In summation, I can't praise or recommend this disc too strongly!" Report Abuse
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