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4/4: There's only one thing better than Beethoven's Ninth.

And it's .......

No you guessed wrong.:eek:

It's Beethoven Ninth conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, Bayreuth Festival. This is the Everest of classical music, the definitive version for me and many others.

Topaz
 

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4/4: There's only one thing better than Beethoven's Ninth.

And it's .......

No you guessed wrong.:eek:

It's Beethoven Ninth conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, Bayreuth Festival. This is the Everest of classical music, the definitive version for me and many others.

Topaz
Agreed on the Furtwanger. I listen to that recording religiously.
Although, I'm wondering, can you suggest any newer hi-fi recordings of the 9th that would have a similar passion? I don't expect the Furtwangler to ever be matched, but I'd like to supplement my collection with a fiery rendition that fully utilizes modern sound.
 

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Shane: I agree that listening to Furtwangler/Bayreuth is almost a "religious" experience. I find it untouched by any other versions. But obviously I don't have all versions. I have done a bit of research on this matter, and understand that there are two other comparable performances. One is, in fact, an earlier recording by Furtwangler/BPO in, I think, 1943/44. I am informed it is very moving indeed. Some people also rate the later "Lucerne" version. Another is by Fricsay on DG4635252, which some say is the best S9 of the whole lot. I don't have any of these. I'm afraid I only have Bayreuth (plus a few other more modern ones, like Giulini and Kempe, that aren't worth mentioning). I've just been too lazy to find the earlier recording by Furtwangler, and the one by Fricsay. If someone offered them to me right now I'd buy them, on the spot, no hesitation.

As for Mackerras' S9, I'm sure it's very good but it won't sound like Furtwangler, who is incomparable. Mackerras is precise and controlled. Furtwangler was passionate and involved, and got the orchestra to yield a unique sound. I know you asked for a modern recording. I might give Abbado a try.

The following are the main recs (mainly but not solely among the older school of conductors) I have picked up on my travels:

S1 - Toscanini (39), Karajan (77), Walter, Rattle/BPO
S2 - Klemperer, Mackerras
S3 - Toscanini (39), Furtwangler (44, 52), Klemperer (61)
S4 - Walter, Mackerras, C Kleiber, Soti, Abbado
S5 - C Kleiber, Bohm, Abbado, Klemperer (EMI 66865 mono)
S6 - Bohm, Ashkenazy, Walter (59), Abbado
S7 - C Kleiber, Abbado, Klemperer
S8 - Abbado, Furtwangler (53), Harnoncourt
S9 - Furtwangler (44, Bayreuth, Lucerne), Fricsay, Karajan (77)

My favourites are in bold. As you will see, my favourite S8 is Harnoncourt, even though it's a very modern recording. It's faultless and the sound is ultra good. I also like Rattle's S1/BPO, which is also obviously very new.

P.S. I am going to buy soon Kleiber S5/S7 on DVD audio (i.e. 96 khz). I have the ordinary CD but this DVD audio version should be a real stunner; the bit rate is enormously greater than standard CDs.

Topaz
 

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My favourites are in bold. As you will see, my favourite S8 is Harnoncourt, even though it's a very modern recording. It's faultless and the sound is ultra good. I also like Rattle's S1/BPO, which is also obviously very new.

Topaz
Yes, no shame in Harnoncourt at all. He is a great conductor, very intense. I have the DVD of his Fidelio and only wish he would get more time in front of the camera :)

As for recent recordings (not of the ninth), lately I have been enjoying Haitink's 2 & 6 with the LSO. He did record the whole cycle. Judging by the quality of the one disc I have, I would say its probably worth picking up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hmm..Thanks for your replies guys..
Topaz..what traits/qualities makes that Wilhelm Furtwangler, Bayreuth Festival recording of Beethoven's Ninth so wonderful? Im just curious,thats all.....hehe:)

4/4player
 

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4/4 Why do I like Furtwangler's Bayreuth version of Beethoven's S9?

First some info on the BPO:

Chief conductors of the BPO (founded in 1882)
  • Ludwig von Brenner (1882-1887)
  • Hans von Bülow (1887-1892)
  • Arthur Nikisch (1895-1922)
  • Wilhelm Furtwängler (1922-1945)
  • Leo Borchard (June-August 1945)
  • Sergiu Celibidache (1945-1952)
  • Wilhelm Furtwängler (1952-1954)
  • Herbert von Karajan (1954-1989)
  • Claudio Abbado (1989-2002)
  • Sir Simon Rattle (2002- )
Wilhelm Furtwangler is regarded as one of the best conductors in history, and certainly one of the foremost interpretors of Beethoven. He had a unique conducting technique which involved rather long and awkward arm movements, and a swaying body, as if he was being controlled like a puppet. It looked very strange, but it worked, and he was very highly regarded. His famous contemporary, Arturo Toscanini, was extremely haughty, well regarded and very cynical of most other conductors but he had the very highest estimation of Furtwangler, whom he regarded as his equal!

Although Furtwangler made several recordings of Beethoven's Ninth, three are always singled out as the best: 1942 (Berlin), 1951 (Bayreuth), and 1954 (Lucerne). These are widely regarded as classics. I am not saying they are universally liked. It depends on how people like their Beethoven. I like mine Furtwangler-style, Klemperer-style, and Carlos Kleiber style. I don't like many modern, more clinical versions.

People debate which of these Furtwangler recordings is the best. Some say the 1942 was the most powerful and dramatic; some prefer 1954 (Lucerne), which was Furtwangler's personal favourite. However, I think if a poll were taken, the Bayreuth 1951 version would probably win it because it had a lot going for it: great atmosphere, good acoustics from the Bayreuth Theatre, good chorus, and superb solo singers.

Trying to say why I like the 1951 version is a but difficult, but here goes. The first thing is that it's a live recording and you do get the odd cough but it is not off-putting. On the contrary, the atmosphere is better for it being live. Here are a few observations:

First movement: It improves as it progresses. Listen to the drums about 7 minutes before the end of this movement, and the surrounding drama, which then gives way to peace; it then picks up again with a gorgeous unique, Furtwangler flavour to the whole thing.

In the second movement, follow the changes of pace and mood, the pregnant pauses, the drums, the beautiful way the strings interplay with the woodwind, the distant horn, the sheer mastery of control over all this activity.

The opening of the third movement does it for me every time. It is divine, and again no one does this better than Furtwangler. Silky strings, beautiful melody, perfect pace, occasional drumbeat. Then, 3 minutes in from the beginning of the movement, it hits the heights. From then on it must be one of the best creations in the whole of music. I cannot think of anything better. The variation on the theme holds your attention, together with the beauty of the strings, and the mutiplicity of activity all over the orchestra is held in good balance.

The fourth movement contains four sections (or sub-movements). The opening section is full of drama; the development of the theme is then shown; the basses begin, then recede, strings appear mainly cello and bass playing together, the theme develops further, it goes quiet; basses somewhat in the distance appear again, then a solo voice recapitulates the theme, and then the chorus enters. The second section, scherzo is in a march style; listen the clashing of percussion, drama picks up, all under control, then calm again, chorus and orchestral interplay is terrific here, in perfect step. The third section introduces a new theme, which is slow and thoughtful at first and building up to a joyous crescendo, with heavenly chorus, The last section, lasting four minutes, presents yet more variations on previous themes with the vocal elements pre-dominating; and then the orchestra re-enters like a kick in the pants, and the sensation of joy is palpable. There is a stop, momentary pause, and ends in loud jubilation.
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
cheerful and more joyful ones.
Joy! Joy!​
Remember that a deaf man wrote this. And only Beethoven could have done this. No one else reached these composing heights, no one.

As you can see, I really do love both this work and Furtwangler's interpretation of it. I strongly recommend you buy it. Find time on your own, shut the rest of the family out, get yourself a coke, turn up the volume, and soak it up. It is an experience that no other version matches in drama, power, atmosphere, elegance, sheer up-lifting feelgood.

P.S. As a budding conductor (15 today), can you see your name on the BPO list above at some future date? That's why I put it there. I wonder.

Topaz
 

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4/4 Why do I like Furtwangler's Bayreuth version of Beethoven's S9?

First some info on the BPO:

Chief conductors of the BPO (founded in 1882)
  • Ludwig von Brenner (1882-1887)
  • Hans von Bülow (1887-1892)
  • Arthur Nikisch (1895-1922)
  • Wilhelm Furtwängler (1922-1945)
  • Leo Borchard (June-August 1945)
  • Sergiu Celibidache (1945-1952)
  • Wilhelm Furtwängler (1952-1954)
  • Herbert von Karajan (1954-1989)
  • Claudio Abbado (1989-2002)
  • Sir Simon Rattle (2002- )
Wilhelm Furtwangler is regarded as one of the best conductors in history, and certainly one of the foremost interpretors of Beethoven. He had a unique conducting technique which involved rather long and awkward arm movements, and a swaying body, as if he was being controlled like a puppet. It looked very strange, but it worked, and he was very highly regarded. His famous contemporary, Arturo Toscanini, was extremely haughty, well regarded and very cynical of most other conductors but he had the very highest estimation of Furtwangler, whom he regarded as his equal!

Although Furtwangler made several recordings of Beethoven's Ninth, three are always singled out as the best: 1942 (Berlin), 1951 (Bayreuth), and 1954 (Lucerne). These are widely regarded as classics. I am not saying they are universally liked. It depends on how people like their Beethoven. I like mine Furtwangler-style, Klemperer-style, and Carlos Kleiber style. I don't like many modern, more clinical versions.

People debate which of these Furtwangler recordings is the best. Some say the 1942 was the most powerful and dramatic; some prefer 1954 (Lucerne), which was Furtwangler's personal favourite. However, I think if a poll were taken, the Bayreuth 1951 version would probably win it because it had a lot going for it: great atmosphere, good acoustics from the Bayreuth Theatre, good chorus, and superb solo singers.

Trying to say why I like the 1951 version is a but difficult, but here goes. The first thing is that it's a live recording and you do get the odd cough but it is not off-putting. On the contrary, the atmosphere is better for it being live. Here are a few observations:

First movement: It improves as it progresses. Listen to the drums about 7 minutes before the end of this movement, and the surrounding drama, which then gives way to peace; it then picks up again with a gorgeous unique, Furtwangler flavour to the whole thing.

In the second movement, follow the changes of pace and mood, the pregnant pauses, the drums, the beautiful way the strings interplay with the woodwind, the distant horn, the sheer mastery of control over all this activity.

The opening of the third movement does it for me every time. It is divine, and again no one does this better than Furtwangler. Silky strings, beautiful melody, perfect pace, occasional drumbeat. Then, 3 minutes in from the beginning of the movement, it hits the heights. From then on it must be one of the best creations in the whole of music. I cannot think of anything better. The variation on the theme holds your attention, together with the beauty of the strings, and the mutiplicity of activity all over the orchestra is held in good balance.

The fourth movement contains four sections (or sub-movements). The opening section is full of drama; the development of the theme is then shown; the basses begin, then recede, strings appear mainly cello and bass playing together, the theme develops further, it goes quiet; basses somewhat in the distance appear again, then a solo voice recapitulates the theme, and then the chorus enters. The second section, scherzo is in a march style; listen the clashing of percussion, drama picks up, all under control, then calm again, chorus and orchestral interplay is terrific here, in perfect step. The third section introduces a new theme, which is slow and thoughtful at first and building up to a joyous crescendo, with heavenly chorus, The last section, lasting four minutes, presents yet more variations on previous themes with the vocal elements pre-dominating; and then the orchestra re-enters like a kick in the pants, and the sensation of joy is palpable. There is a stop, momentary pause, and ends in loud jubilation.
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
cheerful and more joyful ones.
Joy! Joy!​
Remember that a deaf man wrote this. And only Beethoven could have done this. No one else reached these composing heights, no one.

As you can see, I really do love both this work and Furtwangler's interpretation of it. I strongly recommend you buy it. Find time on your own, shut the rest of the family out, get yourself a coke, turn up the volume, and soak it up. It is an experience that no other version matches in drama, power, atmosphere, elegance, sheer up-lifting feelgood.

P.S. As a budding conductor (15 today), can you see your name on the BPO list above at some future date? That's why I put it there. I wonder.

Topaz
While I agree wholeheartedly with Topaz's opinion, I recommend grabbing coffee (or latte) before turning up the volume :)

Also, in regards to the "kick in the pants" of the finale, I have heard that this is much more intense and dramatic in the 1942 version. But I haven't gotten around to purchasing a copy of that yet to verify it.
 

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Chief conductors of the BPO (founded in 1882)
  • Leo Borchard (June-August 1945)
Wow. Leo Borchard. I never heard of him, talk about a footnote in music history. Well done in digging that one up.

The fourth movement contains four sections (or sub-movements).
Technically speaking, the 4th mvmt is a Theme-and-Variations organized into Sonata Form. I will not bore you all by explaining which variation corresponds to which point in the Sonata, but it is very important to realize that this movement is what it is, because no-one in the history of music ever tried to do this again. Rondo-Sonatas aboud, but I guess no-one fealt they could rise to Beethoven's challenge in this regard.

There is one tiny little example, it is the second movment of Sibelius' 3rd Symphony, but I would call that a "Theme and Variations with Sonata Elements", it is not in Sonata form perse. Also, it's intent is completely different, it is a "miniature", while the finale of Beethoven's 9th is what it is.

Topaz said:
Find time on your own, shut the rest of the family out, get yourself a coke, turn up the volume, and soak it up.
Martini for me, please. I know, Martinis and Beethoven hardly go together but I've never really needed an excuse to drink them anyway.
 

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Kurki...

A Martini with Beethoven!!!

I was addressing my comments to 4/4, and as regards the appropriate drink to recommend, I had to bear in mind that he was only 14.99 at the time, and I didn't want his parents bearing down hard on either the organisers of this Forum or me if I had recommended anything more alcoholic than a coke. They could have come back and found him intoxicated if I had recommended a martini.

As for not knowing about Leo Borchard, I bet 4/4 knew about that. Incidendentally, who was he?

I had a look round the internet a couple days ago to see what's being recommended these days for S9. There are several recommendations. I decided to buy another two versions. One is a 1998 re-mastering of Klemperer/Philharmonia. The other was Barenboim/Staatskapelle. I already had HVK/BPO (77), Giulini/LSO, Abbado/BPO, Furtwangler/Bayreuth, Toscanini/NBC, the Klemperer/Philharmonia (previous mastering), and a couple of radio broadcast recordings (Wand and a Solti).

I still prefer Furtwangler. I don't know how he did it but Furtwangler got that flippin orchestra to sound positively divine in the third movement. It is such a magnificent piece anyway, but under the baton of Furtwangler it assumes heavenly proportions. On top of that, he gave the whole symphony an impossible-to-define mystical flavour. I was very impressed with both of my new acquisitions. The Klemperer 1998 re-mastering is definitely an improvement. It has better bass and the woodwinds are clearer. Barenboim is superb too. Both of these have better quality sound by far, free of any noise. The Barenboim was particularly clean. I just found the solo voices in this not quite up to the same standard as in the Furtwangler or Klemperer, but it's only nit-picking. These three are the best I have, no doubt. I'm now on the lookout for Fricsay's version.

Topaz
 

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4/4: There's only one thing better than Beethoven's Ninth.

And it's .......

No you guessed wrong.:eek:

It's Beethoven Ninth conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, Bayreuth Festival. This is the Everest of classical music, the definitive version for me and many others.

Topaz
Indeed. This is the best performance of the symphony.
Yet, do not shut your ears to Roger Norrington, Leonard Bernstein, Igor markevitch, Herbert Von Karajan, Georg Solti and Zubin Mehta. All are capable, spiritual versions and Furtwangler towers above them all.
 

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Carlos Kleiber? He never recorded the 9th,and I don't know if he ever conducted it live,which is odd. You'd think this was right up his alley. His father Erich,did however record it with the Vienna Philharmonic for Decca, but I'm not sure if this is currently available. I had it on LP long ago. Good but not one of the greatest. A bit too matter-of-fact.
There are so many things Kleiber junior never recorded.Too bad.
 

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Indeed. This is the best performance of the symphony.
Yet, do not shut your ears to Roger Norrington, Leonard Bernstein, Igor markevitch, Herbert Von Karajan, Georg Solti and Zubin Mehta. All are capable, spiritual versions and Furtwangler towers above them all.
You're talking about the EMI recording with Schwarzkopf singing soprano, right? I've always preferred the 1942 version, but I'll listen to this one again. I mean, any excuse to hear Furtwangler conduct is a good one. ;)
 

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I've said this before: I wish Beethoven had gone with his original intention of using the finale of the late a-minor SQ as an instrumental conclusion to the Ninth.

Sometimes I just listen to the first three sublime movements.

Yeah, the Ode is great, but, well, sometimes I would prefer a purely instrumental conclusion à la Bruckner.
 

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P.S. I am going to buy soon Kleiber S5/S7 on DVD audio (i.e. 96 khz). I have the ordinary CD but this DVD audio version should be a real stunner; the bit rate is enormously greater than standard CDs.

Topaz
Are you aware that this has been released at a bargain price?



It's ten DVDs for $70. Spectacular. Beethoven's 4th and 7th are included. There's also Brahms 2 and 4, Mozart 33 and 36, two New Year Eve's concerts and three operas.
 
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