Furtwängler's recordings (by Teruo Suehiro)
<Beethoven:Symphony No.9 'Choral'> BPO Live 1942 OPK7003
<Schubert:Symphony no.9 'The Great'> BPO Live 1942 OPK7010
<Beethoven:Symphony No.4> BPO Broadcast 1943 OPK7002
<Beethoven:Symphony No.5> BPO Live 1943 OPK7001
<Beethoven: 'Coriolan' Overture > BPO 1943 OPK7026
<Beethoven:Symphony No.7> BPO Live 1943 OPK7002
<Beethoven:Symphony No.6> BPO Live 1944 OPK7001
<Beethoven:Symphony No.3 'Eroica'> VPO 1944 : Urania LP OPK7026
<Beethoven:Fidelio> VPO Salzburg Live 1950 OPK7004/5
<Beethoven:Symphony No.1> VPO Live 1952-11-29 OPK7027/8
<Bruckner:Symphony No.8> VPO Live 1954 OPK7027/8
Wartime Magnetfon Recording
The Reich Radio Company (RRG) recorded Furtwängler concerts with both the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras using the recently developed magnetic tape recorder (Magnetophon) between February 1942 and January 1945. These tapes vividly captured the peak of Frutwängler's art. In April 1945 most of the tapes were taken to the Soviet Union after the occupation of Berlin by the Soviet army.
Roughly ten years later during the period of the sixth 5-year economy plan
(1956-60), the state-run record company Melodiya issued LPs from these tape
recordings. This was not generally known in the west for another ten years,
until a letter appeared in the readers page of 'High-Fidelity' magazine in
1966. Three years later a British record company issued these recordings on
the Unicorn label. At last the recordings could be confirmed by listening!
Unicorn's sound source was the Melodiya 7 LP set which an American member
of the British Furtwängler Society (which differs from present society)
had acquired from a Russian in exchange for some sports shirts.
Considering the time, these 7 LPs must have contained Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 9 and Coriolan Overture, Brahms 'Haydn Variations', Symphony No. 4 and Piano Concerto No.2, and Schubert Symphony No.9; all of these were with the Berlin Philharmonic on the pink label with identification number 5289 (Soviet Standard).
When the Soviet Union collapsed and became the Russian Republic in 1991, information about Melodiya became abundant, and their LPs appeared in Japan. Although it was said that Socialist countries did not re-press issued records even if they had sold out, it was clear that various labels had indeed done this (e.g. lighthouse, blue torch, red label with torch, pink double letter, blue, white, yellow and G label). Pressings occurred in various cities (Moscow, Leningrad, Riga, Tashkent, etc). The last 2 numbers, either 56, 61, 66, 68, 73, or 80, are considered to signify the issue period. This implies that Furtwängler's LPs were popular in the Soviet Union and repeatedly pressed in various places. The last LP s from Melodiya were black label and sold in Japan between 1991 and 1993. They contain 36 performances including two different recordings of the "Coriolan" overture. Four of these performances, including the Grieg Piano Concerto, are not Furtwängler.
After repeated German requests, Moscow Radio returned 22 performances (two
of them are not Furtwängler) on copy tapes to Free Berlin Radio (SFB).
Deutsch Gramophon (DGG) obtained the right to use 18 recordings which they
issued on CD. In March 1991 Moscow Radio is said to have returned 1462 tapes
to SFB, which had been stored in archives outside Moscow. It was thought things
had finally settled down after 50 years. But curiously, there were no perfect
tapes of Furtwängler's Beethoven symphonies (i.e. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9).
Only Symphony No.4 without the first movement and the second movement of Symphony
No.9 were included.
It is possible that RRG had two or more copy tapes of each performance. Perhaps Moscow Radio broadcast the original tapes and then gave them to Melodiya Records. After manufacturing LPs and CDs, Melodiya may then have returned copies of the tapes to Moscow Radio, and kept the original tapes themselves. The returned tapes were said to include complete performances of Brahms second Piano Concerto and fourth Symphony, and the Beethoven Violin Concerto, but these performances have not appeared on CD in the 12 years since their return.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (the ‘Choral’) was recorded during concerts between 21 and 24 March, 1942. One of these concerts was the 40th Anniversary of the Bruno Kittel Choir.
Frederick Schnapf, Furtwängler’s exclusive recording engineer during this period, used the recently developed Magnetfon recorder, and it was in fact the first time it had been used to record a symphony. Apparently the recording room of the old Philharmonic Hall at Bernburger Street did not have direct stage observation. Furthermore, the Magnetfon recorder was installed in the Broadcast Hall (Haus des Rundfunks) about 8.5 km from the Concert Hall, and was connected to the Philharmonic by telephone line. Tape speed was 76 cm/s (30IPS), and the recording length of one tape was about 20 minutes (although a Magnetfon disassembled in Frankfurt and conveyed to the United States after the war was used to record Bing Crosby shows of 22minutes).
In order to record the length of a complete symphony, two Magnetfons were probably usedalternately. The varying tone quality of different movements led some to assume that they were recordings from different concerts. However, it is probable that two or more Magnetfons were used to record a single concert. The Finale of the 9th lasts more than 25 minutes; possibly it was recorded on two tapes.
When the Soviet army entered Berlin and occupied the broadcasting station in April 1945, this tape recording of the 9th Symphony was still unedited. No evidence has been found that this tape was broadcast in Germany during the War, despite the eager investigation of H. Schmidt. The Soviet army probably brought the un-edited tapes and recorder back to Moscow as a war trophy. At the end of the 1950s when an LP of these tapes was issued, their musical value was realized.
It is difficult to determine when the live wartime Furtwängler recordings were issued as LPs in the old Soviet Union. Several LPs however,like ΓOCT 5289 are described as for domestic sale in the Soviet Union on the label. In Japan, GOST [ΓOCT ] is used, which is the national standard of an industrial product like JIS; the last two digits show the year by which the standard was revised.Continuing like 50, 56, 61, 68, 73, 80, and 88, the newest year is 94.
The first Melodiya LP issue of this 9th Symphony was on the blue torch label of 56standard.It was then published on the combination of big blue torch label (56) and small blue torch label (61). Subsequent publications appeared on the Riga pink label (61),pink label (68), and yellow label (73), and most recently the black label, which were sold in theJapanese market in 1991. In addition to these, mysterious LPs (that have not appeared for sale) exist on the BCΓ(VSG) label.
The difference in sound quality is divided between 56/61 and those after 68. The former has a rich and thick quality, even in the bass, while the latter has less bass, and a more emphasizedmiddle and high frequency. This tendency is quite remarkable in the newer label, and on first hearing it sounds clear and fresh. Careful listening however reveals the sound is based on skillfulfiltering. On the later LPs the timpani roll in the first movement loses shape, but on the initial LPs the sound in the climax still sounds musically, with proper separation. The pizzicato by the contrabass in the third movement sounds like a bass on the initial LP, but sounds like cellosin the later LPs. Although the massive orchestral sound on the initial LP may not suit the taste of the present age, the sound corresponds to the impressions of first hand witnesses of Furtwängler and the Berlin PO.
This performance could finally be heard in countries other than Soviet Union after 1968, when Unicorn issued a set of the 7 LPs (from the Soviet 7 LP set) on the pink label (61). The unicorn LPs were high quality, with hardly any pop or surface noise, but the sound resembled after the post 68 standards, and lacked a full bass. The Nippon Columbia LPs (DXM-105/6-UC), Toshiba-EMI LPs (various, including WF-7004/5) and initial CDs (CE28-5748/9) were based on the sound source of the Unicorn issue.
In 1987 Moscow Radio returned copies of the RRG tapes including 22 musical items (two were later found to be not Furtwängler) to Berlin Radio (SFB). Polidor issued CDs of 18 items, but the Beethoven 9th symphony and Pastoral Symphony were excluded. Japanese Polydor suggested that digital tapes were returned from Moscow, but a report by SFB manager Krauss Lang who attended the negotiations, indicates that the recordings were edited 38cm/s analog tapes.
This copy tape was used for a French Society CD (SWF-891) in 1989. Although the sound was somewhat restrained compared to the initial Melodya LP due to deterioration of the tape, the sound is nevertheless good, with a thick sonority. Finally, the original RRG tapes were returned from Russia in March 1991, but unfortunately only the second movement of the 9th symphony was returned.
In summary, there are three sources for the 1942 9th; various Melodiya LPs, the 38cm/s copy tape sent to SFB, and Melodiya CD (MEL CD 1000 715) sold in Japan in 1993.
Although numerous labels have issued the 1942 9th on both LP and CD, they all share these three sources. All Melodiya LPs were checked in preparation for this Opus Kura CD; we concluded that the initial blue torch label was the best.
The concerts of Furtwängler and Berlin PO were recorded by means of Magnetofon from February 1942 to January 1945. Furtwängler conducted “the Great” twice, namely 31 May and 1 June, 1942 and 6, 7, 8 December in the same year. Soviet army had taken the Magnetfon tapes at the Haus des Rundfunks to Moscow. The recording of “the Great” of either concert was included in the tapes.
Melodiya issued LPs of these recordings in the Soviet Union in 1950's. “The Great” was issued on a blue torch label (33D-010033/4). The label has other number ΓOCT5289-56. It means that LP was issued between 1956 and 1961. It was issued repeatedly in the Soviet Union and afterwards pink label, 1961, 68 and 73, white label in 1980 and black label for Japanese market around 1990.
These Soviet LPs were passed by an American to the British Furtwängler Society who issued the recordings on the Unicorn label. In Japan Yamaha (Nippon Gakki) announced the issue of “the Great” with LP No. UNIC-104 in 1969 but did not issue. Later Nippon Columbia placed a formal contract with Unicorn, and issued as volume 8 of the DXM series in February, 1971 for the first time. With the license from Unicorn, VOX issued the recording on Turnabout label (TV 4364) in 1972. In Japan Toshiba-EMI succeeded the right and issued Unicorn series (WF 60050 etc) after 1980.
The Moscow Radio sent the copy tapes of 22 music on the 38cm/s tapes to Free Berlin Radio (SFB) in 1987. German Polydor issued 18 music and "The Great" was included (DG 427 7812). Furthermore, the Magnetofon tapes were retuned in March, 1991 and "the Great" was fortunately included though the symphonies of Beethoven were not included.
In recent years Japanese and French Furtwängler Societies, and minor labels, such as Mythos and Serenade issued the “the Great” CDs transferred from Melodiya LPs. Why from LPs, as the copy tape or even original RRG tape (Magnetfon) exist? The main reason is the sound of the returned tapes. The sound contained strong reverb (echo) artificially added by Russian engineers and the total sound is not defined clearly. Added reverb is very difficult to remove and the LPs after 1973 contain such reverb. Therefore many wished to hear the sound with no reverb on the initial LPs.
There is one problem when one transfers "the Great" from Melodiya LP. In the second movement, there is one bar pause after fff at 248 bars. Furtwängler takes this pause very long. It lasted 8 seconds when VPO performed in Stockholm in 1943. The performance with VPO was 7 seconds and BPO performance a month later was again 8 seconds.
How is the 1942 performance? The pause differs on each label. The shortest one is 2 sec. on Melodiya CD (MEL CD 1000723), 4 sec. on Bayer CD (which won Diapason Prize) and Japanese Serenade (SEDR-2010), 5 sec. on French Society CD (SWF031), 6 sec. on Japanese Society CD. The longest is 9sec. on DGG and German Society CD.
This long "pause" has been regarded to annoy the listeners for LP and CD without conductor's sight image, and the pause was sometimes shortened at mastering. But the different pause on these CDs is derived the fact that all the Melodiya LPs has a turn-over at 250 bars of the pause and the information of the pause is lost. However, DG should have used the returned tape and their pause is 9 sec. Such long pause should be the correct one.
This wartime “Great” was long considered very fierce performance with sharp edged tutti and hard sound of timpani at 316 bars in the first movement, for example. However, the sound of early blue torch label is quite different. The sound of timpani is profound without edge, and the sonority is rather soft supported by the full bass. Audience should have needed consolation from such profound sound under the troublesome circumstances those days. Such sound can be heard in the Opus KURA transfer.
The sound of Brahms’ Haydn Variations on the Blue torch label shows the best sound of Berlin PO at that time with full bass. But this recording contains hum noise. To remove hum means to change the total image of sound, the hum is heard in the Opus Kura CD.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 on CD OPK7002 was recorded for broadcast in the old Philharmonic hall on June 28 or 30th, 1943. Two or more copy tapes were probably created; U.S. VOX bought one of the tapes and issued it on LP in 1952 (PL7210). At least one tape was taken (along with many other RRG tapes) to the Soviet Union, and issued on Melodiya LP after 1956; their first publication was on the blue torch label GOCT 5289-56. Deutsche Grammophon acquired yet another copy tape which they published on LP in 1962 (LPM 18817). Melodiya then stopped manufacturing LPs of the broadcast performance and instead issued a hybrid version made from a broadcast performance of the 1st and 2nd movements and live recordings of the 3rd and 4th movements.
A complete live recording was eventually issued around 1973. The black label LP and later CD (MEL CD 1000719) which sold predominantly in Japan, were from such a source. This live performance was also included among the tapes the Russians returned to Sender Freies Berlin in 1987 , and first published by DG in 1989. The DG tape has been frequently re-issued in Japan on Polidor CDs (most recently on POCG-9485). There appears to have been no reissue of the broadcast performance since it was published by Turnabout LP (from the VOX tape) in 1971 (TV 4344).
It is interesting to compare these different sound sources. The VOX tape was the first to be issued; it has an emphasized bass, its sound becomes muddy at fortissimo, and separation is not good. However, it generally has a rich sound and atmosphere.
The DG tape has a problem in the 3rd movement where the same 20 bars from the repeat is used at the beginning. It has a beautiful tone quality, but the original presence is somewhat lost.
The French Furtwängler society transferred the early and very rare Melodiya LP of the live recording, distributing it to their members on LP (SWF-7103R). Unfortunately the Melodiya LP they used was substandard with a high surface noise. The Society tried again in 2001 using a different Melodiya LP with very good results, the best to that date (SWF-011, 011R). A minor Italian label issued a CD from a Melodiya LP (DIM 6105-2) in 1998 but excessive noise reduction spoilt the original sound.
The current Opus KURA CD transfer used an early Melodiya LP in good condition. Outstanding results were attained using a superb transfer technique and an excellent sound balance.
It is not clear when the recorded performance of Beethoven Symphony No. 5 took place. The concerts on both 27 and 29 June 1943 were for subscribers of the Berlin Philharmonic. This recorded performance is without an audience, so it may have been recorded for broadcast on 28 or 30 June during or after the subscription concerts.
The performance first appeared in Japan on Unicorn LP (UNIC 106). A note by Mr. Kei Ikeda mentioned that the master tape was made from a tape Mrs. Furtwängler had sent, using Altec Lansing 604-B moniter speakers. The LP was cut and pressed by King Records (Japan). Curiously, the tone and timings of the LP were different to the Melodiya LP. The second movement of King (Unicorn) is 30 seconds longer, and the Finale is 20 seconds longer than Melodiya's. This performance was never properly appreciated because of the inferior quality of the LP and CDs. The most popular CD transfer of this performance in Japan is by Japanese Polidor (F20G29088) issued in 1989.
Although the tapes returned to SFB were used, the beginning of the first movement on the CD starts vaguely with some fade-in. The famous Einsatz by Furtwängler cannot be felt. The afterglow in the fermata of the second bar is suddenly cut off. There are two crude motives with different tempi in bars 442 and 443 (7'08" on the Polidor CD). Moreover, echo is superfluously added throughout the whole performance. These features are identical to Melodiya's black label LP (M10-05800) and CD (MEL CD 10 00720) which sold in Japan. CDs by DANTE (LYS065) and M&A (CD-824) have artificial stereo, and were transferred from the master tape or LPs of Melodiya's last period. None of these can be recommend.
A genuine performance can be heard on TAHRA CD (TAH 272). Although the CD source is described only as "the recently discovered tape with much sufficient tone quality, not the copy of Deutsch Gramophone", it may be the tape preserved by Austrian broadcasting or the former East German Radio. All the above-mentioned faults are absent here, and the start of the first movement is surely authentic Furtwängler. It is nice to hear the bass and rich tone quality of the strings. Since TAHRA issued the CD twice (FURT 032/1033, FURT1034/39), it is rather easy to get. For the moment, these TARA CDs can be considered the benchmark.
However, even the TAHRA CD does not have the thick string sonority of the early Melodiya LPs (a lighthouse, blue torch label). Degradation of the original tapes appears not only in the treble tone but also the thick bass of Furtwängler's Berlin Orchestra. The sound from these LPs maintains the good quality monaural LP sound from the 1950s. The RRG tapes may be worn out after repeated use as master tapes. Therefore, Symphony No.5 was not included in the tapes returned from Moscow to SFB.
Furtwängler conducted an all-Beethoven program consisting of the ‘ Coriolan ' Overture, and the 4th and 5th Symphony from 22nd to 26th June, 1943. The Coriolan was issued outside the Soviet Union for the first time in September, 1970, when Japan Columbia issued the DXM series LP (DXM-103). The Coriolan was coupled with the 4th Symphony. The sound source were said to be the LPs from the Magnetofon tape by the Government Corporation MK.
The Coriolan was an electrifying performance portraying a real tragedy. But the sound was dead with a distortion in high frequency compared with the rich sound of the Symphony No.4 from the same concert. Opus KURA first tried the first LP (Melodiya Blue Torch Label) but there are some problems in the sound which were not in DXM LP. There are appoggiatura-like sounds before the first note and some odd silent (no-sound) periods during and after the orchestral attacks at the start. The shallow sound and distortion in the high frequency are similar to the DXM LP.
At the final stage of LP days, Melodiya issued the Black Label LPs from the tapes. ‘Coriolan' was combined with the Brahms Symphony No.4 (M10-09867) around 1990. The sound was similar to the DXM LP.
In February, 1992, the ‘ Coriolan ' was issued again with the Beethoven Symphony No.4 (M10-49725). To our surprise there was no appoggiatura and the first chord had full resonance, without a silent period. We could enjoy the electrifying performance for the first time.
So far it was a brief history. And it is a guess and a hypothesis in the following section.
The Russian army took back two RGB copy tapes of ‘ Coriolan ' . One was without an appoggiatura (Tape A) and Moscow Radio added much echo. This was returned to Berlin Radio in 1987 and DG issued it in ten CDs. The other copy tape (Tape B) was given to MK records. They were worried with the noise like capstan motor during the silent passage, and cut the noise by editing the tape. Such process was the cause of no-sound period. One chord of the final three chords was absent in the tape and they added applause. This might be the Blue Torch Label LP in 1956. The Pink Label issued later did not cut noise so much and the sound transferred to the DXM LP.
Government Corporation MK converted to the Melodiya company in 1992. Melodiya discovered new tapes (Tape A) when they edited the recordings for ten black label LPs for the Japanese market. They did not edit for noise treatment and simply transferred the tape sound to LP. The advancement of the technology of LP processing was greater than the aged deterioration of the Magnetofon tape, so the sound was far better than the previous LPs. Melodiya issued a CD from the same sound source as the LP. The French Furtwaengler Society, History, Grammofono used this sound source for their CDs.
This time, the transfers from the black label LP (M10-49725) and the Blue torch label are included. The comparison may be interesting...
Symphony No. 7 was recorded live during the subscription concerts of 30, 31 October and 3 November 1943 at the old Philharmonic hall. The concert's entire program (Beethoven 7th Symphony, Piano Concerto No. 4, Pepping Symphony No. 2) was recorded on tape by RRG. Interestingly, the tone quality of each performance differs completely. The seventh symphony was first published by Melodiya on a pink label GOCT 5289-68, and then on a yellow label 5289-73. Melodiya issued it coupled with the Pastoral Symphony on a blue label LP for export in 1970. Mravinsky and the Leningrad PO were credited to disguise it (there is no GOCT number), and it sold extremely well in Japan.
The quality and pressing of this blue label LP was very good, and many still exist in excellent condition. The French Furtwängler Society quickly issued an LP in 1971 from the Melodiya blue label source (SWF 7105), as did the Unicorn label in the UK (WFS-8). In Japan, Japanese Columbia (DXM-151-UC) and Toshiba-EMI (WF-70006, WF-60047) each issued an LP based on the Unicorn source.
The Japanese label Crown published the first Compact Disc transfer in 1987 (PAL-1024) from a Melodiya LP in rather poor condition. DG issued a CD (DG 427 775-2) in 1989 using tapes returned from Russia in 1987.
"The 7th" was not included in the RRG original tapes returned in 1991 and no copy tape appears to exist in German broadcasting archives. The only available sound sources are therefore either the DG copy tape or Melodiya LPs (pink, blue, yellow, and black label).
The Melodiya LPs (pink and blue) have the best tone quality, while the DG tape lacks some immediacy and presence. DG (Polidor) however, have skillfully repaired the unrecorded two bars of the introduction of the fourth movement by using sound from the recapitulation. The French Society restored this portion by using another performance, and the tone quality is unfortunately very different.
This Opus KURA CD transfer restored the introduction of the fourth movement with sound from the same performance, the first two bars of the recapitulation (DG may have used 4 bars from the recapitulation). Our transfer has a solid bass sound and an excellent sound balance. One feels as if he (or she) is listening in the old Philharmonic Hall.
The 6th symphony was recorded live at a subscription concert performed at the National Opera on 20 and 21 March 1944 after the bombardment of the old Philharmonic hall by Allied Forces. It first appeared on a Melodiya pink label LP (GOCT 5289-68), and a yellow label LP. Melodiya credited the performance as Mravinsky with the Leningrad PO, apparently because record exports from the Soviet Union were forbidden unless they featured Russian composers or players. The record cover featured a statue of Beethoven. Mr. Kojiro Tabuse says that blue labels were sold in 1970; the quality of these LPs were good, and many can still be found in excellent condition. When a copy tape was returned to SFB, DG did not transfer the "Pastrale" to CD on the grounds that the tone quality was not good.
The CD which the U.S. Furtwängler Society and M & A produced (WFSA-2001) is not necessarily inferior to the series of recordings DG put on the market. The copy tape used by DG is rather charmless and thin sounding, with a faded presence. The contrast with the blue label LP is very dramatic. Listening to the vibrant sound on this "Opus KURA" CD, one is struck by how well this recording has captured the atmosphere of Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Furtwaengler and the Vienna PO recorded Beethoven Symphony No.1 and No.3 ‘Eroica' for RRG broadcast (Magnetofon Concert) on 19 and 20 December 1944. The recorded tape of the ‘Eroica' was bought from a broadcasting station in East Germany with other RRG tapes by the Urania Co. USA after the war. They issued this as the first LP ‘Eroica' by Furtwängler. The Urania Eroica was imported to Japan , where everyone marveled at the dynamic, immediate and forward moving performance. That was the beginning of the legend of the Urania Eroica. After the lawsuit brought by the conductor, this recording disappeared from the classic scene.
However, French Pathe (2C051-63332 M), US VOX (TV-4343), and UK Unicorn (UNI-104) issued exactly the same performance with the permission of the conductor ' s wife around 1970. In Japan , Nippon Columbia formally issued an LP version as DXM-101, and a big sensation was created again. Numerous ‘ Urania Eroica ' LPs and CDs have appeared since then in Japan and other countries until today. Many facts were clarified in due course.
The greatest problem was incorrect pitch, almost one semitone high in Urania LP, particularly in the first movement. That means the playing time on the LP was shorter (quicker) than that of the actual performance. At first Urania was thought to have increased the rotational speed of the tape recorder. But when the TAHRA checked the original tape kept in the ORF (Austria Radio) in 1998, the pitch of the tape was high, and the playing time almost exactly corresponded to the Urania LP. It was DXM-101 where the pitch was corrected for the first time. VOX issued corrected LP (THS-65020). This was issued as a budget LP (Philips and Fontana ) in Japan .
There exist CDs with both corrected and uncorrected pitch to this day. The latter claim they represent the Urania Eroica faithfully; however, our concern is not preserving the flaw on the Urania Eroica but preserving an accurate replica of the ‘ Eroica ' of Furtwängler. Wrongly pitched CD ' s and CDR ' s should be excluded from consideration.
The pitch-corrected CDs are Toshiba-EMI (TOCE-3730 etc), TAHRA (FURT1034, from an ORF tape), Grand Slam (GS-2005, from the Urania LP), Priceless (D-16395) and Bayer (BR 200 002). The last two CDs contain a break in the Funeral March, which corresponds to the side break of the VOX LP. The Austrian Preiser CD is thought to have used other tape by Moscow Radio as the very first chord had a problem and the second chord was used twice.
The second problem is the uncertainty of the appropriate equalizing curve. The Urania LP indicates a curve similar to the RIAA curve but Urania is said to have used the NAB curve (or the old Columbia curve) until 1953. Some Urania Eroica LPs had better sound with the NAB curve. When using an improper curve, uncomfortable sound is heard in the high frequencies.
Opus KURA tried five Urania LPs to select a proper one. Three LPs in good condition were borrowed. The sound quality does not correspond to the matrix number. Most of the LPs are similar to the sound of Green Door (GDCL-0001), a somewhat hysterical sound with scratch noise. However, one LP, which Yasuhara possesses, had a well-balanced sound from bass to treble with good detail and the surface noise was small even though the matrix number is same with others. It might have been pressed at an early stage when the press stumper was not worn. The result is full sound, rather different from those of the Urania Eroica in general.
The performance is that of a bold and magnificent Eroica.
At the 1950 Salzburg Festival Furtwängler conducted "Fidelio" four times on 5, 11, 17 and 22, August. These were his final performances of "Fidelio" in Salzburg following 1948 (three stages) and 1949 (four stages). This year Furtwängler conducted "Magic Flute" and "Don Giovanni", and he stood on the podium almost every day from the end of July to August. It was a surprisingly hard schedule.
“People who could not buy tickets are waiting outside the hall at the Sunday morning concert. When the door opens they rush into the hall for applaud.” Such enthusiastic situation might have happened after the performances of "Fidelio".
The first performance on August 5 was recorded to the tape by Rot Weiss Rot (Red white red is a national flag of Austria) broadcasting, and RIAS (American occupied territories broadcast) and broadcast this on August 22. (By Schmidt) It was thought that this "Fidelio" was the last performance as the date of broadcast was the same day.The Magic Flute was broadcast live on August 16 via Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Vienna broadcasting stations. Magic Flute was broadcast only once, but Fidelio was broadcast via Stuttgart on August 26 and via Southwest German Radio on September 4.
Much later EMI issued CD of this Fidelio on August 5 in Salzburg Series. Liner note tells the original tape was destroyed after the broadcast according to the contract. RIAS and Vienna Radio made copy tape recorded through telephone line. And fortunately each radio kept one copy tape.
Probably, the first LP was BJR (BJR-1121/3) issued in the United States around 1970. Similarly, 3 LP set (Morg 5001) is included in some detailed discography. BJR’s 3 LPs are stored in the hard, colorful excellent carton box even by the present standard, and a splendid liner note to which stage photographs of Furtwängler, Flagstad, and Patzak, the critical biography of the conductor and the singers which Henry Wisneski wrote. The LP box disappeared in a short period and how many this "Private Record" was sold is not clear. At that time there was a rumor that "EMI moved to buying up the box". MRF also issued a box set (MRF-50) with the Beethoven’s 8th symphony with the Berlin PO in 1953 (Later it turned out Not Furtwängler performance).
The Educational Media Co. (present Music & Arts) issued the performance on the I Gradi Interpreti label (IGI-328) in 1973. Using same source Nippon Columbia issued LP set (OP7530-2BS) with a gorgeous box as Bruno Walter Society LP in 1980.
Comparing these three LP sets, BJR set is the best in sound. The sound of IGI (Nippon Columbia too) is clear but thin as the high frequency is emphasized. It is a mystery how BJR obtained the sound source of 1950 "Fidelio". However, it might be possible to guess that American officers who worked in the Broadcasting stations in Germany and Austria got copies of the edited tape for broadcasting then sent to the United States with free military postbags.
First CD set was Italian Hunt CDWFE-304 and CDWFE-354 (two sides CD) released in 1988 and 1989. The sound of both sets was rather dull and differed from the BJR sound. In 1993 long-awaited legitimate CD was issued by EMI. The original tape was already destroyed but the remaining copies at RIAS and ORF were re-mastered at the Ton Eichinger Studio under the supervision of G. Klauss. The sound has an expansion of a high frequency compared with HUNT, and it sound beautiful for the listeners. This "Fidelio" is much better than the Salzburg “Magic Flute” in 1951 also issued by EMI next year. EMI CD made the minor label CD such as VERONA (27044/5) and HUNT worthless. ARKADIA (2CD 78072, 2000) and AURA (LRC1110-2, 2002), etc. are just like EMI sound even the repaired parts are same, and are thought to be a copy of EMI.
What is the meaning to transfer BJR LP again under the above-mentioned circumstances? The tone quality and balance is greatly different. BJR has the full bass and dark sound while EMI has bright sound suppressing bass. When you compare the sixth (March) and the seventh music (aria of Pitzzaro), the difference is clear. In EMI CD, the noise such as hams, wow and flutter which the tape recording easily included is removed. The BJR LP starts from the audience's applause where EMI cut. At first the sound is unstable but it is soon stable and charms the listeners.
A strange flutter accompanies only the voice of the chorus in the EMI CD at the "Prisoner's chorus", and uncomfortable to hear (the sound of the orchestra is without such trouble). The BJR in this scene is quite flawless. The playing time of BJR from chorus "Leb' du warmes Sonnenlicht”, to the end of the final scene of the act 1 is about one minute longer than the EMI. Careful listening reveals that the monologue of Rocco is repeated three times (Twice in the EMI). It is quite uncertain what caused such a difference though signs of the edit are not found. Anyway, the original tape for the BJR might already have been lost.
The excitement and happiness of the music festival seem to be actually felt by the BJR. And the presence is accurately transferred to the Opus KURA CD. It is lucky that two can enjoy Salzburg "Fidelio" twice by listening to both the EMI and the Opus KURA CDs.
Furtwängler contracted a severe case of pneumonia while preparing "Le Nozze di Figaro" for the Salzburg Festival in July, 1952 and required a long convalescence. The first performance after his recovery was a recording session from 24 to 28 November; the work was Beethoven's Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica', No.6 ‘Pastorale' and Sym No.1, which are still favorably listened to by music lovers. His return to concert life was the subscription concert by the Vienna Philharmonic on 29 and 30; the program was Beethoven Symphony No.1, Mahler "Songs of A Wayfarer", and Beethoven Symphony No.3 “Eroica". Only the first Symphony was recorded at the first concert, and all three were recorded on the second day. The recording on the first day was used in the Opus Kura CD. Up to now, this was heard only in the Italian Nuevo Era CD and Virtuoso CD. Collectors have searched such CD's at second hand shops but good mastering by Opus Kura gives collectors satisfaction.
This performance is often regarded as the performance of the 30th, but the difference in sound is plain when the opening of first movement is heard. This performance shows the delight in his return to the podium; one feels it when the sforzando appears.
The conclusion of Bruckner 8th; by Furtwängler or by others?
Furtwängler's debut program at Munich on 19th February 1906 was Beethoven's "Consecration of the House" Overture, Furtwängler's own Symphonic Poem in b minor and Bruckner 9th. Furtwängler constantly performed Bruckner Symphonies. This was quite different from his senior conductors like Weingartner (only performed “Romantic") or Toscanini (said to have performed the 7th). His last performance of Bruckner was with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Lucerne Festival on 25th August 1954, his last year. Enrico Mainardi wrote" ...in the program was the 7th Symphony. Distilled, divine and heavenly performance.... devoting heart and soul to the music, as if saying farewell between the great composer and his interpreter.."
The 8th symphony included in the Opus Kura CD was recorded 4 months earlier, 10th April, in Vienna by the Austrian Radio. But the broadcast record was not found, probably recorded only for the Archives.
It was the with the Arkadia 2LP set (FE-17) by Italian Fonit Cetra that the performance was put on the market in 1982. Doubts about this performance were raised not before long in Europe. In 1989 Italian Hunt issued this recording as the Novak version, explaining that Furtwängler was given the prescript of Novak edition by Prof. Novak before publication in 1955. He used this score for the performance. This score was reportedly given to Joseph Keilberth later. This writing was quite unrealistic. Afterwards the performance was regarded as not by Furtwängler.
However, in Japan the opinion that the performance was genuine Furtwängler predominated from the initial appearance of CD. Eager enthusiasts like Mr. Kosuke Hiyama compared the performance with various scores and concluded that the used score was the by Haslinger-Schlesinger-Lierau version, that is, the second version by Bruckner with revise by Schalk (Schalk revised version). Other short cuts in the movements are basically same as Furtwängler's other performances (VPO 1944, BPO 1949). -"Record Geijutsu"
Mr. Hiyama's explanation was confirmed in 1994 when Mr. Henry Vogel who was the president of Chicago SO recently asked Mr. Peter Bolton, Chief of Archives at Vienna State Opera to investigate the truth. He found the date of the performance and Furtwängler's name in a part score of Schlesinger version owned by Vienna PO.-American Furtwängler Society Newsletter vol.4, No.4-
It is certain that Furtwängler gave the first performance of Haas version in Vienna on 5th July, 1939. Moreover, in the same year he praised Haas at the Bruckner society meeting. He described in the speech, "The original version is very important and epiphany to understand Bruckner's musical concept....." and "Today, after 40 years since the composer's death, original version was gradually known by various people, especially by the devoted effort of the Robert Haas".
However, Furtwängler performed the Schalk version on 29 March, 1939 in Vienna and 1n 1944 and 1948 at Salzburg according to Alfred Ohle.
The opinion that this was an inauthentic Furtwängler performance in recent years came from the belief that “Furtwängler won't use the revised edition". It is now clear that Furtwängler did not stick to the Haas Edition as mentioned above. But hearing the Cetra, Hunt and later Emblem, Andante CDs, I l encounter a strange feeling that the performance is not like Furtwängler.
Hearing the opening rising sound from the silence Opus Kura derived from the tape, I confirmed this is the sound of last period Furtwaengler. Careful listening and comparison did not reveal what causes such different feeling. Comparison of playing time is as follows
16:12 14:20 26:49 21:46 Hunt CDWFE 355
16:18 14:25 27:04 21:57 Emblem E-F4005/6
16:20 14:24 26:59 21:54 Andante ANDT4070
16:18 14:22 26:53 21:53 Archipel RAPCD 0118
16:37 14:40 27:13 22:05 Opus Kura
The playing time of Opus Kura is bit longer (low-pitched). Does such a minute difference really influence listening? The difference of tone might be more influential. When this recording was issued by Hunt, the sound was said to be rigid and without resonance. The Opus Kura CD has full and velvet tone, considering such an old recording, with good balance from low to high frequencies.
Opus KURA Hino, Tokyo, JAPAN