Furtwängler and Bruckner’s 9th

I acquired my first early Furtwängler LP a couple of days ago, the Bruckner 9 — LPM 18 854, Alle Hersteller label, 1963 copyright, from a 1944 performance. The label also states “Historische Aufname,” which I’ve never seen before.

I’ve always been averse to Furtwängler, and this recording doesn’t change my mind. Nothing to do with the Nazi business — I’m with Barenboim in that regard, though I part company with him in his oft-quoted view that he’d rather have Furtwängler with his scratches than Karajan with his lasers. At least with Bruckner 9 I’d rather have Karajan with his scratches.

Furtwängler is interesting in this piece, though. In that it doesn’t sound like Bruckner. It’s fluid, wafting around. Not like the cathedral of sound we get from Jochum. No mighty artifice of mind like we get from Karajan. What is he doing to Bruckner? How is it becoming so ethereal?

Maybe that is why people who love Furtwängler love him…

For me, though, this isn’t Bruckner. He is making light of it, playing with it. Maybe this is what he did with Nazism — didn’t treat it as the intensely serious thing that it was.

So Furtwängler will go into the eBay pile. It’s a nice copy, not as valuable as I thought it might be, research shows. I’m cutting him off now mid-way through the final movement, switching to Karajan’s 1966. His best one, of the many tries. First press, Made in Germany label. Glowing. Radiant. Jetzt sind wir feierlich.

About Jonathan Riehl

Jonathan Riehl writes and teaches communications, rhetoric, and American politics. He used to be a Republican. View all posts by Jonathan Riehl

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