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Reviews: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - Furtwängler

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Reviews: 2

Review by SnaggS January 24, 2011 (3 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
There should be a review for this. This is a limited edition print and anybody reading this review should hoover a copy up before the pressings run out.

After two years, this recording has stood the test of time. It is a great test of a good system. Anybodies HiFi can play Livingston Taylors "Ink" and sound wonderful. But can the same system also sound good with archival material?

Well, this recording makes me wonder why we needed stereo. Yes, its not audiophile soundstage and air, but it does teleport you back to the performance.

And what a performance! There is no point listening to any other Beethoven 9th after this, I'm still searching. Furtwangler gets more out of 1" steel wire than Karajan did form 30 IPS tape.


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Review by Amfibius May 30, 2011 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
This is a SACD remaster of a famous wartime recording of Beethoven's 9th symphony in front of a live audience. I am well familiar with the RBCD as released on Music & Arts (now out of print) although latterly I believe it is also available on Naxos.

The reason why the recording is famous is obvious - Furtwangler conducts with an unbearable intensity and stretches his orchestra to the absolute limit. He dispenses with the usual musician habit of making a "pretty sound" - instead, the violins screech, the kettledrum is hammered within an inch of its life, and the wind instruments howl like tortured cats. The effect is on unbridled anger - when you listen, you WILL wince and you WILL cower in fear! The opening Allegro is terrifying enough. After an hour of sheer assault, he manages to summon up his reserves to deliver an overwhelming conclusion.

This music can not be listened to too often. It will leave you an emotional wreck.

The sound quality on the RBCD, sadly, is exceedingly poor. As you would expect from a live period recording, there is no bass and no top end. The microphone was frequently overloaded - when the orchestra plays fff you can hear the sound compress, smearing detail of what the musicians were doing, and introducing nasty clipping. The RBCD is all but unlistenable on any system which has a bright sounding top end. In fact it sounds best in my car, where the dynamic limitation of the recording and the poor resolution of the car audio actually works to help rather than hinder.

Unfortunately the SACD is not much better. Remember, the engineers had to work off a very bad master. The SACD has a less harsh top end than the RBCD, and perhaps more detail - but the effect is subtle. The SACD is still nearly unlistenable on my home system, but it is easier on the ears than the RBCD - just.

If you are hunting for a copy of this famous recording, you would be better off buying it on RBCD. I have not heard the Naxos recording, but it is easily available and inexpensive. This recording is neither easy to get nor cheap. And the liner notes are in Japanese.

5 for performance, not rated for sound.

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