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Wilhelm Furtwangler: The Great EMI Recordings Box set


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Audio CD, Box set, May 17, 2011
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Product Details

  • Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwangler
  • Audio CD (May 17, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 21
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • ASIN: B004CHURXW
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,759 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Wilhelm Gustav Heinrich Ernst Martin Furtwängler, to give him his full name, was born in Berlin on 25 January 1886. His father was an archaeologist and his mother a painter. Both were cultured and enlightened people who brought up their eldest son in the beliefs of German humanism. When the young Wilhelm showed early signs of exceptional talent they decided to provide him with a private ... Read more in Amazon's Wilhelm Furtwängler Store

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Customer Reviews

This is a fabulous box set.
A Wagnerite
While EMI's reputation for remastering is deservedly poor, the source material for this set is the best available.
Some Guy from Ohio
Really can't be bettered and unfortunately EMI did/has the recordings.
G. Bell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 95 people found the following review helpful By T. Fisher TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 22, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Update: August 6, 2011. I originally wrote this review in pre-release based on public sources regarding the recordings, tracks and remastering information. It was released in Europe in January, and was originally due to be released Feb 15, 2011 in the US, but release here was apparently delayed until May. I jumped the gun and ordered it from France when it appeared the US release had been canceled.

This set has a lot going for it for people who do not already own these recordings. It features new 2010 remasters of the Beethoven symphonies on discs 1-5, as well as on the Brahms cycle on discs 10-12. But the remasters add little, if anything, to earlier releases. I do not have any of the Brahms releases, but I'm not hearing much of a difference on the Beethoven.

If anything, the new remasters have taken away a little bit rather than added to the quality. On the Bayreuth 9th, for example, there is not much difference at all compared to an earlier EMI release I have, but I did feel the former release had slightly better sound -- audible, for instance in the tympanies in a few places. On the other hand, the Beethoven Violin Concerto from Lucerne with Menuhin sounds better than on a previous EMI release I have.

Ultimately, I regret the decision to buy this set, because despite some misgivings I eventually ended up buying the mammoth release on Membran, Wilhelm Furtwangler: The Legacy. Having bought Membran releases in the past, I was, like many, quite skeptical about the quality I would find on their 107-CD set purporting to include at least one version of every composition Furtwangler had ever recorded.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Some Guy from Ohio on May 22, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Whenever there is a Furtwangler reissue from a major record label such as EMI or DG, there comes a chorus of critics the size of the Wiener Singverein shouting "you can do better." This raises the following questions: where can you do better, how much better can you do, and at what cost. The short answer is: on various import labels such as Audite, Naxos and Tahra, you can do marginally better, and it will cost you plenty.

The fact is, you just can't get a broader base of Furtwangler recordings, covering a variety of Classic, Romantic, and Modern orchestral works than you can here at this price, plus you get two complete operas.

While EMI's reputation for remastering is deservedly poor, the source material for this set is the best available. The majority of this set consists of studio recordings made in the early 50's. A studio recording in good 50's mono is going to sound better than a live recording from the 40's no matter how good the remastering of the 40's recording is.

There are also those who deride Furtwangler's studio recordings as not representative of his art or in some way less spontaneous and therefore inferior to his live performances. They are somewhat less spontaneous, but in exchange for that loss of some spontaneity, you get much better ensemble playing and a lack of audience hacking and orchestral gaffes - both of which can be severe in many of his live recordings. Also, these cough's, poor entrances, and questionable intonation become less endearing with each repeated listening. It is in repeated listening that the studio recordings show their worth.

In a nutshell, this is what you are getting:

Disc 1: Beethoven 1 & 3, Wiener Philharmoniker (VPO), studio, 24, 26-28.XI.1952.
Disc 2: Beethoven 2 (live, 3.X.
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72 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Fredric J. Einstein on March 25, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I purchased this set from Amazon.UK and the remastering job is just awful. The clown who remastered (see his arrogant little presentation on YouTube [...]
these discs squashed all the dynamic range and life out of pretty-darned-good master tapes. I have LP issues of these same recordings released on EMI U.S.'s Seraphim budget label during the 1960's and 1970's and they reveal these recordings to be crisply recorded, with lots of room ambience, and excellent dynamic range, even though they're in mono. The 21 CD set (as well as the SACD's of the same material done for the Japanese market) sound just awful, like you're sitting in a telephone booth rather than a concert hall. These 2010 remasters are an insult to Furtwangler's stunning performances. Stick with the old versions from the 80's and 90's or try to find LP's from the '60's and '70's to hear the magnificance of Furtwangler's EMI era. It seems that the "remastering engineer" is more concerned with cutting off the high end with ProTools than he is in reconstructing a live performance on disc. Let him play with his toys and impress himself with his ProTools, I won't waste anymore of my time or money on EMI's crap. Glad to see that the company and their hack engineers are in financial trouble.
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43 of 57 people found the following review helpful By G. Bell on January 27, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I'd pretty much give my first born for great SACD remasters of these disks which have been reissued and remastered many times, most of the time pretty much sounding like EMI, i.e. dry, brittle, horrible. Don't rush out.

I notice that a Japanese website now claims they have SACD Furtwangler, EMI. They charge a bundle for each disk. Now, I've tried in the past to contact EMI and ask if the XRCDs I have bought are indeed EMI originals and I get back nothing. I thought one was real and one was a fake. You'd think they would be interested in knowing who is ripping them off but... no response. Just another mark of a cruddy company with a load of great performances. For me Furtwangler is tops in Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Tristan and the Ring. But I have all that. And I suffer with EMI sound or buy on Tahra, Music&Arts for better sound.

EMI is a dog of a company when in comes to sound quality, truth in marketing, etc. Witness the ICON series, Oistrakh, Richter, Du Pre. EMI will often slap in old "remasters", going back years from the current best remasters for God knows what reason -short term suckering of customers burns your brand. (Please Sony, buy them out and give the recordings decent remasterings or SACD them!) Some of the EMI Oistrakh sound is just appallingly bad.

Five star performances; one star or lower for EMI sound. Go with Tahra, Orfeo, Music@Arts, even rip and run Preiser has sounded better.

Furtwangler does amazing things within the German composers. Really can't be bettered and unfortunately EMI did/has the recordings. I've been suckered in before but now I know better.
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