Furtwängler Lieder and Choral Works

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Furtwängler Lieder and Choral Works

  • (Der) traurige Jäger
  • (Der) Schatzgräber
  • Geduld
  • Auf dem See
  • Du sendest, Freund, mir Lieder
  • Erinnerung, 'Willst du immer weiter schweifen'
  • (Das) Vaterland
  • Möwenflug
  • Lied, 'Wenn die Engel Harfe spielen'
  • Erinnerung, 'Schweigend in des Abends Stille'
  • (Der) Soldat
  • Schwindet, ihr dunklen Wölbungen
  • Religious Hymns
  • Te Deum

Furtwangler's Te Deum (1902-06) raises a joyous storm, with an abundance of personable gestures and more than a little help from Wagner, Bruckner, Brahms, Beethoven (the Missa solemnis in particular) and even Liszt. Twenty-five minutes in length and scored for soloists, chorus, orchestra and organ, it changes mood with Mahlerian rapidity, although its naively affirmative tone is light years removed from Mahler's Angst-ridden sophistication. Organ and percussion are much in evidence, and although the strings have quite a bit to do, the present performance greatly undermines their contribution. The other choral works are both settings from Goethe's Faust, Schwindet, ihr dunklen Wolbungen, being a vigorous chorus of spirits from Part 1, and the Religious Hymns drawing on Act 5, Part 2. Of the two, the latter is by far the more impressive, with its hectic orchestral introduction, its vivid recollections of Brahms (at, for example, 10'52'') and the dramatic complexion of its ideas (especially later on in the piece). As to the 11 Lieder, Furtwangler displays a genuine feeling for the texts of Eichendorff, Heyse, Goethe, Uhland, Meyer, Sylva, Korner and Chamisso. Schubert is an obvious influence (especially in the opening selection, Der traurige Jager), as is Brahms (Mowenflug).
So far as the performance goes, things fare best where the noise factor is high – most notably in the more extrovert sections of the Te Deum. Alfred Walter conducts with vigour; the Frankfurt Philharmonic project fairly well (save for the strings), the Singakademie are keen if somewhat emaciated in tone, and most of the (unnamed) soloists are adequate. The exception (the one who is named, ironically) is tenor Guido Pikal, whose interpretative sensitivity does little to compensate for his wailing, wavery voice – the sort that cynical musical mimics are wont to parade as 'typically German'. His contribution to Religious Hymns isn't too bad but the songs really do take some tolerating, with strangulated high notes and a piano that sounds as if it has seen better days (especially in Geduld, on track 3). This sort of repertoire demands the strongest possible advocacy, and although the Te Deum just about passes muster (it is by far the best piece on the disc), the other works don't – the songs most particularly. The recordings are perfectly acceptable, and so is the documentation.'

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