Furtwängler Lieder and Choral Works
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,
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.'