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The Furtwangler Sound, 5th ed.

5th ed. By John Hunt. London: John Hunt (Flat 6, 37 Chester Way, London SEll 4UR), 1996. [248 p. ISBN 09525827-4-0. $30.]

Forty-four years after his death in 1954, Wilhelm Furtwangler remains one of the most significant conductors of the twentieth century. Interest in the German conductor has never been higher, as shown not only by the proliferation of biographies, discographies, and chronologies published in recent years, but also by Ronald Harwood's play Taking Sides (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1997). The books reviewed here are the most recent contributions to the Furtwangler discography and performance chronology, one the work of a seasoned Furtwangler scholar, the others by a relative newcomer.

The original edition of John Hunt's The Furtwangler Sound appeared in 1982 and was the first attempt to revise and update the discographies published in 1970 and 1973 by Henning Smidth Olsen (Wilhelm Furtwangler: A Discography, 2d ed. [n.p.: L. Schipper and the North American Wilhelm Furtwangler Society, 1973]). There is some disagreement among librarians, scholars, and collectors regarding the preferred format for a performer's discography, with the former two groups generally preferring the chronological approach, and collectors often favoring an alphabetical listing by composer. Olsen chose a chronological approach, and his consecutive numbering system quickly became a de facto reference standard.

Furtwangler is unique among twentieth-century performers in that commercial recordings comprise only about 20 percent of his total recorded output. The remainder is recordings of live performances, and these are generally considered the most valuable preservations of his art. Olsen listed a total of 426 known recordings, yet at that time numerous live recordings remained unissued, and the existence of some was unknown. Olsen's documentation of the known Furtwangler recordings was meticulous, particularly for the 78-rpm commercial recordings, where matrix numbers and take numbers for each 78-rpm side were listed. Catalog numbers for the initial 78-rpm releases were also given, along with as many subsequent 33 1/3- and 45-rpm issues as could be reasonably determined. By the time the third edition of The Furtwangler Sound appeared in 1990, Hunt had substantially updated Olsen's discography, including many recordings of live performances not known to his predecessor as well as expanded listings of LP and compact-disc reissue labels and catalog numbers. He did not include matrix and take numbers for 78-rpm recordings. Hunt expanded Olsen's numbering system by the use of decimals; for example, a newly discovered recording that belonged chronologically between "O 78" and "O 79" (the February 1943 En Saga by Jean Sibelius) was given the number "O 78.9."

The primary discographic listings in Hunt's third edition were arranged alphabetically by composer. Hans-Hubert Schonzeler's chronological cross-reference, using the expanded Olsen numbering system, listed the recordings by date, composer, and title only. Hunt also included a list of recordings previously attributed to Furtwangler, but since proven to have been conducted by others. Over half the third edition of The Furtwangler Sound was devoted to a chronological listing of every concert and opera performance known to have been given by Furtwangler between 1906 and 1954. Commercial recording sessions were included in the performance chronology, and all performances known to have been recorded were identified with a star, thus providing a second cross-reference to the main discography. The primary weakness in Hunt's performance chronology was the dearth of information available for the earliest years of Furtwangler's career, 1906 to 1921. In some cases no specific information on individual performances was given. For the conductor's periods in Lubeck (1911-15) and Mannheim (1915-18), a list of works known to be in his repertory was given, with no additional information.

The Furtwangler Sound, fourth edition, appeared in 1992 and retained Hunt's discographic listings by composer, while dropping the Olsen-style recording chronology and expanded Olsen numbering system. Hunt expanded his previous discography by updating the listings of LP and compact-disc reissues and by providing commentary on recommended versions of works where multiple Furtwangler recordings exist. Perhaps the most important addition to the fourth edition was the inclusion of matrix and take numbers for all 78-rpm recordings. Hunt also expanded his list of doubtful recordings and included a short article by Ernest Lump titled "Doubtful Furtwangler Performances Finally Unmasked." The Lump article documented the origins of the Joseph Haydn Symphony no. 104 and Antonin Dvorak "New World" Symphony recordings mistakenly attributed to Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic. Hunt's article "A Not-So-Reluctant Recording Artist" was also included, offering some interesting insights into Furtwangler's relationships with Polydor, HMV, and Telefunken. Hunt offered a short appendix to the chronological listing of performances included in the third edition, but only fourteen additional public appearances could be documented between 1906 and 1920.

With the publication of the fifth edition of The Furtwangler Sound Hunt has narrowed his focus, devoting the entire volume to discographic information and dropping the performance chronology entirely. In an attempt to satisfy both the scholar-librarian and the individual collector, Hunt's latest edition contains complete chronological and composer discographies, with nearly all data on each recording reproduced in both sections. The need to use one part as a cross-reference to the other in order to access most of the information available on any given recording has been almost completely eliminated. Where excerpts from an opera or other work have been issued, complete data on those excerpts is confined to the composer section. All other information is duplicated in both sections. This is a highly sensible approach and one that other discographers should consider, particularly since even modest personal computer database programs allow generation of reports in a variety of formats. Wisely, Hunt continues to list all 45-rpm, LP, and compact-disc issues known to him, along with original catalog numbers for 78-rpm commercial recordings. Matrix and take numbers are not provided for 78-rpm discs, which is unfortunate.

In the latest edition's "Chronological Discography" Hunt has replaced the third edition's expanded Olsen numbering system in favor of his own renumbering; a total of 461 separate entries are listed. There is a newly written introduction, and the articles and annotations that appeared in the fourth edition have been dropped, though Hunt has given catalog numbers of recommended reissues in boldface. He has also dropped the "Furtwangler on Film" section included in previous editions; all known films of Furtwangler conducting are included in the chronological and composer discographies. Recordings of the conductor speaking are listed in a separate section. In his newly written introduction, Hunt cites Teldec's Art of Conducting video (1994) as being "indispensable with its 3 Furtwangler items" (p. 9). Unfortunately, he makes no mention of the video's serious technical problems. A substantial number of these films were transferred a half tone sharp in pitch, including two Furtwangler items from 1951, Richard Wagner's Meistersinger Prelude and a rehearsal of Franz Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony. Both of these films were transferred at the correct pitch on Japanese Dreamlife laser discs owned by this reviewer (catalog numbers DMLB-20 [the complete 1954 film Botschafter der Musik] and DMLB-23 [Portrat Wilhelm Furtwangler] respectively).

In his introduction to Wilhelm Furtwangler: A Discography, Rene Tremine notes that Hunt's various editions "unfortunately contain quite a number of errors and omissions. Furthermore, the unpublished recordings discovered over the years are omitted. Similarly, Hunt's list of Furtwangler's concerts is incomplete, with over a thousand concerts omitted" (p. 4). Tremine has chosen a chronological format, using his own numbering system to identify each recording. Olsen numbers are also given, in italics, for all recordings included in the 1973 compilation. Tremine appears to offer 481 entries, twenty more than Hunt in his fifth edition. Closer examination shows that Tremine has separately numbered each of the twenty-two Hugo Wolf lieder performed at the 1953 Salzburg Festival (as had Olsen), in which Furtwangler served as piano accompanist to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf; Hunt gives the entire recital a single number. A composer index is included, with each work followed by the Tremine entry numbers in the chronological listing. Tremine has not included films in the main discography, discussing this material separately in a section titled "Furtwangler on Film." In cases where the sound portions only have appeared on audio recordings, Tremine, like Olsen, has included the audio versions in the discography. Again following Olsen, he has incorporated recordings of Furtwangler speaking in his main listing, giving each a separate Tremine number.

Though Tremine's approach to the listing of film and speech recordings is consistent with Olsen's, another of his decisions makes this approach of dubious value. Hunt's discographies continue to list German radio archive recordings made before 1940 and presumably lost during World War II, though Tremine has chosen not to list these. Since Olsen listed and numbered many of these recordings, there are several gaps in the italicized Olsen numbering sequence included in Tremine's discography. Olsen's numbering should be either included in its totality or discarded. If certain recordings listed by Olsen fail to be included in subsequent discographies, even if they are thought no longer to exist, it makes little sense to follow his format for the remainder of the entries, since gaps in the Olsen numbers can only lead to confusion. Hunt's approach, listing films in the main body of the discography, is far more sensible, but Hunt should include speech recordings here as well.

There are many inconsistencies and omissions, along with translation and language problems, in the Tremine discography. The first opera in Wagner's Ring is listed consistently as "der Rheingold"; the final is incorrectly titled "die Gotterdammerung," and the "Die" which precedes "Walkure" and "Meistersinger" is not capitalized. The word "broadcasted" is consistently used where the author means "broadcast," and there are numerous similar difficulties. Furtwangler's 1929 Polydor recording of Entr'acte no. 3 from Schubert's Rosamunde (entry 6) is listed as "Interlude No. 3," whereas the 1930 remake (entry 17) is correctly identified as "Entr'acte No. 3."

The annotated listing titled "Furtwangler: Fakes and Dubious Recordings" fails to mention the alleged 1951 fourth movement from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony no. 40, passed off as Furtwangler on LP by Period, Everest, and Nippon Columbia, but in fact conducted by Bruno Walter. Also missing from this listing is the alleged 1941 Dvorak "New World" Symphony, proven to have been conducted by Oswald Kabasta, though this recording is discussed in Tremine's article "Furtwangler and Pirate Recordings." In "Furtwangler on Film," Tremine fails to note that the soundtrack to the 19 April 1942 film of the conclusion of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 is taken from the March 1942 performance, which has been widely circulated on audio recordings. The soloists shown in the film are not those actually singing, and the overdubbing and synchronization, presumably done by the Nazis at the time the film was made, are extremely poor. The problems and inconsistencies cited above have been correctly documented in the various editions of Hunt's discography. Both Hunt and Tremine state that the film Botschafter der Musik contains only the opening bars of the Prelude to Die Meistersinger; in reality, the film contains the opening two minutes and the concluding three.

Tremine has given matrix numbers for only a fraction of Furtwangler's 78-rpm recordings. They are given for the 1926 Polydor recording of Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 and for both versions of the Rosamunde Entr'acte, but all other Polydor matrix numbers are missing. Matrix numbers are given for the unissued 1943 Electrola recordings of Johannes Brahms's Haydn Variations and Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony, though take numbers are not included, and most HMV matrix numbers are missing. Catalog numbers for 78-rpm releases are given, but Tremine has been selective in listing 45-rpm, LP, and compact-disc issues of each recording, offering only initial releases in each format. This will make it difficult for institutions and collectors to determine if they do, in fact, own a recording of a given performance.

Tremine entry 22 is the 1931 Bayreuth performance of the prelude to act 1 of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde; a BASF LP issue is cited for this recording. Hunt correctly lists this performance as unissued and presumably lost, and even Tremine, in his section on "fake" recordings, notes that alleged issues of this performance are, in fact, the 1938 Berlin/HMV studio recording. A note accompanying entry 22 states that excerpts from act 1 of the 1931 Bayreuth performance were issued on LP by Danacord (Great Singers in Copenhagen, DACO 131-33). This is correct, but why was this genuine item not given a separate entry?

In 1994 and 1995 the Austrian label Koch/Schwann issued the twenty-four-volume series Wiener Staatsoper Live, 19331944, which included many previously elusive Furtwangler recordings. Tremine has listed many of the Koch compact discs, but his documentation is incomplete and often inaccurate. No Koch reissues are identified for entries 31-36, encompassing performances of Wagner's Tannhauser during October 1935 and January 1936. Several items from the January performance are not listed at all by Tremine, and he consistently identifies baritone Alexander Sved as "Sandor Sved." The Tristan excerpts in volume 11 from 25 December 1941 are listed, though those found in volume 6, from the same performance, are not. The various 1936 excerpts from Die Walkure are not given entries by Tremine, even though he acknowledges their presence in the Koch series in a note accompanying entry 36. Hunt confuses the Tannhauser performances, but is otherwise far more accurate than Tremine in correctly listing the live Vienna State Opera recordings and identifying the Koch compact discs. Hunt also lists the exact excerpts from each opera included on the Koch discs; Tremine does not. Early printings of the Tremine discography are missing the page containing entries 145-54; an insert can be obtained by contacting Jem Music at the address given at the head of this review. There are many other problems with the Tremine discography; the above documentation is merely a sample.

Tremine's Concert Listing 1906-1954 is the most comprehensive chronology of known Furtwangler performances ever attempted. Particularly valuable is the documentation of Furtwangler's early years. Though many details of the 1906-1911 Zurich and Strasbourg period are not well known, Tremine nonetheless lists over a dozen works from this time. Casts are included for most opera performances, along with a number of precise dates. Hunt notes Furtwangler's involvement in Munich from 1907 to 1909 but offers no details on specific works or performances. Tremine clarifies this period, noting that Furtwangler worked at the Court Opera as a coach to Felix Mottl but apparently "had no activity whatsoever as a conductor during this time" (p. 4). This is but one example of the many mysteries clarified by Tremine's excellent annotations of Furtwangler's pre-Berlin years.

Tremine gives four pages of concert listings for the 1911-15 Lubeck period and nearly five for the 1915-20 Mannheim period (the Mannheim era did not end in 1918, as stated by Hunt). Particularly fascinating is Furtwangler's repertory during this time. It has often been assumed that the only Giuseppe Verdi opera performed by Furtwangler was Otello and that the three 1951 Salzburg performances were his first and only performances of this work. Tremine's research reveals that both Aida and Otello were in the Furtwangler repertory during the Mannheim years, along with Gustav Mahler's Lied von der Erde, Georges Bizet's Carmen, and Hector Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini, none of which is generally associated with this conductor. Tremine reproduces several concert programs in his chronology, most also documenting repertory not associated with Furtwangler, including a 1920 performance of Mahler's Third Symphony with the Vienna Tonkunstler Orchestra. Strangely, Furtwangler was not empathetic toward Mahler's music, offering only a handful of Mahler performances during his forty-eight-year career.

In his introduction, Tremine is candid in his admission that the present chronology cannot be complete or entirely free of errors. There remain many gaps in documentation of the earliest concerts and operatic performances, and since Furtwangler sometimes changed repertory at the last minute, after programs had been printed, only newspaper reviews can reveal the exact contents of each concert. Locating reviews of each concert would be "an unthinkable venture," as Tremine correctly notes (p. 3). He views his Concert Listing as the basis for future studies and, as such, this volume is an admirable achievement. As in his discography, annotations are given in both French and English; however, the English translations in the Concert Listing are free of many of the problems noted in the discography.

Concert Listing 1906-1954 is a definitive chronology of Furtwangler's performances (within the limits of current research and accessible information), rendering Hunt's previous chronologies obsolete. Unfortunately, neither author has produced a completely satisfactory Furtwangler discography. A definitive discography should offer a chronological listing of every known Furtwangler recording, including unissued and presumably lost items, along with speech-only recordings and all films of Furtwangler 'conducting and rehearsing. A composer index should also be included, though it need not duplicate all recording data. Although a new numbering sequence is necessary due to the number of items discovered since Olsen's 1973 publication, original Olsen numbers should also be included for reference. Matrix and take numbers should be included for every 78-rpm recording, published and unpublished, along with original 78-rpm catalog numbers and as many 45-rpm, LP, and compact-disc issues as can be determined. Most of this information has already been published in one form or another over the past twenty-five years, but the scholar and serious collector should not have to peruse a half-dozen different sources to find it; a definitive discography should provide it all in one source. Tremine's Wilhelm Furtwangler: A Discography is very much a first draft, with a great deal of work needed before a second edition can go to press. Though also imperfect, the fifth edition of Hunt's Furtwangler Sound is the more accurate, complete, and polished of the two books.

GARY A. GALO State University of New York at Potsdam
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Author:Galo, Gary A.
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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