11 July 2016

Furtwängler's Brahms Symphony No. 1 recording on 13 August 1947

Although the Salzburg Festival resumed soon after WWII in the summer of 1945, Furtwängler could only take part in it after his denazification in 1947. Thereafter he appeared in each subsequent year’s, except 1952’s when he was ill, until his death in 1954. What is unfortunate about his Salzburg Festival concert recordings is that the original tapes of Radio Rotweissrot, which was responsible for Salzburg Festival broadcasts up to 1954, no longer exist. Only a copy tape of his last concert in 1954 survives in the archives of the Salzburg Landesstudio. The majority of his Salzburg Festival concert recordings had their sound source from private collectors.

In 2004, upon the 50th anniversary of Furtwängler’s death, Salzburg Festival granted the right to Orfeo to release a special limited edition of his extant post-war concert recordings in 8 CDs: “Wilhelm Furtwängler – Die Salzburger Orchesterkonzerte 1949-1954” (C409048L). It was supposed to be exhaustive. However, it was known to collectors that a Brahms Symphony No. 1 recording dated 13 August 1947 had been released by Disques Refrain (DR920022) in the 1990s and later by Furtwängler societies in Japan, but this recording was not included in the box set. Although its authenticity has been doubted, mainly in Europe, Japanese collectors are adamant that this recording is the real thing, so much so that they added it as a bonus disc to the local Japanese release of this box set by King Records (KICC 90945-90952) in 2011. Obviously this particular box set was sold out rapidly and collectors’ attention to this 13 August 1947 recording soared. In 2012, Naoya Hirabayashi, a Japanese music critic who founded the Grand Slam label, released this recording (Grand Slam GS-2086) with the sound source being a DAT obtained from a German collector.

The Orfeo release and the Grand Slam GS-2086.

The poster of the local Japanese release of the Salzburg Festival box set with a bonus CD of this Brahms recording.

This Brahms 1 is a passionate account, even by Furtwängler’s standard, with mesmerising violin and beautiful woodwind playing. Once you’ve listened to it, you’ll understand why the Japanese collectors are so drawn to it.