The recently released Otaken CD, TKC-365, reissued the Beethoven Symphonies No. 5 and 6 recorded in the concert on 25 May 1947, the first concert Furtwängler conducted the Berlin Philharmonic after his post-WII denazification. This famous concert is well known to seasoned classical music lovers. (The Egmont Overture in this concert was unfortunately not recorded.) The intensity of emotions of the occasion and that of the orchestral rendition is infectious. Otaken claims the sound of the new CD has an optimal dynamic range, with much freshness of sound. It points out in particular the bridge between the 3rd and 4th movements in Beethoven 5, saying they have faithfully captured the crescendo to much visceral effect. That obviously led me to take out the incumbent benchmark CD by Audite for comparison. Much as the richness of sound in the Otaken CD appears appealing, I prefer the more transparent, and also crisper, sound in the Audite CD. Just listen to the nuance in the famous anguished fermata in the eighth note in the opening movement and you will understand.
While on this concert, I’d like to point out something that I observed in relation to concert programming by Furtwängler.
When I take a close look at Furtwängler’s concert listing, this programme of Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Sixth Symphony and Fifth Symphony interestingly occurred only on special occasions, apart perhaps from its first occurrence on 4 May 1927 when he performed in Copenhagen on tour with the Berlin Philharmonic. He had different combinations of Beethoven’s symphonies in concerts, but this exact combination of Egmont, 6th and 5th is special.
This concert programme was used:
1) in his “come-back” concerts when he resumed conducting after the Hindemith Affair in 1935 (12 April in Budapest, 13 & 14 April in Vienna with the VPO when his passport was returned to him, and then in 25 April with his BPO in Berlin, and then in other German cities, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart in the following months).
2) on 12 December 1937 with the VPO in the Concert for the 125th anniversary of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.
3) in his series of “come-back” concerts starting 25 May 1947 referred to above in Berlin. These were followed by the concert on 3 June in Postdam and on 12 & 13 June in Munich.
4) on 28 September 1948 in London as the first concert of the only Beethoven Zylus in his entire conducting career.
Note that the order is always Beethoven's Sixth before Fifth, except for the concert in 1937.