If forced to choose just one recording of the Beethoven 9th Symphony, it would definitely be this one with the war time Berliner Philharmoniker under Wilhelm Furtwngler. It should be kept in mind that Furtwngler had been publically criticising the National Socialist regime for some time and even wrote letters to Goebels trying to dissociate musical life from politics. Membe...(展开全部) If forced to choose just one recording of the Beethoven 9th Symphony, it would definitely be this one with the war time Berliner Philharmoniker under Wilhelm Furtwngler. It should be kept in mind that Furtwngler had been publically criticising the National Socialist regime for some time and even wrote letters to Goebels trying to dissociate musical life from politics. Members of his orchestra testified that when anybody tried to start orchestral practice with the greeting of 'Heil Hitler' as was decreed compulsory by law, Furtwngler would object and insist that they say 'Guten Morgen' instead. At the inaugural concert as newly appointed chief conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, he even refused to start the concert until the Nationalist Socialist flag had been taken down: 'take that rag down' he insisted. All of this infuriated the authorities and eventually he fled into Switzerland when he heard that they were out to assasinate him. Furtwngler's justification for staying in his homeland - after all he was rightly proud of his tradition in the land of Beethoven and Goethe - was that for him playing truly powerful music was by its very nature the greatest possible protest against tyranny. He was merely echoing the Romantic Idealist musical philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer that so influenced the Romantics. Of course this was laughed at after the war as being merely sentimental Romantic drivel. Then again is it? Listen to this Beethoven 9th, this ode to joy and ultimately to freedom. Furtwngler is playing for his life - litterally. In the Germany of those days to be the chief conductor in Berlin was a position so close to God that when Furtwngler publically criticised the Nazis, even they felt powerless to remove him instantly. But his greatness as an artist and as a conductor was really the only thread that kept him alive - either by being assassinated or merely shipped to oblivion. Not only that but there were constants threats of further Allied bombings, but the orchestra often just kept playing despite the air raid sirens. They would rather have died than have gone without music. This state of tension produced by living dangerously, on the brink of imminent death produced performance of an electric intensity that have never had their equal. Listen to the recapitulation in the opening movement and it is utterly terrifying. I seriously rarely listen to it because it is that genuinely frightening to listen to. Then listen to the finale and it has an apocalyptic quality, quite different from the more joyous 9th that was recorded later in Bayreuth after the war, but which seems a total embodiment of the sheer terror of the most cataclysmic period of the 20th century. Remember that this was a man who enjoyed the personal support after the war of Jewish musicians, many of whose lives he saved by ensuring them safe passage out of Germany with a visa. After his concerts there would be queues of people pleading for their help to guarantee safe passage out of Nazi Germany for themselves, friends and relatives - and he always obliged. The most moving testimony was one that appeared in a book that collected written obituaries after Furtwngler's death. It was written by a Jewish musician, unknown to Furtwngler. He 'disappeared', arrested by the Gestapo. His friends knew of only one contact that they heard would help - Furtwngler. And help he did and he called the authorities professing that this man was a prominent musician of note and 24 hours later he appeared with an exit visa out of Germany on a ship bound for America. The man bitterly decried the claims that Furtwngler - who had literally saved his life - might be a Nazi: 'How dare they!' he proclaimed - 'this man saved my life'. He thought that leaving Germany would have been the easy option where he could make anti-Nazi propaganda broadcasts like Thomas Mann from the safetly of America. No, instead he was bitterly decrying Nazism right under their noses. In any case had he left, he would not have been there for this man to vouch him safe passage to America. This recording is first and foremost a shattering musical experience but also a document of the 20th century in its darkest hour, a glimmer of hope, a cry for help of the deepest pathos. This is certainly one of the greatest recordings ever made of anything.
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1. Sym No.9 in d, Op.125 'Choral': Allegro Ma Non Troppo 2. Sym No.9 in d, Op.125 'Choral': Scherzo: Molto Vivace 3. Sym No.9 in d, Op.125 'Choral': Adagio Molto Cantabile 4. Sym No.9 in d, Op.125 'Choral': Finale: Presto Ma Non Troppo
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