Furtwängler: Symphony No. 3 in C sharp minor

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COMPOSERS: Furtwangler
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in C sharp minor
PERFORMER: Weimar Staatskapelle/George Alexander Albrecht
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 72103 2


Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) performed, recorded and published his Second Symphony, but the Third – completed in the year he died and premiered in a three-movement version two years later – has received less attention. Furtwängler described the work as ‘no more and no less than a tragedy’, and the (now four) movements bear the titles ‘Fate’, ‘The Compulsion of Life’, ‘Beyond’ and ‘The Struggle Continues’. This music builds on tradition, although (perhaps surprisingly) not a strictly German heritage. The influence of Tchaikovsky is apparent both in the use of a motto theme in the first and second movements and in a discursive, sequential treatment of subsidiary themes. There are echoes of Mahler to be discerned as well, but neither of these influences determines the essence of the work, in which undoubted idealism is compromised by complexity and ambiguity. Those devoted to Furtwängler or to post-Romantic symphonies will want to ponder this music; others are likely to find the going rather heavy. Albrecht and his orchestra turn in a serviceable performance; a few moments of chaotic ensemble, questionable intonation and undernourished strings barely detract from a prevailing impression of empathy with Furtwängler’s expressive style.


David Breckbill