Furtwangler: Symphony No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Furtwangler
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
For all Furtwängler’s reputation as an interpreter of other people’s work, his own compositions are little known; indeed, this is apparently the first recording of his massive Second Symphony. Written at the end of the war – just as Furtwängler was about to face the hostility and suspicion of the occupying Allies – and first performed in 1948, the work belongs unapologetically to the German Romantic tradition of Brahms and Bruckner (Furtwängler described it as his spiritual testament), and clings resolutely to tonality, which Furtwängler considered the ‘universal language’ of music. There are hints of pastiche here, not only with implicit allusions to Bruckner: the thematic insistency recalls Sibelius, and the huge finale echoes Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. However, this is more than some exercise in idealistic nostalgia, and has some memorable and powerful music, from the ominous opening phrases through the lyrical melodies of the second movement to the inevitable grand resolution, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Alfred Walter is well able to sustain the drama through the long accretions of the musical argument. Something of an oddity, but well worth hearing. William Humphreys-Jones