Selection among Furtwängler's best recordings

  The composer | The man | The conductor



Essential recordings

Furtwängler Society's best choice



Furtwängler, Budapest, 1937-1938

Budapest, 1937-1938


Essential recordings


The Sound Quality

Furtwängler attached great importance to ensemble sonority or what is called orchestral colour, and his highly architectural conception of interpretation led him to make the maximum use of dynamics – his huge crescendo in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, recorded in 1943, is a typical example. To fully appreciate the qualities of his recordings, therefore, it is essential to seek out issues which do justice to the source material.


The best CDs are those issued by the Furtwängler societies; releases by the major labels EMI and DG are usually unsatisfactory, as a result of excessive filtering of noise. Naxos, Testament and Orfeo are preferable, as they make use of the best sound engineers for their historic recordings. Amongst the smaller companies, Tahra, Audite, Opus Kura, Andante and Biddulph do excellent restorations. By contrast, quality is usually poor from companies such as Andromeda, Archipel, Arkadia, Gerhardt, Nuova Era, Rodolphe etc, which tend to copy sources that are neither original nor of good quality. Music and Arts have produced numerous Furtwängler records, usually in mediocre sound and with an aggressive middle register resulting from excessive filtering of low and high frequencies, but it should be noted that their productions have improved recently with better restoration work.


Our choices


The following list includes Furtwängler’s most outstanding recordings, mostly in issues which are generally available. The selection is inevitably subjective, and in some cases the criterion of availability has led us to exclude important versions.  Where several issues are listed, they are presented in decreasing order of preference. The performances dating from 1940-45 are usually the ones to choose, as they are particularly impressive. In 2003, DG reissued its boxed set devoted to this period (now on 9 rather than 10 CDs) with no remastering, and the same was true of their two 6-CD boxes (2003 and 2004). Equally disappointing were EMI’s recent reissues of the Rome Ring and two boxed sets, of respectively 3 and 21 CDs, only parts of which (Beethoven and Brahms' symphonies) benefitted from remastering .


Philippe Leduc, Chairman, 2011



  Furtwängler posant avec le Philharmonique de Vienne     Furtwängler posant avec le Philharmonique de Vienne

1951, Orchestre Philharmonique de Vienne, Festspielhaus de Salzbourg

1951, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Salzburg Festspielhaus



Furtwängler Society's best choice



When we have different major recordings of a single work, we quote all of them. Those for which we have a slight preference for are being listed first.


The records released by the Wilhelm Furtwängler Society (SWF), the Wilhelm Furtwängler Gesellschaft (WFG), the Wilhelm Furtwängler Centre of Japan (WFCJ) and the Wilhelm Furtwängler Society of Japan (WFSJ) are mentioned, as those which are available only from one recording company. Records published by SWF, as well as WFG, WFCJ, WFSJ, Orfeo, Venezia and Tahra are available for members of our Society, see our CDs page.



  Violin Concerto n°2

     1953, Philharmonia Orchestra, soloist Y. Menuhin (EMI)



  Coriolan Overture

     1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

  Egmont Overture

     1947 (27.V), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

  Leonore II Overture

     1949, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

  Symphony n°1

     1952, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

     1954, Süddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra (SWF)

  Symphony n°3

1944, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra), the best version

     1952 (8.XII), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

     1947 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

     1952 (26-27.XI), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)

  Symphony n°4

     1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

     1952, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)

     1953, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

     1950, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

  Symphony n°5

1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, an extremely tense interpretation, the essence of Furtwängler's conducting (Tahra)

     1954 (23.V), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Audite, Tahra)

     1947 (27.V), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

  Symphony n°6

     1943 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

     1944, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

     1952, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)

     1954 (23.V), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Audite, Tahra)

  Symphony n°7

     1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,

              the greatest Seventh in the history of records (SWF)

     1950, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

     1953, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra, WFG)

  Symphony n°8

     1953, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra, WFG)

  Symphony n°9

     1942, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, an astonishingly intense interpretation (SWF)

     1954, Philharmonia Orchestra, Lucerne,

              a beautiful version in excellent sound (Tahra, WFCJ)

     1951, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Bayreuth (WFCJ)

     1937, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (WFCJ, WFSJ)

  Piano Concerto n°5

     1951, Philharmonia Orchestra, soloist Edwin Fischer (Naxos)

  Violin Concerto

     1947, Philharmonia  Orchestra, Lucerne, soloist Y. Menuhin (Testament)

     1947, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, soloist Y. Menuhin (Audite)


     1950, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Salzburg, soloists K. Flagstad, J. Patzak,

              J. Greindl etc. (Opus Kura)

     1953, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna, live, soloists M.Mödl, W.Windgassen,

              G.Frick etc. (Naxos, Andante)

Check out our Beethoven page for complete information on recordings of works by Beethoven.




  Symphony n°1

     1951, Norddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra (Tahra, SWF)

     1952 (10.II), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF, DG)

     1945, last movement, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (WFCJ, SWF)

  Symphony n°2

     1945, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (DG, SWF)

     1952, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF, EMI)

  Symphony n°3

     1949, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)

  Symphony n°4

     1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra, SWF)

     1948 (24.X), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)

  Violin Concerto

     1949, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, soloist Y. Menuhin (Tahra, Naxos)

  Piano Concerto n°2

     1942, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, soloist E. Fischer (Testament)

  Double Concerto

     1952, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists A. Boskovsky et E. Brabec (EMI)

  Variations on a theme of Haydn

     1943, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)    

     1951, Norddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra (Tahra, SWF)



  Symphony n°4

     1941, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (WFCJ)  

     1951, Munich, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

     1951, Stuttgart, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (WFCJ)

  Symphony n°5

     1942, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Testament or WFG)

  Symphony n°6 (incomplete)

     1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

  Symphony n°7

     1949, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

     1942 (adagio), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Naxos, Tahra, SWF)

     1951, Rome, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

  Symphony n°8

     1944, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

     1949, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Testament)

  Symphony n°9

     1944, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, an outstanding interpretation (SWF)




     1945, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)



  Symphony n°88

     1951, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra, WFCJ, Orfeo)

  Symphony n°94

     1951, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)



  Les Preludes

     1954, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)



  Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

     1952, Philharmonia  Orchestra, soloist D. Fischer-Dieskau (Naxos, EMI)



  Violin Concerto

     1952, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, soloist Y.Menuhin (Naxos, EMI)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Overture

     1929 , Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

The Hebrides, Overture

     1930, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)



  Serenade for 13 woodwind instruments

     1947 (11.XI, 3.XII), soloists of Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Naxos, SWF)

  Symphony n°39

     1944, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

  Symphony n°40

     1948, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Naxos, EMI)

  Die Zauberflöte

     1951, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists I. Seefried, A. Dermota, E. Kunz, 

              W. Lipp, P. Schoeffler etc. (SWF, EMI)

  Don Giovanni

     1953, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists C. Siepi, O. Edelmann, E. Schwarzkopf,

              E. Grümmer, A. Dermota etc. (SWF)

     1954, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists C. Siepi, Deszö Ernster,

              Lisa della Casa, E. Grümmer, A. Dermota etc. (DVD DG)

     1954, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists C. Siepi, O. Edelmann, E. Schwartzkopf,

              E. Grümmer, A. Dermota etc. (WFSJ, EMI)



  Symphony n°8

     1950, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)

     1954, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)

  Symphony n°9

     1942, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)



  Symphony n°1

     1951, Munich, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

  Symphony n°4

     1953, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra, WFCJ)

  Cello Concerto (last movement)

     1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, soloist P. Fournier (Tahra)



  En Saga

     1943, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)


R. Strauss

  Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, Death and Transfiguration

     1954 et 1950, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI)


     1947, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)



 Symphony n°4

     1951, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra)

  Symphony n°6 "Pathetic"

     1938, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Tahra, Naxos)



  The Ring cycle (complete)

     1950, Orchestra of La Scala, Milan, soloists K. Flagstad, F. Frantz, E. Höngen,

              G. Treptow,  S. Swanholm, M. Lorentz etc. (SWF)

  Die Walküre

     1954, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists M. Mödl, L. Rysanek, L. Suthaus, 

              F. Frantz, M. Klose, G. Frick etc. (Naxos, EMI)

  Excerpts from Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung

     1937, 1938, soloists R.Bockelmann, K.Flagstad, L.Melchior (Music & Arts)

  Lohengrin (Act III)

     1936, Bayreuth, M.Müller, F.Völker (Venezia)

  Tristan und Isolde

     1952, Philharmonia  Orchestra, K. Flagstad, L. Suthaus, B. Thebom, J. Greindl,

              D. Fischer-Dieskau (Naxos, EMI)

  Symphonic excerpts from operas

     Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (DG)

  Symphonic excerpts from operas and finale of Götterdämmerung

     Soloist K. Flagstad (Naxos, Testament, EMI)

  Funeral March from Götterdämmerung

    1933, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)



  Der Freischütz

     1954, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists E. Grümmer, R. Streich, H. Hopf,

              K. Böhm etc. (Tahra, EMI)

  Euryanthe, Overture

    1954, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (SWF)*



  Lieder recital

     1953, Salzburg, soloist E. Schwartzkopf,

              unique and moving testimony of Furtwängler as a pianist (EMI).



You have a favourite recording which is not listed above ? You have your own dream discography you would like to share with others enthusiasts? Our Guest Book is the place to express yourself, so please share your suggestions with us.


Last update : March 2011.

For your information, we keep available the previous selections from 2005, 2002 and 1994 (RTF file - 4 pages - 0,09 Mo)