This recording of the 39th Symphony is the same that appears in CD 1117, together with H?ndel, Gluck and Strauss. Unfortunately, this is the least purchased of the Furtwängler items, so I decided to pair it with the G Minor symphony to see if more people order it. It is a magnificent recording that has been been difficult to listen to because of its terrible sound. The microphone seems to have been placed inside the tympani. The aggressive, edgy sound of the violins also had to be mellowed. However, with a great deal of work, I think we can now not only admire, but actually enjoy, this marvelous performance. The Introduction is strong, affirmative and dramatic. This acquires a majestic quality as we can hear the great nobility of the piece come through. As usual with Furtwängler, the Andante con moto doesn't have the slightest tinge of sentimentality.
The recording of the 40th Symphony is also unique, maybe even more so than the 39th. Here it isn't simply an expression of personal grief, as it is usually played. In Furtwängler's hands, this is a heroic struggle. No sentimentality. No crying. This is a fight with no quarter given or asked for. The second movement becomes a visionary expression, more hypnotic than emotional. In the last movement, a heroic work would demand a transformation. It is hard to find in this work, but even here, Furtwängler has his own ideas. He gives the opening theme a forward thrust that continues throughout, so that we get the most affirmative and heroic finale of this symphony that I have ever heard.