Well, a few years ago, at least I solved the mystery of a Furtwängler studio recording sounding so intense and exciting. I read a story of how the recording session went. Apparently, it wasn’t going well, with the producer and engineer making constant demands of the orchestra and conductor. Typically, Furtwängler, no friend of the recording process, lost his patience. He told them that he was not going to go on that way. He said that he would conduct it one more time from beginning to end and then he was leaving. Well, that last version is apparently the one that was published. It conformed something I had experienced myself. The best results come when orchestra and conductor are single-mindedly focused on the music that is ahead and not on the errors that have been made and must be corrected. When you can’t stop to correct, the performance has the necessary flow and coherence.
The First Symphony is also a great performance, although not at the same level as the Fourth. Then again, the symphony itself is not at the same level either.