Piano Concerto (Furtwängler)

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The Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in B minor by Wilhelm Furtwängler was written between 1924 and 1937, and is among the longest of all piano concertos. It received its world premiere in Munich on October 1937, with Edwin Fischer as the piano soloist; Furtwängler conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In January 1939 there was a radio broadcast which has survived as the only documentation of the unpublished version of the concerto.

The piano concerto is cast in three movements: The first (Schwer, pesante in B minor) is an extensive sonata form movement of more than 30 minutes duration. As a second movement there follows an Adagio solenne in D major. It is influenced by Bruckner's and Brahms' adagio style and lasts about 11 minutes. The third movement (Allegro moderato in B minor) is composed in free form and has some hints of a rondo. Its duration is about 20 minutes and the work concludes in dark and gloomy mood with pianissimo dynamics.

Furtwängler's Symphonic Concerto received mixed reviews, and has, as a very difficult piece for both pianists and orchestras, rarely been performed in public. There were extensive revisions made to the concerto prior to its publication by Brucknerverlag of Wiesbaden in 1954, and this is the version that has been heard in public since then. The concerto has been published once since, in a critical edition edited by George Alexander Albrecht (see below). There is also a two-piano reduction score and one of the libraries in Britain currently house it, according to WorldCat.

Other notable champions of the work have included Paul Badura-Skoda, Daniel Barenboim, Konstantin Scherbakov, Gerhard Oppitz, Erik Then-Bergh, Gergely Boganyi, Dagmar Bella, Walter Prossnitz, Johannes Bork (June 14, 1950, with W.Furtwangler as conductor), Homero Francesch, Hirokuni Ishikawa, Takahiro Sonoda, András Schiff and David Lively (a pupil of Claudio Arrau) and most recently, Stephan Möller.

Discography[edit]

On the Marco Polo label, it has been recorded by Alfred Walter conducting the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, Košice, with David Lively at the piano; this recording is available on CD. Conductor Daniel Barenboim took up the keyboard for a recording by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta, from a 1971 broadcast performance that several minor record companies issued on LP (such as Bongiovanni, Phorion and Penzance). On the Tahra label, Erik Then-Bergh recorded it with Rafael Kubelik and Orchestre Symphonique de la Radio Bavaroise.

Here are some historical performances:

16 Jul 2004 Essen
Wilhelm Furtwängler: Sinfonisches Konzert für Klavier und Orchester
Gerhard Oppitz (Klavier), Essener Philharmoniker,
Leitung: Stefan Soltesz
Location: Alfried Krupp Saal

It is not certain if this concert is recorded.

31 Mar 2004
20:00 University
Monterrey (Mexico)
Walter Prossnitz, piano
Monterrey Symphony
Felix Carrasco (conductor)
Furtwängler, Symphonic Concerto in b minor

01 Apr 2004
20:00
University
Monterrey (Mexico)
Walter Prossnitz, piano
Monterrey Symphony
Felix Carrasco (conductor)
Furtwängler, Symphonic Concerto in b minor

Per correspondence with Mr. Prossnitz, these two concerts are not recorded.

RAI3 used to broadcast a historical recording by pianist Bella Dagmar, one of Furtwangler's illegitimate children, playing a shortened version of the concerto, and has the recording in its radio archive. However, it is currently unobtainable as this version is not circulated commercially or otherwise. It is uncertain if RAI will broadcast this historical recording in the future or plan to cooperate with any record label to release it commercially.

Stephan Moller recorded the concerto recently with Takeo Noguchi and this version is available in Japan.

Versions by Schiff, Badura-Skoda, Boganyi and Sonoda (an amateur who only recorded the 2nd mov. with FIT-PO under Noguchi) are available in a small connoisseur circle.

A 19 January 1939 performance of Furtwangler's Symphonic Concerto was also released in 1988 on the PILZ label (CD 78 004) with the composer conducting the Berlin PO and with Edwin Fischer as the soloist.

References[edit]

PILZ compact disc release CD 78 004 (1988).

Additional Reading[edit]

  • Furtwängler, Wilhelm ; Albrecht, George Alexander, ed. (2004). Sinfonisches Konzert für Klavier und Orchester. Furtwängler, Wilhelm, 1886-1954. Works. 2002. Werkgruppe 1, Werke für Orchester ; Bd. 4. Berlin: Ries & Erler. OCLC 57218704.