A performance of the Ninth was always "a sacred occasion for Furtwängler since his earliest days," according to his assistant Berta Geissmar. This was the case from the beginning of the First World War through the Pension Fund Concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic decades later, "while the impetus for the historic performance of the Ninth given in Bayreuth on 29 July 1951, she writes," was the reopening of the festival and the reconsecration of its Festspielhaus. Nowhere in the recordings extant by Furtwängler is there a more cogent reaffirmation of Kierkegaard's dictum 'truth is subjectivity' than in the existing performances of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Like the recordings of the Fifth, these span the three great periods of Furtwängler's musical life: the prewar heights of technical assurance (the re-creation of sound through the combined resources of mind and heart), the war years during which a powerful sense of time and history and rage tempered technique, and the postwar years in which all that had gone before was recast through a hard-won serenity and sense of perspective."
Nine of Furtwängler’s performances of the Ninth have been made public, all from live performances, plus the rehearsal of the third and fourth movements from the 1954 Bayreuth Festival. The Ninth was a work he never attempted in the studio, perhaps because of the importance he attached to it as a communal experience. We are fortunate to have here, released on CD for the first time, albeit not in good sound, Furtwängler's last Bayreuth Festival opening performance of the Ninth. A sound document of exceptional value! Not preserved in the Bavarian Radio archives, the source for this disc is an amateur off-the-air tape. Technical reconstruction: Maggi Payne; liner notes by the late John Ardoin.
CD-1127(1) WILHELM FURTWÄNGLER– BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9. Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus; Gré Brouwenstijn * Ira Malaniuk * Wolfgang Windgassen * Ludwig Weber. 9 August 1954 (Bayreuth) Total Time: 1:15:41 UPC#0-17685-11272-0