This recording of Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony had been published several times: USA, 1982/84, Bruno Walter Society (Denon CD 536); Germany, 1989, DG (471 297-2); Japan, 2005, Opus Kura (OPK 7013) and Russia, 2006, Melodiya (RCD 10 01103). There were also other releases, most of them of questionable sound quality. Closer investigation revealed that various sources lay behind these reissues, namely some good and some not so good editing of the tapes, which had been ‘abducted’ to Russia. Melodiya and Opus Kura had access to better copies than DG, who had to rely on the first delivery of tapes in 1987. The quality of editing and digital processing of the tapes varied considerably. For instance, resonance added, ambient noise reduced (to the detriment of musical quality), dynamic effects curtailed; in one case the digital mastering had added a disturbing hum throughout the recording. The present release is sourced from the original tape kept in the archive of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB, formerly SFB), a photo of the box for which is shown in this booklet. The tape needed only minimal reworking as the quality is very good. It is indeed quite astonishing how natural, ample, transparent and full the orchestral sound is; only in one place was remedial intervention necessary.
Two pizzicatos were missing at the beginning of the finale, but these could be borrowed from the identical figure in the opening movement.
It should also be noted that the instrumental pitch, though raised in the majority of previous reissues – in the 1989 DG issue, for instance, A = 444 Hz with correspondingly shorter running time – has been left here at the original A = 440Hz as established at the international standardising conference held in London in 1939.
And so the Odyssey of the Furtwängler recording of Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony is now, after nearly seventy years, brought to its conclusion. Admirers of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s art, and of the excellence of the Berlin Philharmonic, now have an opportunity to hear afresh a brilliant interpretation which shows, amongst other things, Furtwängler’s temperamental affinity with a work often regarded as difficult and unapproachable. And it is an especially happy outcome that this memento of the great conductor should be issued to mark his 125th birthday on 25 January 2011.
(Extract from the booklet note: Helge Grünewald, 2011)