Wilhelm Furtwängler / Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus – Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Franklin Mint pressing, red vinyl)


# Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
# Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler
# Orchestra: Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus
# Vinyl (1955 / 1981)
# Number of Discs: 2
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 13
# Label: Franklin Mint Record Society – Records 87 and 88 of 100
# Size: 1.5GB (24/96) + 391MB (16/44.1)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Server: FF, FP

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but at long last, here’s the big one. This was by far the most difficult and time-consuming Franklin Mint title that I’ve ripped so far. Most of them have been excellent pressings, with hardly anything to clean up. Not so with this one. Literally 1000s of pops and clicks to deal with.

Rippers of a lesser stature would’ve just started up ClickRepair on auto and let it fly… not me. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent on this one. Because of that, you may hear an occasional pop or click, but there shouldn’t be many. Considering the source material, I’m happy with the way it turned out.

This symphony concludes the Franklin Mint Beethoven cycle. Hope you’ve enjoyed the rips!

As always, if anyone has requests for other titles in this set, please add them to the comments or PM me directly.


No single performance will ever tell us everything we need to know about a masterpiece like the Beethoven Ninth, but this one comes close. The inspired intensity of everyone involved–at the postwar reopening of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951–comes across very vividly in this new transfer. Just hear the way Furtwángler evokes the atmosphere of chaos coalescing into order at the opening of the first movement and you can tell a superior musical and spiritual consciousness is at work. Except for the poor first horn, whose bloopers are the main detriment, the orchestra, soloists, and chorus (recorded clearly but at a heavenly distance) all hold up their parts extremely well. The solo singers are particularly convincing. This is a very special recording, recognized as a classic when it was first issued and still indispensable. – Leslie Gerber, amazon.com

I first encountered this recording in the Franklin Mint set of the 100 greatest recordings of all time, and I was ecstatic when I saw that it was available on CD. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony has always been my favorite of the all of his works and this recording is by far the most incredible I have heard for several reasons. The historical significance of the recording, being performed at the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival after World War II, makes it very special. The text of the fourth movement is taken from Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” which speaks of joy and brotherhood of all people in the world. The poem itself is an inspiration and Beethoven’s setting of it brings out the simplicity and beauty of the text.

This recording is LIVE. Because of this, the feel of it is a lot more personal and moving to me. The soloists on the recording are all technically sound and emotionally moving. The solos starting with Otto Edelmann’s booming baritone introduction of the main theme, to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s soaring soprano add to the supreme beauty of the this work. While there are a couple of noticeable errors, this adds to the reality of the live performance. It is an old recording and does not sound as clean as a studio recording, but that to me only enhances the beauty of it. I highly recommend this recording to anyone who is a fan of Beethoven, especially of the 9th symphony, or to anyone who enjoys good live classical recordings. – Jeff P Goyette, amazon.com

Why review one of the most famous recordings of one of the most important works in the entire classical repertoire? In theory, this should be self recommending – Furtwängler is one of the great Beethoven specialists and this is a work that meant a great deal to him as an artist and as a human being. I’m also assuming that anyone reading this has at least a vague idea what the symphony sounds like and won’t need a description. This is basic repertoire after all, and needs to be listened to. Instead, I’m writing because I want to share what this music means and why this recording in particular is worth listening to.

Note the date and place it was originally made. It marked the re-opening of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951. The festival had been tainted with Nazi associations because Hitler had enjoyed Wagner’s music, and Winifred Wagner had admired him. There’s plenty of serious scholarly research into this so here’s no place to pass snap judgements. Beethoven existed before the Nazis and represented a much deeper tradition. Choosing the Ninth with its theme of universal brotherhood was thus an act of hope. All the performers here, and the audience, too, would have been intimately aware of what had happened, and why the Ninth mattered. I think this accounts for the fervent intensity of the performance.

When this recording was made, Hitler was dead. Bayreuth was revived, but under Wieland Wagner, who knew there was more to the composer than his mother – and indeed grandmother – did. The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra may not be as precise and sophisticated as the Berlin Philharmonic, but they’re enthusiastic. I particularly like the way they play, truly molto vivace, the references to themes that will expand into the final Ode. Furtwängler lets the Adagio unfold in a leisurely way. Since this is Bayreuth, the performance reaches its pinnacle in the final movement. Very quietly, Furtwängler introduces the main theme, gradually building up towards the entry of the bass, Otto Edelmann, who’d been a prisoner of war, captured by the Russians.

The pure freshness of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s voice soars above the ensemble, her ringing tones expressing the spiritual quality of the symphony. Furtwängler emphasises the symphony’s warmth and humanity, and its powerful sense of triumph. He was artist enough to know that music lies not in the notes but in interpretations that bring out its spirit. “Sondern lasst uns ungenehmere anstimmen und freudenvollere”, goes the text, the music to which infuses the whole symphony. The music is so universal that it’s been adopted as the European Anthem. Of course this is all anathema if music has no context and meaning. Luckily for us, Furtwängler didn’t think so – and neither did Beethoven. – Anne Ozorio, musicweb-international.com

Track listing:

01 – I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
02 – II. Molto vivace
03 – III. Adagio molto e cantabile
04 – IV. Presto; Allegro (Shiller’s “Ode to Joy”)


Elizabeth Schwartzkopf – soprano
Elisabeth Höngen – contralto
Hans Hopf – tenor
Otto Edelmann – bass

Recorded in the Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, on the reinauguration of the Bayreuth Festival on 29 July 1951, and published with permission of Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner and Frau Elisabeth Furtwängler.

Additional info can be found here.

You can see a listing of the entire Franklin Mint set here.

Ripping Info:

All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5

Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio Reso-Mat
Shure V15VxMR (with Jico stylus)
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
Native Instruments Audio4DJ USB interface

Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only), iZotope RX2

Note: This is an unfolded mono recording. If you want to fold it yourself, feel free.

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19 thoughts on “Wilhelm Furtwängler / Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus – Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Franklin Mint pressing, red vinyl)”

  1. one of the greatest renditions of the work ever made.
    comparable with the earlier maestro rendition (22/24.3.1942, Berlin, choirmaster Bruno Kittel 40th year of artistic career jubilee) and the later (22.08.1954, Lucerne).
    these are the three standpoints of furtwänglerism phenomenon in the Western music.

  2. Dear Steve,
    You should be proud on the results of your Beethoven FM cycle. Your painstakingly work to restore the beauty of each record is for sure rewarded by the joy you spread around both forums, by sharing them with so many friends. All my love and gratitude go to you for giving me the opportunity to listen to them in such a good sound.
    The jewel of the crown is, as expected, the most impressive one … even I was crying again, this time, probably for the first time, I felt also the joy in the end … hard to say what kind of joy … as there is no chance for any orchestra, playing under any conductor, to produce such an impressive, raw sound today … it is true, there are also no such powerful events as the “re-opening of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951” … so not to much to celebrate, hope or … cry after …

    1. Hi ectudor,

      Glad you enjoyed the rips of the FM Beethoven cycle. I know you were unsure about them for quite awhile. We’ve talked at length about this.

      Your comments and glowing review of this – “the big one” – really means a lot.

      Thank YOU!


    1. Thanks, woodchucker. If it wasn’t for your posts of this great collection back in the day, I may not have ever known about it.

      Thank YOU too!


  3. Thank you very much for this. I couldn´t wait for this to finally be released. And thank you for all the work you put into this. I´m happy to finally have found a site where this music is as much appreciated as it deserves.

  4. Hello: Music aficionado. I appreciate your splendid love of the Classics. This Beethoven… I cannot wait to give a listen. I have come back to the vinyl side. Unearthed my old JVC belt drive phono… alas but gave my Sansui 9090 to the Salvation Army many years back. I record my guitar through a fire-wire AD/DC into my Mac computer. Not well versed in the latest technology of the vinyl to digital realm. But want to learn from the best. Maybe you could help with some relevant set up question I have in the future? My search for Purcell “The Fairy Queen”, on vinyl has not been fruitful. Any suggestions?
    Thank you for sharing your wondrous musical collection. My eyes and ears have been opened anew.

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