This is a question many Furtwängler fans will ask themselves. In fact, it is also a question that many potential buyers of this box set will ask themselves.
There must be a thousand reasons, each of which may be unique to a particular person. The first obvious reason that comes to mind, which pertains to a group not few in numbers, is “Because I’m a Furtwängler collector or completist!” How about some more helpful reasons for potential buyers?
I also need to find some valid reasons to convince myself that this box set is worthwhile.
- Compact size: the new set is almost one-fourth of the size of the 1994 Japanese box set of almost identical contents.
- Nice design: kaleidoscopic colour scheme which is pleasing to the eyes.
- Reasonable price: for a 34-CD plus one DVD set.
- Specialties of the house: the DGG recordings include one of the best, if not the best, Schumann 4 recordings ever made in many music lovers’ mind. The 1951 Schubert “Great” is truly splendid. The Furtwängler 2 recording embodies the romanticism the composer/conductor could offer.
- Ample representation of the best period of Furtwängler’s live recordings: 13 CDs of the wartime recordings.
- Excellent Bruckner collection: apart from the truncated Bruckner 6, the new set includes all the other Bruckner symphonies recorded by Furtwängler. Except perhaps Bruckner 7, all the Bruckner symphonies included represent the best Furtwängler recordings of that number – wartime 5th, 8th and 9th, and a lovely Stuttgart 4th.
- Unique Furtwängler opera video: Don Giovanni, though controversial of whether it is a truly live recording.
- Inclusion of relative rarities on CD: the Decca recordings are all included on 3 CDs.
- Curiosity-satisfying contents: his earliest recording of Beethoven 5 in 1926, and other excerpts from the 1930s, and his post-war return to Berlin concert recording in 1947 after his denazification.
- Contrasting documentation: I really doubt whether it is a reason for buying this set. DG chose to adopt the approach of praising Furtwängler’s music making but demeaning the man as a person by inviting Rob Cowan and Norman Lebrecht to write essays and do video interviews. Interestingly Lebrecht’s first YouTube video shows his erroneous view on recording history when he claimed, “When I started listening to classical music, mostly on LPs, in the 1960s, you couldn’t find a Furtwängler recording; they’ve all been deleted.” Furtwängler recordings in the catalogue were few in the 1960s or even early 1970s but they were not all deleted.