From now until the celebrations of the SWF’s fiftieth anniversary, we shall from time to time post memories of ‘former greats’ of the association. We start the series with Daniel Cordova.
Eroica for ever
The performances I had known of the Eroica symphony before I joined the newly-formed Furtwängler Society were really few and far between. My late father possessed old 78s of the London Philharmonic version conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, and I remember that, when I was a child, I preferred listening to those of the 2nd Symphony (still of Beethoven) by the same orchestra, yet conducted by Thomas Beecham.
In hindsight I think that this was perhaps not just because the latter used up fewer records than the former…
Indeed, shortly after the birth of the Society — which I had joined principally to be able to re-listen to Furtwängler conducting Brahms’ 4th Symphony, the recording of which was quite unobtainable at the time — the Society had distributed to its members as a ‘preview’ a 17cm long-playing record of (necessarily) short extracts of the recording of this Eroica Symphony as performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Furtwängler in 1944. WHAT A SHOCK! I had certainly not waited till then to think of Furtwängler as a truly great performer – there were three or four records of his in my father’s collection. I noticed with this sample that a performer of this calibre could totally change the point of view I could have concerning a work I had listened to a thousand times. Like his fans, I listened to this sampler-record in a loop for weeks on end… and as I am pathologically conservative, I still have it!