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Thread: Furtwängler 22-disc SACD box set releasing in December 2018

  1. #106
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    I feel a need to make dead people into heroes nor villains. I can just listen to the music.

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    Senior Member apricissimus's Avatar
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    Does it matter whether they're dead or living?

    Turns out James Levine was (is?) a major creep. Is it reasonable to not want to listen to his recordings because he makes your skin crawl?

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    Furtwangle was NOT a Nazi. He was never a member of the Nazi party. Not a Nazi or an ex-Nazi, and the names you mentioned did not understand his position like Menuhin did and why he stayed in Germany. It's probably a complete waste of time to the closed-minded but this is what he said and I believe him:

    "I knew Germany was in a terrible crisis; I felt responsible for German music, and it was my task to survive this crisis, as much as I could. The concern that my art was misused for propaganda had to yield to the greater concern that German music be preserved, that music be given to the German people by its own musicians. These people, the compatriots of Bach and Beethoven, of Mozart and Schubert, still had to go on living under the control of a regime obsessed with total war. No one who did not live here himself in those days can possibly judge what it was like. Does Thomas Mann [who was critical of Furtwängler's actions] really believe that in 'the Germany of Himmler' one should not be permitted to play Beethoven? Could he not realize that people never needed more, never yearned more to hear Beethoven and his message of freedom and human love, than precisely these Germans, who had to live under Himmler’s terror? I do not regret having stayed with them."

    That Furtwangler stayed in Germany did not make him a Nazi and he stood up to them and refused to conduct in France until it was no longer occupied. There are a number of examples of his resistance to them and how tedious it is to have to remind others what his position was who did not live there at the time and could not possible understand the conditions he was under. If you're referring to Itzhak Perlman, he was 9 years old when Furtwangler died and never met the man. I've found that his performances of the Beethoven symphony and many others transcend their sound quality in their power and authority. The true fans don’t complain about that.
    If you read what I said I was careful not to say that he was. However, he was the front man for Nazi musical culture.

  5. #109
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    I look at the histories of a lot of artists, and if I was going to judge their work by their personal character, I'd be missing out on a lot. And when it comes to Furtwangler, are his Nazi era recordings any different than his post war recordings? I let history live in the past and I live my life in the present. I try to do the best myself that I can and I try not to judge others.

    My point with saying "I'm a grownup" is that children tend to see things in black and white. Adults can usually parse context and make their mind up for themselves . Listening to Nazi music doesn't turn one into a Nazi. I don't need to insulate myself from ideas I don't agree with. I can make up my own mind as an adult.

    Like I say... feel free to avoid art made in circumstances you don't agree with, but you're the one losing out. Art is separate from the individuals who make it, or in this case the people who sat in the audience listening to it on the radio.
    The problem is some people would see you 'making your mind up as an adult' as compromising with the past. As I say it is a matter of personal conscience. You desire yours but your tone appears rather unwilling to allow others theirs/ I certainly wouldn't say that Jewish musicians who refused to work with ex-Nazis were acting as children. They were acting with their conscience.

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    I don't compromise with the past. I listen to music. As I said, anyone can feel free to take what they think is the moral high ground, but music has absolutely nothing to do with Nazis. Hitler loved Disney cartoons, and Walt Disney was friends with Mussolini, but I don't hold that against Mickey Mouse. I can enjoy art associated with people who I wouldn't like in real life and it doesn't affect my appreciation of the art in the least. Art transcends the circumstances of its creation. I think Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation are both great films, but watching them and appreciating their merits doesn't make me a Nazi nor a member of the KKK. I think for myself. I encourage everyone to do that.

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  8. #111
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    Quote Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
    Does it matter whether they're dead or living?
    It's harder to make living people into heroes or villains because they still have the ability to prove you wrong. Once they're dead, it's easy to paint their tomb any color you want.

    I'm not terribly fond of Levine as a conductor, but I have a few of his recordings I like. Who he is makes no difference to me when I listen to them. I'm focused on the music.

    This is actually one of the reasons I participate here in recordings rather than the general classical music forum. We tend here to focus on the music more, and we don't get dragged off as much into discussions about whether Wagner was a Nazi, or which composers were gay. It's nice to have a general understanding of the biographies and context for music, but that information should serve the appreciation of the music, not distract from it.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jul-13-2019 at 21:10.

  9. #112
    Senior Member apricissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    I don't compromise with the past. I listen to music. As I said, anyone can feel free to take what they think is the moral high ground, but music has absolutely nothing to do with Nazis. Hitler loved Disney cartoons, and Walt Disney was friends with Mussolini, but I don't hold that against Mickey Mouse. I can enjoy art associated with people who I wouldn't like in real life and it doesn't affect my appreciation of the art in the least. Art transcends the circumstances of its creation. I think Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation are both great films, but watching them and appreciating their merits doesn't make me a Nazi nor a member of the KKK. I think for myself. I encourage everyone to do that.
    I think that choosing not to listen to certain musicians for extra-musical reasons can also fall under the rubric of "thinking for yourself."

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  11. #113
    Senior Member WildThing's Avatar
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    I actually don't know all that much if anything about the personal lives of most artists whose art I engage with, so deciding who or what to listen to based on the character of its creator is already a pointless and impossible process. I assume that all human beings are flawed creatures, but art and music celebrates our shared humanity and common ideals and aspirations.
    Last edited by WildThing; Jul-14-2019 at 12:14.

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    Quote Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
    I think that choosing not to listen to certain musicians for extra-musical reasons can also fall under the rubric of "thinking for yourself."
    I guess it depends if you are listening for the musician or listening just for the music.

    Quote Originally Posted by WildThing View Post
    I assume that all human beings are flawed creatures
    Except for the people who feel qualified to judge other people. That has been a job I've never wanted to take on myself.

    In any case, I don't think refusing to listen to music by bad people makes you any more moral. It just makes you moralistic. I do understand that is the world we are living in though. People can rename the Lillian Gish theater or refuse to play Wagner if they want. But if they do that, they shouldn't assume that everyone will think more highly of them for doing that.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jul-14-2019 at 08:35.

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  14. #115
    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    After the war certain Jewish artists like Menuhin decided to work with German conductors like Furtwangler in the name of reconciliation.
    It wasn't in the name of reconciliation. Menuhin was DEFENDING Furtwangler as someone who opposed the Nazis from within. There was nothing to reconcile. Furtwangler was not a collaborator. He opposed Nazi policy to the extent he could without landing himself in a concentration camp, the same as other conscientious Germans who felt besieged by the Nazi madness. Furtwangler felt he could do more to oppose Nazism from within Germany than outside, and there is an argument that he was right. If mad, racist war mongorers took control of your country, would you abandon her and leave? Or would you stay and continue to fight from within the only way you could?

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    If you want to understand Furtwangler's position during the war, start first with this quote from him:

    "There was never a Nazi Germany. There was a Germany ruled by Nazis!"

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  18. #117
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
    I think that choosing not to listen to certain musicians for extra-musical reasons can also fall under the rubric of "thinking for yourself."
    One can think for oneself without misrepresenting other people historically. How would you like to be misrepresented? It was a terrible period in history in which Europe was set on fire and some of you have no idea what many of these people went through. It’s all so easy in 20/20 hindsight. Furtwangler’s presence in Germany was not approval of the Nazis and it’s highly doubtful that his presence there prolonged the Nazi terror of total war one minute longer. Nor was everyone in Germany in favor of the war, but one could be killed for speaking out. Consider what it meant to the German people that there was at least some sense of sanity that could be found in the country through the musical arts until this unholy political terror had passed... and Furtwangler was riding out the storm. He felt that he was preserving the soul of German culture in the midst of the political vultures who were trying to destroy the country. His War recordings are incredible against the backdrop of violence, despotism and corruption.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jul-17-2019 at 06:22.
    "That's all Folks!"

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  20. #118
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    I just listen to music.

  21. #119
    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    That’s another aspect rarely talked about. Within Germany, Furtwangler was in constant danger. He could be arrested by the Gestapo for any reason. In fact, he at last fled after being told by Albert Speer that his arrest was imminent. Had he emigrated at the beginning, he would have kept himself and his family safe throughout the war. Moreover, foreign orchestras would have fallen over themselves for his services. It was his devotion to German music and culture, not personal considerations, that kept him there.

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    Senior Member apricissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    One can think for oneself without misrepresenting other people historically. How would you like to be misrepresented? It was a terrible period in history in which Europe was set on fire and some of you have no idea what many of these people went through. It’s all so easy in 20/20 hindsight. Furtwangler’s presence in Germany was not approval of the Nazis and it’s highly doubtful that his presence there prolonged the Nazi terror of total war one minute longer. Nor was everyone in Germany in favor of the war, but one could be killed for speaking out. Consider what it meant to the German people that there was at least some sense of sanity that could be found in the country through the musical arts until this unholy political terror had passed... and Furtwangler was riding out the storm. He felt that he was preserving the soul of German culture in the midst of the political vultures who were trying to destroy the country. His War recordings are incredible against the backdrop of violence, despotism and corruption.
    I honestly don't know much about Furtwangler. But if, for any reason, whether rightly or wrongly, Furtwangler's music evokes thoughts of Nazis in my mind, I think it's totally legit to avoid Furtwangler in order to not have thoughts of Nazis in my head when I listen to music. I really don't think it has anything to do with making a rational calculated determination of the actual facts of the matter.

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