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Thread: Fernhör

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    Default Fernhör

    This concept is seldom discussed anymore. I came to think of it after a HIP learned colleague persuaded me to listen to Harnoncourt’s recordings of the Haydn Paris symphonies, claiming they were far superior to Ansermet’s. The first problem was that there was a continuous and recurring loss of pulse - the flow of the music. But, more annoyingly in my casual listening I continuously got lost. You’d need a score to figure out where we were in the music. The repeats were exactly identical to what had come before (and regimentedly so), none of the subtle rallentandi or sustenuti, none of the inflictions of the musical argument to indicate if there was more to come or not, if this was indeed the last ‘bang’, or where the music was going, or that anybody knew. Critics used to talk about Fernhör; the sense of direction, the.knowledge of the last note displayed in the playing of the first. Several people from the old guard had this ability (Furtwängler in spades), Chailly, Jansons. Perhaps this quality is less valued today. Any views?

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    This (Harnoncourt's Paris symphonies) was a highly praised issue. I am a big Harnoncourt fan and someone who often enjoys so-called HIP performances (especially if they are not too driven as they sometimes are). But I never liked that Paris set. Like you, I found it boring. He seemed to want to make the works bigger than they are - that's how it seemed to me. Your analysis of the problems of Harnoncourt's approach here is probably the more perceptive.

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    I can certainly see how you would find Harnoncourt's Paris symphonies a bit of a jolt after Ansermet's and a bit disorienting too. I think this was Harnoncourt's intention. If I remember right he thought that this way of articulating the music would make it sound more important.

    I'll find references what I just said later if I can -- I think it came up in an interview he gave to Monika Mertl for her biography, and maybe some of the things he says at the beginning of Music and Speech are relevant too.

    I find Harnoncourt more interesting to listen to than Ansermet because, for me, it's less predictable and I rate that very highly in music. Like you suggested, for me Fernhör is

    Quote Originally Posted by Hermastersvoice View Post
    less valued today.
    A throw back to the 19th century perhaps.

    But really, though I'm interested in Harnoncourt, Haydn isn't a composer I know much about or feel tremendous sympathy for, so my opinion doesn't count for much probably. I'm certainly not enough of a Haydn connoisseur to comment on this extraordinary idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    . He [Harnoncourt] seemed to want to make the works bigger than they are.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-06-2018 at 18:22.

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    Mandryka. I get what you are saying, I think, that music should be interesting. The issue for me when listening to music is that I expect to be taken on a journey; serious music isn’t just about musical ideas, the way jazz or popular music is. If that was the case we wouldn’t need 100s of recordings of say Beethoven 5. We’d continuously look for Bono to write a new song. Serious music is about development, a theme being taken through various incarnations, through key changes, alterations, variations of the argument and arrive at some destination away from where it all started. Anybody can produce a jolt - how loud/ prolonged/ short do you want it to be?To me, I suppose, Fernhör is what it’s all about, namely journey.

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    I think it's probably true that in the Harnoncourt performances of the Paris symphonies -- which are among the most uncompromising things he recorded -- there's great value given to drawing the listener's attention to the details of short phrases in the music, and this is sometimes at the expense of the longer range structure. Nevertheless there's still a journey there, less smooth than with Ansermet, but you still get home, by hook or by crook.

    For me, it's not a question of liking it. It's a question of why Harnoncourt did it. That's the interesting thing for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hermastersvoice View Post
    a HIP learned colleague persuaded me to listen to Harnoncourt’s recordings of the Haydn Paris symphonies, claiming they were far superior to Ansermet’s.
    I'd be really interested if anyone can support the idea that Harnoncourt's phrasing was inspired by scholarship (HIP), or by some idea about truth to the music. I doubt that, in Haydn at least, historical authenticity was part of his agenda -- apart from the size of the orchestra, and the instruments used. What would be specially interesting is if someone argued that the jolting phrasing is the natural way to play on the authentic instruments. I'm not able to comment on any of these things with any confidence.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-06-2018 at 19:19.

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    I agree, it’s not a question of liking it or not. I’d rather say it’s a question whether it’s persuasive as an argument. To my ears, it’s not.

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    I can certainly see how you would find Harnoncourt's Paris symphonies a bit of a jolt after Ansermet's and a bit disorienting too. I think this was Harnoncourt's intention.

    This was commonplace with this conductor. If you want to hear better representations listen to his later Dvorak symphonies. While his work, often out of the ordinary and sometimes even highly perceptive, it was also often graded unusually perverse by many.

    For instance, there were plenty of people that called his 1960s Brandenburg concertos, the ones where some of the players had to borrow instruments from museums to use "period" instruments for the first time, silly, even embarrassing. Yet when he left pacing and dynamics as indicated in the score and didn't use tenuto and similar devices, his interpretations could be compelling -- as they were in his famous versions of Dvorak's tone poems.

    However, even in the moments when I did like his work, I generally found Harnoncourt not to have lasting value (I always found someone else that did it better) and, from my perspective, wildly overrated. How the last Penguin Guides graded his Beethoven symphonies ahead of Toscanini, Karajan 1963 and Bruno Walter (and everyone else) was simply beyond belief for me. I knew then it was time for that book to retire itself, and it did.
    Last edited by larold; Nov-06-2018 at 20:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    For instance, there were plenty of people that called his 1960s Brandenburg concertos, the ones where some of the players had to borrow instruments from museums to use "period" instruments for the first time, silly, even embarrassing. Yet when he left pacing and dynamics as indicated in the score and didn't use tenuto and similar devices, his interpretations could be compelling -- as they were in his famous versions of Dvorak's tone poems.
    I think there are many of us who think those Brandenburgs are compelling - even today when the playing of old instruments is typically far more assured. Fair enough that you didn't like them but "silly" and "embarrassing" goes too far! Some people used those sorts of words back in the 60s but I didn't think anyone does now. Have you heard that set recently?

    I have quite a few Brandenburgs in my collection and know a great many more. There are a few that I might rate as highly as those pioneering Harnoncourt recordings but none that I actually prefer to them. Of course, and as always, I am just talking about my enjoyment of the music making ... and not any debate or question of whether or not it is correct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermastersvoice View Post
    I agree, it’s not a question of liking it or not. I’d rather say it’s a question whether it’s persuasive as an argument. To my ears, it’s not.
    Does't "it’s not persuasive as an argument" just mean "I don't like it"?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-07-2018 at 20:47.

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    Mandryka. Did you ever listen to Celibidache’s Mozart Requiem? Did you like it? I’m not sure I did. Am I convinced by the argument? No, I’d choose Böhm, Richter, Nott any day, disparate interpretations as these might be. Yet I have to acknowledge that there is an argument there, I am convinced that the music meant something to this man, he had something to say and did so. I learned something from it. I was challenged. What does disturb me is if a repeat is just that, namely repeated. If the pulse, the ebb and flow of the music is lost, the rhythm broken.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermastersvoice View Post
    If the pulse, the ebb and flow of the music is lost, the rhythm broken.

    Keith Hill makes keyboard instruments in the USA. Recently he’s taken to collaborating with musicians who are involved in some new experiments - experiments about how to interpret the music. And at the same time he’s started to articulate some views about the nature of music in performance. This is something he wrote about rhythm and flow

    Regular meter in music puts the brain to sleep, this means that it is only intended to be heard for the purpose of marching, dancing, beating time to, etc.
    Music that is intended to be listened to by the cultivated and uncultivated ear requires a wholly different attitude in performance. Specifically, that the performer must do everything in his or her power to prevent the brain from being put to sleep by the repetitiousness of regular meter.
    . . . Speech actually has meter...but thought does not. Thought has flow. . . . Because in music meant to be listened to, it is paramount that those listening and those performing never lose the train of thought, lest the performance collapse into disintegration.
    The complete essay is here.

    https://www.wolfgangrubsam.com/types-of-music

    I agree with Keith Hill. And I’m not sure that Harnoncourt’s Paris Symphonies disintegrate.

    Actually today I was listening to some performances I find very stimulating which reflects Keith Hill’s values, some William Byrd preludes played by Richard Egarr.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-08-2018 at 23:43.

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