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Thread: Explain fascination with Furtwängler

  1. #16
    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    I think it’s also important to point out Furtwängler’s aversion to recordings and the idea of perfection. He was the complete opposite of Karajan in this regard. Furtwängler wanted every performance to be its own creature and a product of the instance it occurred. He did not aspire to a perfect account to be captured for all time. He didn’t believe it.

    So if you are the type of listener who has an idea of perfection in your mind and a litmus test for what does and does not work, you probably won’t like Furtwängler. If you are open to the impact of a performance representing the thoughts of an artist only at one instant in time, without regard to stringent parameters of perfection, you might appreciate Furtwängler.

    I never rate Furtwängler (or others) by standards of perfection. I rate them by their impact. That was Furtwängler’s goal.
    Last edited by Brahmsianhorn; May-17-2020 at 01:38.

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhdanov View Post
    maybe they have been told do so?

    i for one have certain reservations about his approach...
    You are entitled to your opinion, but to state that those of us who do appreciate Furtwängler lack individual brains and merely are being told to like him is both insulting and closed-minded.

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    Senior Member Zhdanov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brahmsianhorn View Post
    to state that those of us who do appreciate Furtwängler lack individual brains and merely are being told to like him is both insulting and closed-minded.
    but i only said 'maybe'.

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    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    I don’t listen to Furtwängler on a regular basis, but I’ll say this: There’s no way I will think anyone knows much about classical music if they are not very familiar with Furtwängler’s work. I am sure that I have listened to every reasonably available recording this conductor ever made, and I go back now and then and listen to several of his signal achievements in order to make sure I’m in proper calibration with respect to the performance of the core German symphonic repertoire.

    Consider the major interpreters of the standard German repertoire from the second half of the 20th Century and right up to the present. Let’s say HvK, Klemperer, Walter, Koussevitzky, Monteux, Munch, Reiner, Szell, Ormandy, Dorati, Bernstein, Solti, Blomstedt, Haitink, Abbado, Jochum, Jansons, Giulini, and forgive me for leaving out lots of others and for my tilt toward American orchestras. The point is that they were/are all highly aware of Furtwängler down to the smallest detail. Every artistic decision they made/make is directly or indirectly influenced by what Furtwängler did. Or if “influenced” is an over-reach, let’s say “informed.” As others have commented, Furtwängler absolutely knew what he was doing and managed to put together and lead more definitive performances of the standard German repertoire than any other conductor.

    There are problems with Furtwängler. My dad hated him, and that seems to be typical of people of my dad’s generation who fought in WW2 against the Nazis. “Ich höre dem Reiner tausandmal zu vor ich dem Furtwängler ein einziges Mal zuhöre, dem Nazi Miststück. Und Du, Franz, musst mal darüber nachdenken.” It’s sort of sad and pathetic, then, that my main problem with Furtwängler is the sound quality of his recordings. Nuanced views are a privilege gained by separation in time from traumatic events.

    Most of my Furtwängler recordings are on old cassette tapes that my close friend made for me in the early 1990s. He was a Furtwängler evangelist. Many of the original recordings were literally made behind enemy lines, so the further degradation caused by the dubbing is of little consequence. I cherish those tapes for the memory of my friend and for the incalculable benefit they have brought to me. How would I have my bearings in the sea of symphonic music if it weren’t for Furtwängler?

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    I think Furtwängler can at most be accused of being naively used and manipulated by the Nazis, but he definitely did not in any way willingly help or support them. He honestly believed he was doing more to fight the Nazis by staying in Germany and standing up to them to the extent possible. What he got away with was inconceivable, including criticizing Hitler for his racial policies to his face. It was only because the Nazis needed Furtwängler so badly that he could get away with it. One of the things they did was use Karajan, a compliant Nazi, as a way to make Furtwängler jealous and try to curb his behavior. This is part of the root of not only the animosity between the two men but their later admirers as well.

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    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Oh no, not those stupid Nazi accusations again...

    And as for a post a while back, I thought Furtwängler was the best there was before discussing classical music with anyone else, not to mention on internet forums.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplicissimus View Post
    Consider the major interpreters of the standard German repertoire from the second half of the 20th Century and right up to the present. Let’s say HvK, Klemperer, Walter, Koussevitzky, Monteux, Munch, Reiner, Szell, Ormandy, Dorati, Bernstein, Solti, Blomstedt, Haitink, Abbado, Jochum, Jansons, Giulini, and forgive me for leaving out lots of others and for my tilt toward American orchestras. The point is that they were/are all highly aware of Furtwängler down to the smallest detail. Every artistic decision they made/make is directly or indirectly influenced by what Furtwängler did. Or if “influenced” is an over-reach, let’s say “informed.”
    You left out Toscanini and Weingartner, major omissions - the two "founders" of the literalist movement...it is not possible to discuss the standard Germanic repertoire without including these conductors, esp Toscanini...whose style ultimately prevailed over the "Romantic" style of Furtwangler, Mengelberg, etc...of course, their "disciples" were major players as well - Reiner, Szell, Monteux, etc....
    I don't think Toscanini really cared much what Furtwangler did [other than to criticize it].
    To try to maintain that every post-Furtwangler conductor studied his readings down to the smallest detail is just an unsupportable premise...

    Just so you understand - when I originally started to become involved seriously with classical/concert music [high school] - I was a huge Furtwangler fan, really got into it...it seemed so deep, so profound, so "significant"....but, as I studied more, went off to conservatory, and was exposed, became familiar with other styles, other schools of music-making, I began to see that extremely powerful, expressive and dramatic readings could be produced while still maintaining a fidelity to the score, with much better precision accuracy, intensity, flow, etc....

    As others have commented, Furtwängler absolutely knew what he was doing and managed to put together and lead more definitive performances of the standard German repertoire than any other conductor.
    Baloney....sorry, that is pure opinion with which I do not concur, in the least.
    Last edited by Heck148; May-17-2020 at 04:40.

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  13. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brahmsianhorn View Post
    I think it’s also important to point out Furtwängler’s aversion to recordings and the idea of perfection. He was the complete opposite of Karajan in this regard. Furtwängler wanted every performance to be its own creature and a product of the instance it occurred. He did not aspire to a perfect account to be captured for all time. He didn’t believe it.

    So if you are the type of listener who has an idea of perfection in your mind and a litmus test for what does and does not work, you probably won’t like Furtwängler. If you are open to the impact of a performance representing the thoughts of an artist only at one instant in time, without regard to stringent parameters of perfection, you might appreciate Furtwängler.

    I never rate Furtwängler (or others) by standards of perfection. I rate them by their impact. That was Furtwängler’s goal.
    I think the first paragraph is very telling and a good description but I think it is true for everyone (musicians/performers) and how listeners respond to the music. In other words, you are making a point specifically for Furtwangler but we are all responding to recorded music in various ways based on the "moment" it was recorded.

  14. #24
    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    You left out Toscanini and Weingartner, major omissions - the two "founders" of the literalist movement...it is not possible to discuss the standard Germanic repertoire without including these conductors, esp Toscanini...whose style ultimately prevailed over the "Romantic" style of Furtwangler, Mengelberg, etc...of course, their "disciples" were major players as well - Reiner, Szell, Monteux, etc....
    In this case what prevails is that which is easier to teach.

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    Baloney....sorry, that is pure opinion with which I do not concur, in the least.
    Well it is an opinion shared by an awful lot of people. Furtwängler has the biggest following of any of those first half of the century conductors, including Toscanini. And merely protesting that it’s all bogus ain’t going to change that.

    An old friend of mine 30 years my senior introduced me to Furtwängler when I was in college. He told me about first hearing Furtwängler when he himself was a college music major. He listened to Beethoven’s 5th on a DG LP (from 1947, an excellent rendition). He said, “I got so excited I started jumping up and down in my dorm room! I always knew the way Toscanini conducted Beethoven was wrong!”

    Toscanini was extremely skilled but didn’t let the music breathe and did not possess a scintilla of the depth or understanding of harmonic narrative of Furtwängler. To say that Furtwängler “seemed” profound is like saying Einstein “seemed” intelligent or that Mozart “seemed” talented. Reputations are made for a reason.

    Finally, I can’t escape the irony that Furtwängler himself detested conservatories. He believed they stifled individual inspiration and creativity in music, producing instead an assembly line of mere technicians. His concern was indeed prophetic.
    Last edited by Brahmsianhorn; May-17-2020 at 06:26.

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    In this case what prevails is that which is easier to teach.
    It only “prevailed” in the US, partly because technical brilliance was always more coveted over here and party because of Toscanini’s influence. There’s a reason Bernstein had to go to Vienna to make recordings that actually sound like Beethoven.

    Also, Furtwängler made it clear that as you say it is easier to conduct according to the simple, clear conservatory method. But that is the road to mediocrity, not art. It is the efficient, streamlined, production-oriented approach. What Furtwängler aimed for was more than simple clarity, and more often than not he achieved it.
    Last edited by Brahmsianhorn; May-17-2020 at 06:00.

  17. #27
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brahmsianhorn View Post
    Well it is an opinion shared by an awful lot of people. Furtwängler has the biggest following of any of those first half of the century conductors, including Toscanini. And merely protesting that it’s all bogus ain’t going to change that.

    An old friend of mine 30 years my senior introduced me to Furtwängler when I was in college. He told me about first hearing Furtwängler when he himself was a college music major. He listened to Beethoven’s 5th on a DG LP (from 1947, an excellent rendition). He said, “I got so excited I started jumping up and down in my dorm room! I always knew the way Toscanini conducted Beethoven was wrong!”

    Toscanini was extremely skilled but didn’t let the music breathe and did not possess a scintilla of the depth or understanding of harmonic narrative of Furtwängler. To say that Furtwängler “seemed” profound is like saying Einstein “seemed” intelligent or that Mozart “seemed” talented. Reputations are made for a reason.

    Finally, I can’t escape the irony that Furtwängler himself detested conservatories. He believed they stifled individual inspiration and creativity in music, producing instead an assembly line of mere technicians. His concern was indeed prophetic.
    Your statement of course is probably right albeit simplistic because most conductors after followed Toscanini rather than Furtwangler. Hence it is Furtwangler who has become somewhat of a mysterious cult figure. The problem is that your assessment of Toscanini is based on his later recordings when he was an old man and frankly somewhat calcified and passed it. To say that Toscanini did not possess a scintilla of the depth or understanding of harmonic narrative of Furtwängler is simply laughable. Of course he did. He just expressed it in a different way. You are once again making sweeping statements when sweeping statements do not apply

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  19. #28
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brahmsianhorn View Post
    It only “prevailed” in the US, partly because technical brilliance was always more coveted over here and party because of Toscanini’s influence. There’s a reason Bernstein had to go to Vienna to make recordings that actually sound like Beethoven.

    Also, Furtwängler made it clear that as you say it is easier to conduct according to the simple, clear conservatory method. But that is the road to mediocrity, not art. It is the efficient, streamlined, production-oriented approach. What Furtwängler aimed for was more than simple clarity, and more often than not he achieved it.
    This is again one of your highly subjective statements which you are trying to make objective. Some of us would say that the earlier Beethoven cycle by Lenny with the New York Philharmonic is more like Beethoven than his lighter one with the Vienna Philharmonic. Certainly the earlier Missy Solemnise is to be preferred

  20. #29
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brahmsianhorn View Post
    I think Furtwängler can at most be accused of being naively used and manipulated by the Nazis, but he definitely did not in any way willingly help or support them. He honestly believed he was doing more to fight the Nazis by staying in Germany and standing up to them to the extent possible. What he got away with was inconceivable, including criticizing Hitler for his racial policies to his face. It was only because the Nazis needed Furtwängler so badly that he could get away with it. One of the things they did was use Karajan, a compliant Nazi, as a way to make Furtwängler jealous and try to curb his behavior. This is part of the root of not only the animosity between the two men but their later admirers as well.
    Whatever the rights and wrongs, Furtwangler enjoyed a good lifestyle under the Nazis. Like other German conductors of the time including Karajan, Knappertsbusch, Bohm, Strauss, etc, he could have got out but chose to stay. Of course it’s easy for us to judge when we were not in that position but Furtwangler should not be treated as some sort of misunderstood hero for this time as some have tried to make out.
    Last edited by DavidA; May-17-2020 at 07:38.

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  22. #30
    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Whatever the rights and wrongs, Furtwangler enjoyed a good lifestyle under the Nazis. Like other German conductors of the time including Karajan, Knappertsbusch, Bohm, Strauss, etc, he could have got out but chose to stay. Of course it’s easy for us to judge when we were not in that position but Furtwangler should not be treated as some sort of misunderstood hero for this time as some have tried to make out.
    For all Furtwangler and others in his time knew, Nazis could have lasted for decades. Keep that in mind when you judge his words about wanting to stay to preserve German musical culture.

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