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Thread: Explain fascination with Furtwängler

  1. #31
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    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.
    Read what I said.
    Last edited by DavidA; May-17-2020 at 08:35.

  2. #32
    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Read what I said.
    Why, did you edit your post in the meantime?

  3. #33
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    Why, did you edit your post in the meantime?
    I edited it at 7.38

  4. #34
    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I edited it at 7.38
    Looks the same to me...

  5. #35
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    It is difficult to understand the greatness of a person like Furtwangler in our era of cookie cutter orchestras, conductors and soloists. His style went back to a time when there was individuality in all those things and a time when the metronome was not the standard for musical metrics. He had an elastic beat. There was a joke players couldn't understand his beat but recordings make it obvious they did.

    It is important to understand all of Furtwangler's recordings are one offs -- either radio broadcasts or other "live" performances. Again this is monumentally different from the way recordings are made today -- patched together from studio or multiple concert recordings so as to appear perfect when in fact they are not.

    Among his other great qualities he also had the ability to make time stand still, one such instance being his cycle of Mahler Mahler Wayfarer songs with baritone-bass Alfred Poell of the Vienna Opera.

    Furtwangler was also the greatest exponent of the "German" school of conducting the first Viennese school (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven) from the recorded era. No other German conductor of his time or previous to him had the same reputation.

    He was the foil, if you will, to the great Toscanini whose literalism was cast against Furtwangler's humanism. Toscanini famously said Beethoven's Eroica symphony to him was "simply allegro con brio." This was not Furtwangler's approach; he saw music as a force of nature and, as the interpreter, it was up to him to unleash and represent that force.

    Furtwangler cast a titanic shadow across the world in the days after World War II and after his death 1954. He trained the very great conductor Jascha Horenstein who continued his philosophical way of interpreting music well into the 20th century.

    Another conductor vastly influenced by Furtwangler and his way was Eugen Jochum, one of the last great conductors to use an elastic beat who was among the most esteemed interpreters of Anton Bruckner's music in which Furtwangler himself specialized to great critical and public acclaim. Until Furtwangler's recordings most of Bruckner's symphonies had never been heard by the music-loving public.

    As recently as the end of the 20th century musicologists like Jim Svejda (now a critic for Fanfare magazine) recommended Furtwangler's recordings of Bruckner symphonies above all others in books like this one:

    insiders gude.jpg

    It should also be stated, if it hasn't already, the Furtwangler stayed in Germany during the Nazi regime but did not capitulate and never gave the Nazi salute even though Hitler, Goebbels and other members of the party thought of him as their conductor and regularly attended his concerts. He was held after the war and thought to be a Nazi sympathizer but inquires showed he was not. There is a film about this:

    taking sides.jpg

    These are just a few reasons why Furtwangler was considered one of the greatest conductors in history and why he continues to be held in high regard the better part of a century after his death.
    Last edited by larold; May-17-2020 at 10:33.

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  7. #36
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    Looks the same to me...
    Well why is the problem then?

  8. #37
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    Given the current state of computer technology, would it be possible for someone to take old recordings and improve them more radically than they seem willing to do generally? By this I mean an approach where the intention is to make the result sound as pristine as possible, without much concern for whether you might as a result be moving away from a faithful clean-up and into a reimagination of what it might have sounded like.
    I know that purist fans might dislike this, and say that you can listen beyond the recording issues, but for simpletons like me it would be great to hear something where Furtwangler's approach was presented in pseudo-modern sound, even if you suffered from a bit of speculative manipulation and some might say that the result sounds artificial.
    I know nothing about sound engineering, but from my naive view it seems odd that any tape hiss or problematic distortions might be unremovable with an aggressive approach to remastering, at the cost of some guesswork by the engineers. Is the problem economic, that there may well be no market for such a product?
    To give a parallel example, I bought a set of Gieseking recordings some time ago, off the back of claims about what a fine pianist he was. Well maybe, but I can't really tell from the recordings, and I never listen to them, because of the quality. Was his touch great? Search me.

  9. #38
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    It is difficult to understand the greatness of a person like Furtwangler in our era of cookie cutter orchestras, conductors and soloists. His style went back to a time when there was individuality in all those things and a time when the metronome was not the standard for musical metrics. He had an elastic beat. There was a joke players couldn't understand his beat but recordings make it obvious they did.

    Among his other great qualities he also had the ability to make time stand still, one such instance being his cycle of Mahler Mahler Wayfarer songs with baritone-bass Alfred Poell of the Vienna Opera.

    Furtwangler was also the greatest exponent of the "German" school of conducting the first Viennese school (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven) from the recorded era. No other German conductor of his time or previous to him had the same reputation. He was the foil, if you will, to the great Toscanini whose literalism was cast against Furtwangler's humanism.

    Furtwangler cast a titanic shadow across the world in the days after World War II and after his death 1954. He trained the very great conductor Jascha Horenstein who continued his philosophical way of interpreting music well into the 20th century.

    Another very great conductor vastly influenced by Furtwangler and his way was Eugen Jochum, among the most esteemed interpreters of Anton Bruckner's music in which Furtwangler himself specialized to great critical and public acclaim. Until Bruckner's recordings most of Bruckner's symphonies had never been heard by the music-loving public.

    These are just a few reasons why he was considered one of the greatest conductors in history and why he continues to be held in high regard the better part of a century after his death.
    With respect I think this is a vast over-statement as musically we do a lot of things better than in the times of Furtwangler or indeed Toscanini. The standards of playing have risen beyond recognition since his day for example.. We are playing early and baroque and much classical musician a far more appropriate way. To keep harking back to a bygone age like this as if all was perfect is unrealistic and a denial of history. This is not to diminish in any way Furtwangler’s achievement but this blind sort of worship which rubbishes present day musicians seems totally out of proportion.

  10. #39
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    Given the current state of computer technology, would it be possible for someone to take old recordings and improve them more radically than they seem willing to do generally? By this I mean an approach where the intention is to make the result sound as pristine as possible, without much concern for whether you might as a result be moving away from a faithful clean-up and into a reimagination of what it might have sounded like.
    I know that purist fans might dislike this, and say that you can listen beyond the recording issues, but for simpletons like me it would be great to hear something where Furtwangler's approach was presented in pseudo-modern sound, even if you suffered from a bit of speculative manipulation and some might say that the result sounds artificial.
    I know nothing about sound engineering, but from my naive view it seems odd that any tape hiss or problematic distortions might be unremovable with an aggressive approach to remastering, at the cost of some guesswork by the engineers. Is the problem economic, that there may well be no market for such a product?
    To give a parallel example, I bought a set of Gieseking recordings some time ago, off the back of claims about what a fine pianist he was. Well maybe, but I can't really tell from the recordings, and I never listen to them, because of the quality. Was his touch great? Search me.

    Try sampling some remasters from the Pristine site they are to my mind and ears the best available.

    https://www.pristineclassical.com/

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  12. #40
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    It is always fun to hear someone denigrate genius and then amend it by saying something like, "This is not to diminish in any way Furtwangler’s achievement but this blind sort of worship which rubbishes present day musicians seems totally out of proportion."

    This is to me is same as saying we should disregard Babe Ruth and Picasso since so many other great artists have come along since them and the technical aspects of their art forms are so much better today.

    As to recorded sound, musical theory and what gets recorded today we are almost a century past Furtwangler; isn't it reasonable to expect recording technology and musical exploration would be greater than in 1954? Compared to 70 years before that, in 1880 or so, it's a pretty good bet the standards of 1954 for all these things were vastly beyond anything being done then.

    But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have "blind worship" to artists of that time such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Wagner and Mahler among others who were geniuses beyond everyone else in their industry.

    As the above post indicates it isn't blind worship that continues to bind people to Furtwangler; it is magnificent artistry. He was one of the greatest in history at what he did, the reason his recordings are still be remade, re-marketed, and sold again even though there hasn't been anything new in almost 70 years.
    Last edited by larold; May-17-2020 at 11:44.

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  14. #41
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    It is always fun to hear someone denigrate genius and then amend it by saying something like, "This is not to diminish in any way Furtwangler’s achievement but this blind sort of worship which rubbishes present day musicians seems totally out of proportion."

    We are almost a century past Furtwangler; isn't it reasonable to expect recording technology and musical exploration would be greater than in 1954? Compared to 70 years before that, in 1880 or so, it's a pretty good bet the standards of 1954 for all these things were vastly beyond anything being done then. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have "blind worship" to people alive then such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner and Mahler, among others who were geniuses beyond everyone else in their industry.

    It isn't blind worship that continues to bind people to Furtwangler. It is magnificent artistry. He was one of the greatest in history at what he did, the reason his recordings are still be remade, re-marketed, and sold again even though there hasn't been anything new in 70 years.
    This is the sort of defensive statement I would expect to hear from people who put conductors on a god-like status. I am not denigrating Furty just saying we do some things a lot better which we do! If you can only appreciate a musician of the past by rubbishing present day musicians it seems to me a poor show.

  15. #42
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    I can think of so many Furtwangler recordings that are a revelation. This rarely happens for me with historical performances (no matter how good they are) but there are so many recordings that are (for me) very very special - Beethoven and Bruckner especially. I'm sure those who disagree have tried and listened to at least some of the recordings that wow me so any difference of opinion is just down to individual taste. Lots of people feel as I do or even more passionate. And lots of people, it seems, just don't get it. For me Furtwangler was just so great that I instinctively feel sympathy for those who can't hear the greatness.

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  17. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    Given the current state of computer technology, would it be possible for someone to take old recordings and improve them more radically than they seem willing to do generally? By this I mean an approach where the intention is to make the result sound as pristine as possible, without much concern for whether you might as a result be moving away from a faithful clean-up and into a reimagination of what it might have sounded like.
    I know that purist fans might dislike this, and say that you can listen beyond the recording issues, but for simpletons like me it would be great to hear something where Furtwangler's approach was presented in pseudo-modern sound, even if you suffered from a bit of speculative manipulation and some might say that the result sounds artificial.
    I know nothing about sound engineering, but from my naive view it seems odd that any tape hiss or problematic distortions might be unremovable with an aggressive approach to remastering, at the cost of some guesswork by the engineers. Is the problem economic, that there may well be no market for such a product?
    To give a parallel example, I bought a set of Gieseking recordings some time ago, off the back of claims about what a fine pianist he was. Well maybe, but I can't really tell from the recordings, and I never listen to them, because of the quality. Was his touch great? Search me.
    Traditional technology can't get you too far. But I speculate AI and machine learning are going to massively improve noise removal. Let's hope someone will find it's economically viable to bring the tech to classical music and we may see it in a few years.

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  19. #44
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    Yes, from my ignorant perspective I was imagining that machine learning might be a breakthrough that had not yet occurred, but would offer lots of promise.

  20. #45
    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Why not just have someone re-enact his performances from recordings? I am sure there are such conductors who have memorized his interpretations of certain pieces...

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