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Thread: Explain fascination with Furtwängler

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    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...
    Interesting idea. So you'd have to find a conductor who is sufficiently self-effacing to say "this isn't really me, this is WF", and yet sufficiently good to pull it off. A challenge?

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    I can think of so many Furtwangler recordings that are a revelation.

    I'd say if you listen to this one you'll hear something you've never heard before.

    b4 furt.jpg
    Last edited by larold; May-17-2020 at 11:22.

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    My favorite individual Furtwängler recordings, which to me are indeed revelations;

    - Beethoven 9th, BPO, 3/22/42

    - Bruckner 8th, VPO, 1944

    - Brahms 1st, NDR, 1951

    - Beethoven 5th, BPO, 5/25/47

    - Beethoven 3rd, VPO, 1944

    - Bruckner 9th, BPO, 1944

    - Brahms 4th, BPO, 1949

    - Tchaikovsky 6th, BPO, 1951

    - Brahms 2nd, VPO, 1945

    - Beethoven Coriolan overture, BPO, 1943
    Last edited by Brahmsianhorn; May-17-2020 at 13:09.

  4. #49
    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    Interesting idea. So you'd have to find a conductor who is sufficiently self-effacing to say "this isn't really me, this is WF", and yet sufficiently good to pull it off. A challenge?
    Modern conductors are supposedly so good at being literal. Let's call it an interest in history of music.

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    Barenboim essentially emulates Furtwängler’s interpretations. In fact, in the movie Taking Sides cited above, when Furtwängler is conducting in wartime Berlin it is actually Barenboim we are hearing conducting.

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    ^ Yes, they do say that Barenboim follows Furtwangler but I haven't really heard that in his work, which so often lacks the insights, inevitability and flow that Furtwangler achieved despite his flexible approach to tempo and so on. The best Barenboim performances seem not to be in the Furtwangler mode.

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    ^ Yes, they do say that Barenboim follows Furtwangler but I haven't really heard that in his work, which so often lacks the insights, inevitability and flow that Furtwangler achieved despite his flexible approach to tempo and so on. The best Barenboim performances seem not to be in the Furtwangler mode.
    Barenboim may well trying to follow the style and intentions of Furtwangler - but he is faced with a entirely different set of orchestral players, presumably schooled in a very different manner to the players of the orchestras Furtwangler stood in front of.
    Therefore even if Barenboim was perfect in his replication of the style the sound would still be different. My conclusion is trying to recreate is futile, even if as a poster above suggests that a form of advanced AI could be applied.

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  10. #53
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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.
    There are limitations now but I can imagine a future where science can take the missing pieces of information and fill in the gaps, basically create a document where a recording of old will sound as if recorded today. Or, oops the future of today. I think.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Like you, Becca, I've never seen the fascination either but that does not stop me admiring some of Furty's recordings. Like any conductor I listen to the recording and it either works for me or does not, I don't care who it is. Some rave over WF's intense interpretations whilst others find they represent a distorted view of many works. Whatever your opinion I think you owe it to yourself to see what the fuss is about. Some will get it, others will definitely not. I've heard most of Furty's 'must hear' recordings and many aren't for me or are better realised, performed, played and recorded by many others but they're all interesting, valid interpretations with a very individual voice. It's a shame he didn't live longer to put down more of his recordings in more acceptable sound.

    As far as his relationship with a certain national socialist party is concerned it's impossible for us to understand what it must have been like working in Germany during that period of political volatility and is irrelevant to the recordings he made. Furty lived for his art. He was no nazi and he led the biggest and best orchestra in Germany back then. I often wonder what may have happened if Goering hadn't intervened and WF had taken the New York Philharmonic job. Ilife may have been more relaxed for him away from the Nazi regime but who's to say he'd have coped well in America. Furtwangler was a very complicated and interesting personality. Anyone who hasn't done any reading about his life should go off and redress that as soon as possible.
    Last edited by Merl; May-17-2020 at 15:17.

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  14. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brahmsianhorn View Post
    Also, “fascination” makes it sound like there is some reason beyond the music itself for responding to him. For most of us “Furtwängler fans” it is a simple matter of preferring his recordings to most others.
    Let's get real here. Lots of singers/celebrities/talents are surrounded by the mystique of the person, and Furtwangler is no different.

    I can see it happening as new posters appear to be converts as if somehow it happen by accident listening to a recording. Hardly. And it goes on with all the other recordings (any name) that the "elders" lavish praise on to unsuspecting newbies, the legend stays alive.....
    Last edited by Bigbang; May-17-2020 at 15:16.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    Barenboim may well trying to follow the style and intentions of Furtwangler - but he is faced with a entirely different set of orchestral players, presumably schooled in a very different manner to the players of the orchestras Furtwangler stood in front of.
    Therefore even if Barenboim was perfect in his replication of the style the sound would still be different. My conclusion is trying to recreate is futile, even if as a poster above suggests that a form of advanced AI could be applied.
    The problem is that Furtwangler had a style completely his own, one which was impossible to copy or imitate. It was instinctive. Any imitation would be poor.
    Last edited by DavidA; May-17-2020 at 15:20.

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  17. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabulin View Post
    In this case what prevails is that which is easier to teach.
    ?? what does that mean?? the literalist/"escrit" approach does not mean blind, strict, rigid adherence to the score...it's a style aimed at reducing what were perceived as romantic style excesses and mannerisms that had been arbitrarily applied to masterworks of a previous period.

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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.
    baloney....Toscanini has far, far more adherents among conductors of the 20th century, and present day than WF...the WF style of extreme romanticism really went out with him..the literalist approach has prevailed, undeniably....I'm not knocking Furtwangler, he was a great musician...but the current of classical music-making ran in a different direction during the 20th century...he was a holdover from the 19th century romantic style....things changed....the Toscanini/Weingartner approach prevailed.

    "I always knew the way Toscanini conducted Beethoven was wrong!”
    Interesting. for me the action went in the exact opposite direction....Toscanini. Reiner, Szell..seemed so right compared with WF.

    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.
    Nonsense...a personal opinion for which there is no substantial support. The old argument applies - <<with WF - Are we listening to Beethoven?? or are we listening to Furtwangler??>>

    To say that Furtwängler “seemed” profound is like saying Einstein “seemed” intelligent or that Mozart “seemed” talented.
    No, with Einstein and Mozart we have tangible evidence of genius....not to say that Furtwangler might not have been a genius, but his approach to interpretation is very subjective....it works for some, not so much for others.

    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.
    OK...there's definityely a point to be made there....but how, then, did he profess to teach young musicians the art and craft of music-making??

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  21. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    I have been wanting to start this thread for some time now but have been concerned that it would start a firestorm * however interest has gotten the better of me so...

    I have long been wondering what it is about Wilhelm Furtwängler that so many people continue to find his performances to be so much better than most of what has come since. Yes I can understand that he was one of the top conductors of the first half of the 20th century but that doesn't explain why he is seen as THE interpretive icon. Perhaps some can offer insights into the matter.

    I should note that while I do have some favourite conductors, there are things that I both like and dislike about all of them so I don't see any as rising above the others.

    * In the event that it does start a firestorm, I have arranged for this to be on standby...
    Attachment 136028
    I noticed some posters have assumed you were perplexed and did not agree with the premise you brought up. However I see nothing specifically that reveal this but rather asking why others have this view. Maybe some know your views but I did not read this here though it appears as if maybe this is your position.

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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.
    It prevailed all over Europe as well.

    Also, Furtwängler made it clear that as you say it is easier to conduct according to the simple, clear conservatory method.
    ?? what might that be?? I'm not aware of any universal, or generally applied conservatory method for conducting an orchestra.
    What Furtwängler aimed for was more than simple clarity, and more often than not he achieved it.
    Every great conductor strives for more than "simple clarity". What WF aimed for was his own personal vision of how music should sound based on the romantic style to which he adhered. fine....that's not the only way, nor is it necessarily the best way. it works for some, not so much for others.

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