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The Furt ‘44 is actually pretty good sound for the period.

Glad to hear the Carlos Paita mentioned. Hard to find on CD, but I noticed it’s available online. Beautiful interpretation in modern sound.
 

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Just compared Wand’s 1987 Lubeck NDR with the 2001 BPO, and surprisingly considering most of the remarks here I liked the BPO better. So much warmer and more spacious. The earlier recording I found to be a bit too much pedantically going through the motions, particularly in the critical Adagio. In the BPO I hear more humanity behind the music-making. More inspiration.
 

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You know I always turn to the Berlin 1949 Titania Palast. Even if there are very different approaches, this performance can be my favourite of all Bruckner 8 recordings.

Qobuz sells the Audite Furtwängler box for a low price, along some great Beethoven recordings too.
What is it you don't like about the '44 VPO? In addition to the concentrated performance, I've always found the sound quality to be among the best from this period.
 

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It's because uniform objectivity truth in music does not exist.

What the listener brings to their listening is always bound up in their own subjectivity of taste, experience, and attitude. It's basically similar to sexual attraction, i.e. even if there are some generalities, it's different for everybody and changes over time.

Furtwängler for me is no more than a curiosity, one I certainly admit I'm glad to have heard once, but that I have no paticular need to revisit. The extreme lack of tempo consistency, sloppiness of ensemble, poor intonation, scratchy sound, and bizarre distortions sometimes add up to a singular experience, but for me rarely an important one I feel any compelling urge to repeat.
We are in agreement on subjective taste. But have you actually heard the recording in question?
 

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It's because uniform objectivity truth in music does not exist.

What the listener brings to their listening is always bound up in their own subjectivity of taste, experience, and attitude. It's basically similar to sexual attraction, i.e. even if there are some generalities, it's different for everybody and changes over time.

Furtwängler for me is no more than a curiosity, one I certainly admit I'm glad to have heard once, but that I have no paticular need to revisit. The extreme lack of tempo consistency, sloppiness of ensemble, poor intonation, scratchy sound, and bizarre distortions sometimes add up to a singular experience, but for me rarely an important one I feel any compelling urge to repeat.
What's really funny is you apparently did not even notice at the top of the page that Granate rates the 1949 Furtwangler as his favorite recording among the dozens that he has heard. So my question to him was not about Furtwangler in general but between different Furtwangler recordings.

That said, I am listening to the 1944/VPO right now, and remain....perplexed. The scherzo is engulfing. And the Adagio is one of the greatest recordings of any symphonic movement I know, just other worldly. I could understand someone maybe not appreciating this if you don't like Furtwangler or old recordings. But to hate this and then love the '49 BPO???

Like I said, you can join the conversation too...if you actually listen to the performance in question. You might earn yourself a cookie. :tiphat:
 

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I'm sorry. That was a bit too ill-tempered. My apologies.

I actually don't remember which Bruckner 8 it was that I heard. I'm thinking it was the wartime performance. My best friend at the time was pushing Furtwängler hard; every time we got together to listen to music, he was always choosing Furtwängler WWII recordings. Some of them blew me away, some I was baffled by (not in a good way), and some I just couldn't stand at all because they were too weird, or the quality of the orchestra was too poor for me to tolerate. Anyway, it was probably VPO 1944 that I heard, I'm thinking.

It doesn't matter. I couldn't get past the first movement, and asked my friend to switch to something else. Ironically, I remember the Furtwängler Bruckner (not happily, but I remember it), but not whatever the something else was. Huh.

Examples:
Furtwängler that blew me away: Beethoven, Coriolan Overture.
Furtwängler that baffled me, not in a good way: Bruckner Symphonies 5 & 8
Furtwängler that I couldn't stand at all: Beethoven 9, specially the Bayreuth performance. YUCK.

I've given Furtwängler enough tries. It's not my cup of tea. Maybe someday, I'll make sure to give the 1949 Berlin Bruckner 8 a listen. Granate nearly half-convinces me I should. But life is short. I've been there. It didn't work for me.
The Adagio is the heart of the piece and the performance. I wore out my CD player in law school just listening to this 1944 Adagio over and over. The eloquent phrasing is what impresses me the most, along with an unerring sense of line from beginning to end. Very hard to do in this movement without ever letting things sag. Karajan is the only other conductor IMO who pulled it off as well.

 

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Well, since I am currently on a Bruckner 8th listening binge, I might as well transfer my comments from the big Bruckner thread:

Sampled some 8ths this past weekend. Furt '44 and Karajan '88 are my standards and set a very high bar.

I started with Boulez/VPO. I can understand why it appeals to some. The loud brass moments are very impressive. But - stop me if you've heard this from me before - I don't hear the spirit of the work coming through. The great Adagio left me cold. Bruckner is about more than just some exciting moments.

But this was actually a better listening experience than Schuricht/VPO. What a disappointment after all I have heard about his Bruckner. Just way too straight-laced and efficient for this symphony. Did not plumb the depths. I didn't understand the point. For me this is the most monumental symphony in existence alongside Beethoven and Mahler's 9ths. The idea of stream-lining such a brilliant composition makes my skin crawl.

Van Beinum/RCO was much more my cup of tea. Very beautifully eloquent, if not as powerful as Furt/Karajan. Haitink/RCO was a bit comatose by comparison. The Adagio needs life to be effective. I could not find his VPO version online, so I put it on order. They say this is his best.

Ah, but then came Giulini/VPO. Now there is a recording to stand on the pantheon of greats! Powerful, exciting, beautiful - maybe even good enough to give Karajan a run for his money among modern versions. (I don't expect to ever hear a version to compare with Furt '44) I listened to Giulini's live BPO on YouTube and was disappointed. Just did not sound as inspired to me. Maybe I am listening to too many Bruckner 8ths.

Still plenty more to sample - Celi, Kna, Horenstein, earlier Karajan, Wand, Barbirolli, Klemperer, Bohm, Jochum, Kubelik, Skrow, Maazel, Sinopoli, Tennstedt...did I leave out anyone? I don't want to know!
 

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Yes, I just listened to all three commercial Jochums yesterday. The DG BPO is a disappointment. The EMI Dresden is better - better sound, slower, and more committed. The Adagio is very beautifully eloquent. The 1949 Hamburg is also better than the BPO, more powerfully energized.

But I like Bohm better than Jochum in this work. The studio VPO is very sumptuous sounding. This is a big, grand, powerful, Romantic reading, never rushed.

I also listened to a couple of Wands. The famed 1987 Lubeck NDR struck me as having the familiar Wand issues of conventionality and tedium. But the 2001 BPO actually has something to say. I found it very eloquent and beautifully played. That's another one for the shelf.

I listened to both the 1944 VPO and 1949 BPO Furtwanglers today. There shouldn't be much need to relisten to the VPO as I have heard it dozens upon dozens of times, but listening again after sampling several others only reconfirms its greatness - the power and angst of the outer movements, the incredible rising and falling in the scherzo, and the deeply felt adagio.

It is ironic that two of Furt's most acclaimed recordings were both in 1944 with the VPO - this one and the Beethoven Eroica - and in both cases we have more present-sounding postwar alternatives with the BPO collected in this stupendous Audite set:



The Bruckner 8th here is from March 14, 1949, and not to be confused with the March 15, 1949 performance issued here:



The March 14 performance is generally to be preferred. However, on listening today it reconfirmed to me the preeminence of the 1944 VPO. To begin with, although the sound is more full-bodied in the BPO, it is marred by terribly intrusive coughing from the audience. I don't usually care about occasional coughing, but this one is really bad.

The performance is certainly great, particularly in the outer movements which are incredibly powerful. However, the scherzo is less inspired, and the adagio though undeniably beautiful lacks the inspired concentration of 1944. And here as well, the coughing is horribly intrusive at the most hushed moments. But even disregarding the audience noise, the wartime version just holds together better (ironically the same opinion I have of the 1944 VPO Eroica compared to the 12/8/52 BPO).

So, in short, the 1949 BPO - both of them - are more for Furt completists. For Bruckner fans and anyone interested in great historical orchestral recordings, the 1944 VPO is a must.
 

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^

LOL, I listened to all three in the past week and thought the Boulez and Schuricht were clean, efficient, and boring, sucking the life out of this great work. Furtwangler's frenetic treatment is worlds apart. It's interesting, your criteria seems to be one of neatness. Mine is the opposite: I want all the drama and myriad of emotions to be fully realized.

You're right about one thing: Furtwangler's tempo changes were predictable, not random. For him it was like naturally following the current of a river.
 

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Lol, you guys sound like you’re trying to understand a foreign language. You realize this ain’t rock music, right? Classical music has actual variation. Loud brass? Oh no, drama! Beethoven hated that!
 

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You guys stole my thunder. I was about to post on the three Karajans I listened to this afternoon. I had only heard the 1988 VPO before today. Yes, just as with the 7th, I came away more impressed with the 70s BPO.

The 1988 VPO has never quite moved me enough. It's best in the loud parts, and now I realize that's because the rest is a little bit slack and stale. Compare just the opening few bars of the Adagio. With the VPO it is played. With the BPO it is felt

The 1957 BPO surprisingly did very little for me. I found it less inspired than either of the later versions. I do still plan on sampling the live Salzburg from the same year.

The one movement where I think Karajan misfires is the Scherzo. It sort of trudges along, especially in Vienna.

Speaking of which, this movement is a particularly unique highlight of 1944 Furtwängler for me. It has an edge of your seat feel that I have not heard elsewhere. Is excitement not in style anymore?
 

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I've never listened to Furty's Bruckner so I thought I'd give it a go. This is what I wrote down..

Trying the 1944 Bruckner 8 and the sound is surprisingly not too bad for its age. In fact I'm surprised at this quality of recording. Sounds OK up to now apart from a few sour notes but I can live with that. Promising start. Around 4 mins now and he's started with the very loud brass playing and tempo pulling. This is a trait of his other recordings. He's more successful as the music slows and there's some lovely moments but when it ramps up he throws in these massive and often unnecessary crescendoes and then lingers on phrases. 8 mins and I'm finding it very wearing now. Jeez those woodwinds are rough and they aren't playing in tune. 1st movement down and I'm giving up
This isn't for me. I'm trying his 1949 one next and this one is a rough recording. Apart from the fact it sounds like it was recorded in a wind tunnel (what is that sound?) they've hit their first bum note in the brass at the 1.20ish mark. Around 3.40 there's some really scrappy ensemble playing and nasty woodwinds. Around 5 mins and he's pulling tempo and getting them to play very loudly. 9mins - I give up. There's absolutely no rhythm to this music-making. It's all over the place and the woodwinds don't seem to have a clue what they're doing. Their playing isn't helping but I suspect the cues are bad as it sounds like a provincial orchestra at times. Hard to believe this is a top outfit . Tried start of the 2nd movement. After 4 mins I really can't listen anymore. I give up. Playing Stan the Man to get rid of the sound of that woeful Bruckner.

I'm with Knorf on this. For such an eminently renowned conductor he certainly left some very dodgy recordings behind. His lack of rhythm is an issue here. Interpretively, in both these recordings, he's a one trick pony. Fast bits get faster and louder, big phrases are treated with enormous crescendoes. Slow parts are played slower than usual with a shedload of legato. Strangely these are some of the things Dudamel was initially accused of. Everything's played on the downbeat making it sound like an umpah band or Thomas the tank engine. Throw in some very odd dynamics, odd phrasing and it adds up to very unconvincing Bruckner. Then have it recorded in what sounds like a shed with two active woks. Not for me, either. This may make you run round the room naked, BHS, but it ain't for me.
So, I have a question: How does lack of a steady tempo inhibit your enjoyment of the music?

I know for me, my response is the opposite. I get more emotionally engaged when the tempo is flexible in a way that naturally follows the contours of the work. I'm just curious how others hear it.
 

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Halfway through the Klemperer. The Scherzo was an interminable 19:53. Most painful version of that movement I’ve ever heard. Did not work at all. Furtwängler and Bohm clock in at just over 14.
 

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I think that tempo is a supple, flexible thing....absolute strict metronomic time can be pretty monotonous. Goldovsky called it <<Kapellmeister stuff>> he couldn't stand it. Tempo should constantly ebb and flow, to suit the phrasing, [this was a Toscanini principle re tempo]...
The catch is, it needs to make sense with the music. I agree with some others, I often find Furtwangler's distortions to be abrupt, arbitrary and at times do not fit the music...He'll make a sudden accelerando [where none is marked in score], then suddenly slow down again....and it doesn't make sense to me. I think <<what was that all about?? what purpose??>> and yes, there are mannerisms, slowing down at soft level, or pulling way back at a cadence...speeding up at loud volume. once or twice, it's a curiosity.....repeatedly, it become a mannerism, a habit....orchestra musicians will all too readily fall into habits - rushing in the loud parts, dragging in the soft...the greatest conductors do not allow this.
What you call a mannerism others call musicianship and sensitivity. My question was how it fits with others' emotional reaction to the music, not whether it is "right" or "wrong," because I don't believe in such a thing.

Obviously, Furtwängler's "mannerisms" sound perfectly natural to me, and others maintaining a steady tempo for the sake of "correctness" sound unnatural, pedantic, and boring.
 

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weird distortions are harder to justify.
And we could just keep going in circles on this - I don't find Furtwängler's tempi to be weird distortions. They make perfect sense in the context of the work and deliver the emotional goods, which is the ultimate job of the performer.

I compared Bruckner 8th first movements last night. Furtwängler's completely delivers the emotional angst. Every section makes sense in the context of the whole. I then listened to Karajan, and I felt like only the loud sections delivered emotionally. The rest felt more like filler. He stays in a more strict tempo, and it gets tedious. Solti is even more tedious, because at least Karajan goes for an ethereal sound in these sections whereas Solti really sounds as if he is killing time. Furtwängler never lets the music get boring. There is always a point to every bar and every phrase. Then when the loud parts arrive it is all the more powerful. The entire movement makes sense as an integrated story from beginning to end. That is great music making.
 
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