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But, I'm willing to give Schoonderwoerd a pass because so much else is technically right about these performances-and because he's not a concert-grade pianist but more of a musicologist with solid, though not virtuosic, technique.

And that is my amateur-hour review of Schoonderwoerd, which is loads better than Hurwitz's (and I write that objectively).
To an extent, it isn't really, because Hurwitz's contentions have little to do with historical accuracy (which he's argued about on occasion, vis vibrato) and more that if this is how music sounded when played in the Archduke's living room, then music in the Archduke's living room sounded like crap.

How much you value or discount this really depends on what you hope to get out of your musical listening.
 

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Right, which is the problem, because he's not reviewing the performance, he's simply stating his preferences.
to an extent, yes. i think he does generally try to qualify this musically - e.g. by stating his suspicion that in a certain recording, the desire to make something "authentic" overrode the desire to make it musically compelling - but his fundamental philosophy on classical listening has always been "pleasure-based" (that sounds naughty, doesn't it?) - i.e. he's going to recommend what compels him the most musically.

this is of course nearly purely subjective- if it's valuable, it's because a) his biases are obviously worn on his sleeve, so a listener with their own biases can "calibrate" accordingly (this is why I dislike when reviewers try to hide their own biases), and b) he's listened to so many recordings that it's fun to see which ones he pulls from the shelves above all others.
 

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"interestingly" his latest premium top ten is a top ten of his bete noire, Simon Rattle. I won't post the list as it's paywalled, though I think his Birmingham John Adams records should have been included, as they're one of my go tos for orchestral Adams.
 

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Maybe the title is revealing too. Seems like he dislikes it for political reasons.
The title is needlessly provocative, but his contention was something of the opposite- that so much of the stuff he read on it praise it for reasons that are fundamentally extra-musical in nature, or excessively informed by the context of it being recorded in WWII Germany. i.e. the idea that you can "hear the anguish' of Furtwangler's spirit of being German during the Nazi era, or "hear the tension" of Hitler in the audience, etc.

He does seem to dislike recordings where the primary appeal is historicity - e.g. there's a famous recording of Bruno Walter premiering Mahler's Ninth Symphony that he trashed because it was performed poorly.
 

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electronically reprocessed stereo sounds awful, i think. recordings are very much garbage-in-garbage-out, you can make changes to make old recordings more aesthetically appealing, but they aren't going to be in higher fidelity than the master tapes
 

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This would be great, because the mono-era had conductors that surpass most modern conductors imo.
i think this is another reason he is somewhat knee-jerk reactionary against historical recordings, which is ironic because to an extent he's guilty of the same thing- valorizing the stars of the Golden Age of Stereo - Reiner, Klemperer (late), Bernstein, Munch, Szell. with that being said- and to a large extent I agree with him, even with his double-standards- there are fewer greater buzzkills than those who grumpily express that conductors, or soloists can simply never match the majesty of the conductors of the early days of recording - the Furtwanglers, Mengelbergs, Erich Kleibers, Talichs, et al of the world. there are issues with orchestral homogeneity and interpretive homogeneity, but the standard of play has now become so good that I can get a world class recording of a piece as infamously difficult to do as Ives 4 from a local, "second-tier" orchestra in Seattle - something which would have been impossible in the early 20th century.
 

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The technique has improved, but my concerns are more about the style. There seems to be less courage to interpret pieces nowadays. Objectivity seems more important than expression today. See also:

When Furtwängler ends the Ninth with such variable tempo, it has just a overwhemling effect imo:

Another amazing recording is that of Rimsky-Korsakov's Tsars Bride ouverture conducted by Nikolai Golovanov in 1944. I don't think modern conductors would dare such great tempo changes:

Seems like the old conductors had more of a romantic spirit.
There was a discussion about this on another venue I was in the other day- I think this is less about conductor's lack of technique than a greater emphasis these days on score fidelity. You even see it in small ways like repeats - where it's almost default to take repeats now even if they aren't musically advisable (see: almost every repeat in Schubert 9).

In an odd way this *is* the romantic spirit- the idea that of the three elements of a classical performance - the composer, performers (including conductor) and listener), the performers exist to transport the pure ideas of the composer to the listener's ears. Essentially we've kind of de-emphasized the expected impact of conductor and orchestra and emphasized the importance of the composer, which is pure romanticism.

You could even say HIP in some way is a result (or maybe the instigator) of the modern emphasis on authenticity and score fidelity.

(in a strange way you can also see why some post-modern composers, reacting against the dogmatic artistic authority of the composer, began to explore the vague and random elements of the process of musical performance itself)
 

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incidentally ive said this before but i would find it hilarious if a HIP ensemble started doing things that were common in the early 19th century like shuffling movement order, omitting movements, splicing in movements from entirely different symphonies, or drastic rescoring
 

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it's a relatively complex phenomenon, I think. a greater fixation on "authenticity" is a relatively contemporary attitude which extends far beyond HIP. That, and the romantic view of composer as hero figure never left us, meaning many "want" their Beethoven to be "straight" and undistilled by an interpretative view.

this isn't either a bad or good thing, every generation of performers and artists has their own way of viewing the works of the past. In a few decades the pendulum might swing again.
 

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A lot of times I don't mind repeats because the melodies are fine enough that you don't mind hearing them again, but Schubert 9 is not a piece which needs even more repetition than it already has, as fine a work as it is.



I also tend not to like them in A-B-A scherzi, but that's a matter of taste.
 

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I think when romantic composers wrote their music they did not expect this kind of fidelity. There is an recording of Brahms playing one of his own compositions, and it is even hard to understand today what he was doing at all. But it seems like he just naturally dislocated many notes and played it rhythmically very loosly.

So what is the point of sterile score fidelity?

Another thing is that we don't play music as some kind of scientific exercise. We play it for ourselfs after all. So we should finally care about how we like the music. It is not necessarily true that the way a composer liked his music the most is also the way we like it the most. So caring for the composers should not be an end in itself. Knowing the composers thoughts would give us some interesting and maybe enlightening ideas, but finally it is again about us. To suppress ourselfs in order to aim for objectivity is not the point of art imo.

What the word romanticism means in this context os not really the point, but I guess in the sense of the romantic era it is a lot about the actual performing musicians as important individual factor.
It depends quite a bit on how one defines romanticism. Klemperer, Furtwangler, Mengelberg et al are sometimes considered "romantic" conductors specifically for their liberties and freedom of expression, but one of the tenets of romanticism was the elevation of artist to a sort of authoritative creative figure. Modernism has sometimes been called the ultimate expression of this, in the sense that it prioritized the creative impulses of artist above all, including, in some cases, the tastes of the mass public.

Because of this, you can say that emphasis on score fidelity is, to some extent, "romantic" as it is expressing that the point of performers is to relay the composer's work to the listener in as "pure" a form as possible - therefore de-emphasizing the creative work which goes into performance in favor of the creative work of composition (if you've ever wondered why the likes of Cage et al were so interested in giving performers greater freedom and de-emphasizing the role of the composer to an extent- this is why).

e) as you mentioned this in itself has issues, as it's entirely arguable that the composer would have expected their work not to have been played in this manner. this doesn't invalidate HIP but it does mean that HIP is better viewed as an aesthetic than it is a standard of "authenticity".
 

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yeah and that's the counterpoint - you can say that the idea that Furtwangler is bringing out the "essence of Beethoven" is silly, because what he's really bringing out is the essence of Furtwangler's view of Beethoven - but this is true of all performance, even ones with more fidelity to the score. In a sense it's just as flawed to say that Furtwangler or Mengelberg represents the "true spirit" of Beethoven as it is to say that playing it straight represents the composer's "true intentions".

A score is a lossy format for expressing the spirit of composers, and it isn't even clear that "expressing the spirit of the composer" is the purpose of performance. I've heard some say that straight performances of Beethoven are without spirit, and I've heard people say that his music is so expressive that it doesn't need "help" to be expressive. All performances are interpretations, and as a incorrigible relativist, it really just matters what you are in the mood for, and what pleases you aesthetically.
 

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Historical events aren't so much "romantic" as our interpretation of it is. Napoleon as Great Man of History is a romantic view. Napoleon as a great reformer of society, a catalyst for change is a modernist view. Napoleon as an upper-class aristocrat who corrupted the Revolution of the French working class is a Marxist view.


(this is kind of getting away from Dave Hurwitz, so I apologize :lol: )
 

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to bring it back to Hurwitz, if I agree 100% with him on something, it's that what really matters is that if a performance pleases you, because no matter what Dave, me, Toscanini, Beethoven or Roger Norrington says, nobody can contradict you if you say you like a performance, and that truth can not be contradicted - no matter how "objectively" flawed it may be.
 

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The Kleiber Freischutz is certainly not overrated - though I'm not sure if that many great recordings of it exist (surprising for such an important opera)
 

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Probably most of them were sent to him from the companies looking for a review. Besides, I don't think second hand CDs fetch much nowadays.
Yeah, they're called promos. Pretty standard for reviewers with a good platform, I imagine the likes of Fanfare and ARG get those as well.
 

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I was once present at a concert where Mahler 6 was played, a slightly raw-edged but dedicated performance by a youth orchestra, surprisingly well played. I applauded till my hands started to hurt.
And then... as an encore they played some bland pop song that was on the charts back then. The percussionist even abused the "hammer" to give it some extra effect.
So I walked out, disgusted and feeling miserable. How can one be able to perform a compelling version of one of the deepest, most serious and intense works in the symphonic repertoire - then within a minute switch a button and become a brainless party animal? Even disgracing your performance by mocking it?
So yeah, I was the only one in the audience who stormed out. Everyone loved it, and I was told afterwards by my company to not take it so serious. Lighten up, dude. They're young, let 'em have fun.
I guess this is the true Hurwitz spirit. Everything is entertainment. There is no deep or shallow, there's only fun and no-fun. Your one-day wonder pop song is worth to stand aside Mahler 6. Let's spice up Beethoven's 9th with rappers!
Postmodern shallowness and lack of taste and intelligence - it sickens me.

On the other hand, you listened to Mahler 6, despite an imperfect performance, because the music gave you joy, and walked out when they did a pops encore because you weren't enjoying it. As the saying goes, that's entertainment. You didn't feel compelled to listen to music you hated because, hey, all music by classical ensembles has some Importance value - when you stopped enjoying what was being played, you walked out. So it goes with all show business.


I think his use of "entertainment" is provocative, maybe unnecessarily so, but I think his real point is that we listen to music for our own pleasure.
 
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