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Discussion Starter · #321 ·
What bothers me most about Hurwitz is not his variety of biases - he's entitled of those and he doesn't make a secret of it - but his general music philosophy.

To him, music equals entertainment. He admitted that in a recent video. That explains his preference for colorfully orchestrated scores, for spectacular recordings and for technically immaculate playing - all factors that contribute to the entertainment value of music. This judgement extends to music genres that offer - or strive to offer - more than just entertainment. For instance religious music, highly philosophical works, pieces with difficult literary content, etc. Those values are just distractions to him that get in the way of his enjoyment.

According to him, the St. Matthew's Passion has a worthless story, Parsifal is ridiculous (but the music is oh so beautiful!) - and performances of music that seeks to bring out other values than just superficial pleasure are mostly mistrusted, specially in cases where there's a compromise between outward technical perfection and spiritual content. If a performance leans towards the latter, emphasizes a composition's spiritual content and shows some neglect of technical precision, it's rubbish to him. His betes noires: Furtwängler, Barbirolli and Horenstein (don't be fooled by his positive review of the Barbirolli Elgar edition - he only praises the non-Hallé recordings, showing that he doesn't understand what makes Barbirolli a great conductor at all).

Hurwitz is a one-sided and narrow-minded reviewer lost in a universe that has so much more to offer than just technical perfection and superficial entertainment.
He’s soulless. He considers people who value heart and spirit of the music to be akin to cult members. He states that he only deals in “musical facts.”

I was reading a Penguin Guide review of the Lindsay Beethoven Quartets yesterday:

“The sense of spontaneity brings the obverse quality: these performances are not as precise as those in the finest rival sets; but there are few Beethoven quartet recordings that so convincingly bring out the humanity of the writing, its power to communicate.”

This is the whole way of thinking that Hurwitz runs counter to (He rails against the British press). I completely disagree with Hurwitz’s musical philosophy and in particular his diatribes against people who recognize that there is more to music than just the nuts and bolts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #322 ·
But this is an extremely common stance nowadays, just look around in this forum. There are long debates here shifted into "music and politics" that the main fault of classical music and its establishment is that it dares to take music, art and its contents and status seriously. That's stuffy elitism and the fault of pretentious 19th century German composers and philosophers. Elevating random personal preferences in music or other arts so that that artworks and artists acquire quasi-religious status. Pure self-aggrandizement of these eggheads. This is why CM is unpopular and deservedly so. If it admits that it is just like any other entertainment it could become popular and thrive and get rid of that horrible elitism, exclusion and pretention.
I’m singing in Beethoven’s Fidelio this weekend, so I’m particularly reminded that classical music is not just silly entertainment (though it can be).

There is nothing pretentious about seeking higher truth in music, and there is nothing noble about seeking to dumb down CM. Hurwitz’s anti-intellectualism is one of his worst traits.
 

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I agree that the Passion narrative is worthless, and Parsifal's story is ridiculous. I agree that music is entertainment.
But you aren't a professional critic. If one not only ignores the intention of a composer, the content of a work and its context and background, but even has a basically opposite and downright hostile stance to all of this, and treating a Bach Passion and Parsifal like above is obviously such a case, one can hardly expect to be taken seriously as a critic. (And while these works might be rather extreme cases, such an attitude is opposed to intention, content and context of A LOT of classical music, not only explicitly sacred music or Bühnenweihfestspiele.)
I also doubt that one with such an attitude can hope to get even close to the aesthetic experience of a work that might be possible with a more open/charitable/humble stance. It's a mix between arrogance and (intentional) ignorance that does not seem conducive for experiencing art and even less for giving professional critical opinion and advice about it. If one thinks like that about certain pieces one should better abstain from critical commentary and reviewing them.
 

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He’s soulless. He considers people who value heart and spirit of the music to be akin to cult members. He states that he only deals in “musical facts.”

I was reading a Penguin Guide review of the Lindsay Beethoven Quartets yesterday:

“The sense of spontaneity brings the obverse quality: these performances are not as precise as those in the finest rival sets; but there are few Beethoven quartet recordings that so convincingly bring out the humanity of the writing, its power to communicate.”

This is the whole way of thinking that Hurwitz runs counter to (He rails against the British press). I completely disagree with Hurwitz’s musical philosophy and in particular his diatribes against people who recognize that there is more to music than just the nuts and bolts.
You know that just because he doesn’t think every Furtwangler performance is god tier doesn’t mean that he is ‘soulless’? And he has stated multiple times that Bruno Walter brings a lot of humanity to his recordings, he stated again so in his recent Dave’s faves about Bruno Walter’s Brahms 3rd symphony. So I don’t think he considers himself a part of a cult
 

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I was reading a Penguin Guide review of the Lindsay Beethoven Quartets yesterday:

“The sense of spontaneity brings the obverse quality: these performances are not as precise as those in the finest rival sets; but there are few Beethoven quartet recordings that so convincingly bring out the humanity of the writing, its power to communicate.”
The Penguin guide is hardly a reliable source of music criticism, particularly since this particular review must be 20 years old by now (not to mention the biases of the Penguin reviewers). Since then, there have been no shortage of reissues and new recordings of the quartets that demonstrate that it's possible to play with both precision and heart.

I completely disagree with Hurwitz’s musical philosophy and in particular his diatribes against people who recognize that there is more to music than just the nuts and bolts.
Thanks for the reminder.
 

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You know that just because he doesn’t think every Furtwangler performance is god tier doesn’t mean that he is ‘soulless’?
This whole thread is a symptom of the times in which we live (particularly in the USA, alas), where everyone and everything has to be viewed as utteerly perfect or irredeemably bad. Too many people are incapable of nuance.
 

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I do not think you would go wrong with his recommendations unless you regard them not as a starting point in exploration, but as revealed truth. His choices are often idiosyncratic, but (to my best knowledge) never execrable. The problem a beginner may have with his recommendations is that he tends to forgo well-established first-rate performers in favour of sometimes obscure records. I have an extensive collection, and I have benefitted from his videos in discovering more. Should you forgo the Karajan/BP cycle of LvB symphonies in favour of an obscure Czech recording (which he champions, inter alia, because he can publicly play it for copyright reasons)? Probably not. Provided you already have two or three well-established LvB cycles, and you wish to explore something different but good, should you listen to his recommendations? Of course.
To be fair to Hurwitz, he does genuinely seem to like the Kletzki Beethoven cycle and the Czech Philharmonic in general, and he did mention both that and Karajan/BPO 1977 in his talk of recommended Beethoven symphony cycles.

I think he offers a valid perspective , as long as it's not your only perspective.
 

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I do not think you would go wrong with his recommendations unless you regard them not as a starting point in exploration, but as revealed truth. His choices are often idiosyncratic, but (to my best knowledge) never execrable. The problem a beginner may have with his recommendations is that he tends to forgo well-established first-rate performers in favour of sometimes obscure records. I have an extensive collection, and I have benefitted from his videos in discovering more. Should you forgo the Karajan/BP cycle of LvB symphonies in favour of an obscure Czech recording (which he champions, inter alia, because he can publicly play it for copyright reasons)? Probably not. Provided you already have two or three well-established LvB cycles, and you wish to explore something different but good, should you listen to his recommendations? Of course.
Currently, I am very familiar with Gardiner and-- urg-- Krieps tin can (my first Beethoven cycle-- don't get it!). I am somewhat familiar with Klemperer (I have listened to Symphonies 3-7) and Karajan '63 (only played through it once so far, and the Ninth several times).
 

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I’m singing in Beethoven’s Fidelio this weekend, so I’m particularly reminded that classical music is not just silly entertainment (though it can be).

There is nothing pretentious about seeking higher truth in music, and there is nothing noble about seeking to dumb down CM. Hurwitz’s anti-intellectualism is one of his worst traits.
I don't think Hurwitz is trying to be "noble." He's trying to be a Haydn-popularizing entertainer while stroking his ego. Nobility is for people who think CM is more than entertainment.

That being said, Hurwitz is doing a service in dumbing-down music theory to explain works like Haydn symphonies to beginners.
 

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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.
 

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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.
My only reaction to this is lighten up dude! They’re young
 

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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.
I don't think things are that bad. Still, I sympathize with your sentiment. There's a time & place for music that is light & for music that is serious. Not everything should be treated as a light occasion all the time. And if you promise a serious experience, it should be serious all throughout. It's not in good taste to play with people's expectations.
 

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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.
To my knowledge, Hurwitz said that lieder are as good as contemporary songs, and performers of lieder should lighten up.

However, I don't think he's want a pop song right after a performance of Mahler 6. He did a video in which he shared an ancedote about a friend playing the organ solo from the Glagolitic Mass after a Catholic mass service, and then realizing that the organ solo is inappropriate for that setting.
 

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he did mention both that and Karajan/BPO 1977 in his talk of recommended Beethoven symphony cycles.
And the face he made when he (very briefly) mentioned HvK/BP cycle! ("It-is-de-rigueur-to-mention-it-but-I-really-abhor-it" face). But again, I do occasionally enjoy his videos, just do not take them very seriously.
 

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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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You know that just because he doesn’t think every Furtwangler performance is god tier doesn’t mean that he is ‘soulless’? And he has stated multiple times that Bruno Walter brings a lot of humanity to his recordings, he stated again so in his recent Dave’s faves about Bruno Walter’s Brahms 3rd symphony. So I don’t think he considers himself a part of a cult
He recommends Furtwangler's Schumann 4 and Schubert 9, among other works.
 

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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.
Exactly. That is what Hurwitz means by entertainment. If I wasn't entertained by music, I would not listen to it.

Additionally, in the Classical Period, music explicitly was entertainment for aristocrats, and this attitude persisted into the 19th century to an extent. Concert-goers hissed at Brahms' First Piano Concerto because it was too dark and turbulent. At the premeire of Tchaikovsky's Sixth, the audience didn't like it.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, music was entertainment. Perhaps we can find a happy medium between treating masterworks irreverently, and denying that they're (non-shallow) entertainment
 

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in the Classical Period, music explicitly was entertainment for aristocrats, and this attitude persisted into the 19th century to an extent.
It depends on what you mean by "entertainment" though. Whatabout all the Tafelmusik composed before that? Bach wrote that WTC was composed "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study".
And church music (even a cappella stuff) was produced in large quantities even after the Baroque period.
 
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