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Great conductor, superb musician, who built s great orchestra in Cleveland....i generally enjoy his performances a great deal....a total control freak, he could keep things " buttoned down" at times but he also let the orchestra really cut loose at times to great effect.
Like many podium autocrats of the time, he could be a pretty miserable person
 

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....That's interesting. To me, Furtwangler sound sometimes artificial, and sometimes plain, but Szell seems to me much more natural. I don't feel he just follows the score literally at all, and knows how to bring things off cohesively, and expressively in a manner that's not cloying.....
Yes, The excessive taffy-pulling of tempo by Furtwangler often sounds forced, or contrived to me...not natural...
To me, it is total falsehood that a literal approach is unexpressive, mechanical or robotic and unexpressive...that's complete baloney...a conductor who sticks close to the score can inspire amazingly passionate and expressive playing from his/her orchestra...
Precision does NOT automatically equate with expressive restraint....loose, sloppy playing does not automatically equate with great passion or expression.
 

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When I hear a conductor like Szell apply expression, it feels like just that - applying a tool to something. That's why it feels mechanical to me.
Szell doesn't "apply" expression....he follows the score. The phrasing and expression sound very natural

True expression is not generic. It comes from truly internalizing and identifying with an individual piece. Literally every single work ever composed has a different nature.
This does not automatically indicate that pulling the tempo and dynamics every which way is justified...it can be said that we are hearing Furtwangler NOT Beethoven, or Brahms, etc.

Clarity for clarity's sake does detract. You need to be saying more than just simply, "and HERE is Beat One."
What relevance has this to Szell?? He had a very definite idea of what he wanted, expected to hear, long before it happened.
 

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It was relevant to the post to which I was replying, which was claiming that emotion is something that one "adds" to music.
Listeners do add it to the music.

It is inherently part of the music, its natural essence, unless you are just practicing a generic scale.
But "applying" emotion is exactly what Furtwangler does!! Sometimes it works, sometimes it sounds wildly off track.
 

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No one applies emotion. You either feel it or you don't.
You feel it and apply it.
Furtwängler did exactly what came naturally,
The excessive taffy-pulling, distortions are hardly natural sounding....I often find myself asking "WTH is he doing?, why did he do that??"

The essential point is he felt free to investigate the score and its meaning.
More like he felt free to apply his own excessive distortions and largely ignore the score.

A tightly disciplined approach can result in a technical marvel, but it can likewise inhibit the freedom discussed above.
An undisciplined approach can result in a real mess, and can fail badly to present the music convincingly

And what could possibly be more antithetical to the spirit of Beethoven?
Indeed!!
 

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Heck148 writes of Furtwangler's conducting: "The excessive taffy-pulling, distortions are hardly natural sounding....I often find myself asking "WTH is he doing?, why did he do that??"

Because he was a devotee of Schenkerian musical analysis. Furtwängler was always looking to find deeper psychological and emotional truths within the score, and willing to pull the tempo around, in order to achieve a greater expressiveness. All of the musicians that I've heard who were devotees to Schenkerian analysis do this--including Samuel Feinberg, Elizabeth Rich, Edward Aldwell, etc.. None of them keep a steady tempo, but instead pull it around. It's deliberate, and all to bring out and discover a greater expressiveness & meaning within the music. In other words, it's not due to sloppiness, as is sometimes claimed.
Of, course, sloppy execution is not the intent, but often it comes off that way.....poor, imprecise execution, to me, and to where and how I was taught, does not further increased musical expression.

"deeper psychological and emotional truths" - the positing of such is indeed extremely subjective - it begs the question - is the conductor performer just making it up??

But Schenker also once declared that no conductor understood Beethoven better than Furtwängler.
Whoopee!! so what?? one man's opinion....
 

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It's so long since I've listened to any of Szell's recordings (back when I was first getting to know classical music) that I shouldn't really respond to this thread. But maybe you've come across a reaction by another famous conductor of his early experience of playing under Szell's baton:

"He should be happy that I didn't kill him... "
It's true that Szell was a real control freak, and a difficult person....like many podium giants of his day, Szell could be a real tyrant.
 

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......I have never understood technicians who eschew heart and emotion. It is almost as if they are afraid of "mistakes" and so take the more reliable, less dangerous path in order to not be embarrassed in front of their audience. That may be the crux of the difference in philosophy.
??? Why do you assume that those conductor/performers who do not take the Furtwangler approach are "technicians" who eschew "heart and emotion"??
Again - precision, accurate execution in no way equates with stiff, unexpressive, stiff or dull performance.

I just find it tough to accept the portentous premise that every harmonic half-note in Beethoven, Brahms or Bruckner is necessarily imbued with some sort of cosmic significance.
 

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It's a strawman that deserves to be ignored.
I don't think so - the implication seems to be that accurate playing, precision, necessarily excludes expressive or passionate presentation....my own long experience tells me this is not so. what is the basis for this implication??

If you can't play the right notes, in tune, with the proper rhythm, and at a coherent tempo, there's little point to looking past the notes to find "heart and emotion", because the audience isn't going to notice - they're going to hear only the technical flaws.
Good point....of course, we both know that there can be musical performances that are not technically perfect, but may be very expressive musically, and have great value....also, there may technically perfect renditions that are very routine or boring.

The point is that playing true to the score does not automatically make a performance routine or boring, also - playing with wild or extreme tempo, dynamic fluctuations does not necessarily reveal some over-riding "truth" or emotion of the score.
I mean, what is the "truth" of Brahms Symphony #1??
 

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....Any chance of a return to discussing Szell anytime soon ....? Personally I'd put Szell's mechanical, surgical, soulless, shallow Dvorak symphonies 7-9 above nearly anyone's.
Szell was a great conductor; for me, he sometimes keeps things "buttoned down" too tightly...and the assertions that he could be stiff or rigid have some validity....however, this is not always the case...at times, he'd really let the orchestra rip - and this was to great effect - Cleveland was a terrific ensemble with great players - I'm thinking Beethoven #7, Leonore #3[!!], Walton Sym #2, just ottomh....
I also enjoy his Mozart and Haydn....the exquisite phrasing and precision are most attractive, and again, he enjoyed input from his outstanding orchestra....
The guy was a total control freak, tho - any lengthy solo meant special coaching sessions with the Maestro, so that it was presented according to his wishes. Szell controlled each musician's salary. If a musician wanted a raise, it had to go thru him...he even tried to dictate musicians' personal habits to a degree - what instrument they played, what they ate, drank, did with free time, etc...

A highly enjoyable book <<Tales from the Locker Room - An Anecdotal Portrait of George Szell and his Cleveland Orchestra>> by Lawrence Angell and Bernette Jaffe sheds some light on his relationships with his musicians....very entertaining...
 

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One is seeking the truth that lies within the music itself - its essence, its heart - .....
" the truth that lies within the music itself"

IOW - subjective truth. Thank you.

I don't listen to the Brahms 1st to solve world hunger.
right, you are listening for the subjective truth that you posit "exists" within the music....right, we get it. :rolleyes:
 
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