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It depends on the composer. I think Beethoven can absolutely work as a non-interventionist manner (not that I mind more romantic ones), but Brahms symphonies less so.

If it helps, early in my listening, I really wanted "straight" performances of the work- because I had the idea that "I want to hear what the composer wrote!" and all that. I still do like that approach when approaching new repertoire but I don't care as much about it nowadays.

I think he's really good in extremely "romantic" work, oddly enough- stuff like Tchaikovsky and Strauss is so heart-on-sleeve that you can't help but get emotion from playing it straight.
 

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This goes back to my original point. Interpreting music in a naturally emotive way is no different than speaking in a tone that naturally conveys the emotion of the speech. You are not adding anything. But interpreting the music in a passionless, mechanical way strips the music of its natural essence. In that sense you are subtracting.

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Musical instruments already have textures and timbres similar to speech. I actually think it would take more work to play, say, Tchaikovsky 6 in a way that isn't "emotional". Musical instruments playing those tones (subject to usual disclaimers about subjectivity of emotional reaction et al) will "naturally" emote that way without embellishment. (It's why I like, say, Pollini and Serkin in the slow Hammerklavier movement over more emotive pianists - I don't think that movement needs "help" to be profound)

And I certainly don't think it's wrong to interpret that kind of thing- but I don't think a "non-interventionist" conducting style is necessarily damaging to emotional affect. And I do think there are works of high complexity that absolutely needs interpretation to bring out the emotional affect - Brahms 4, or some Shostakovich, for instance.
 

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Not to play into a stereotype of Szell but I also like that he does, to some extent, represent a baseline of "standard" interpretation set to an exceptionally high standard of musicianship that can be compared to other more emotive interpretations. There are certainly times where I find other interpretations better - I'd listen to Klemperer doing Brahms any day over Szell, for instance. (Then again, Klemperer is a favorite of mine, so...)

If I had to name a list off the top of my head, it'd probably be something like - Bernstein, Fricsay, Klemperer, Munch, Kubelik - but that's subject to change every day and with specific repertoire (there's stuff I'd run a mile to listen to Boulez do, for instance)
 

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To all who say they prefer Furtwängler over other options, who can argue with that? I won't. I just don't share that preference.

What I object to are statements that Furtwängler's tempo fluctuations and other liberties represent anything more inherently or objectively "intuitive," "honest," or "deeply felt." That they do not. If you like those choices, great, who can argue. But others are not necessarily less or more of those same qualities just for making different choices.
If there's something I object to, it's along the lines of this. What Furtwangler is doing is providing Furtwangler's interpretation of Beethoven. He is expressing the emotional affect he feels in the music through his interpretive options. To an extent all conductors do this.

The point of protest is that somehow what Furtwangler is doing is not expressing his personal interpretation of the music, but is instead doing some sort of ego death and expressing "the truth" of the music. As if Furtwangler, through his interpretive choices, and his expression of how he believes the music should affect the listener, is somehow actually less interventionist because he is letting the "truth" of the music shine through. This is silly. Furtwangler is expressing his truth, not the truth.
 

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What's unfortunate is when I see people romanticizing this sort of behavior, or saying what a shame it is that modern society frowns on it. Szell made some fabulous recordings, but so did Pierre Monetux, a man beloved by his players.
 

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It could have been a record company thing as well. Szell was on Epic/Columbia who I believe had the Met Opera contract (at some point I think this went to RCA), and maybe they figured the Met was likely a better prospect for sales than Cleveland.
 

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How many non-Met conductors of that period who worked in the United States did too many opera records? Always seemed like most of the American stuff I come across was Leinsdorf or Mitropoulous.


That, and when a record company which didn't have the Met contract released opera, it seemed like they'd just license an overseas recording from Decca or something, rather than find an American opera to record.
 
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