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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.

I also object to not-Furtwängler being labelled derisively as "pre-scripted," because in general it's all decided in advance. Everything! That's how professionals do it.

For professionals, it is always about very minute, careful, thoughtful, and repetitive preparation. Szell, Reiner, Karajan, Haitink, Skrowaczewski, Chailly, Klemperer, Muti, Jansons, Berglund, MTT, Abbado, Bernstein, Alsop, Maazel: all of them. Some of their choices work for me, other don't. Furtwängler's mostly don't. YMMV. But leaving too much to chance (unless you're John Cage) or actual, in fact spontaneity is a recipe for disaster. Furtwängler admittedly flirted with the edge of this, which is why so much of what he did to my ears sounds really, unlistenably sloppy. But his interpetive choices over the years are actually far too consistent to not have been studied. Relying on the moment means you lean most heavily on old, well-established habits, whether good or bad.

"From the heart," "intuitive," "spontaneous": that's all an illusion. You will never really know from a performance or recording whether the conductor adored the work they're performing, or detested it. That's called being a professional. But everything is prepared in advance; that's why we have rehearsals. In general Furtwängler created a myth at odds with the reality.

Mostly what the musicians are doing in performance in their head is counting a lot and hoping they don't screw it up. How much emotion do you bring to the table, when you're focused and concentrating on simple counting? Here's the rub: if you're not sure what the conductor is going to do, because you haven't rehearsed enough, you have to concentrate and count more. Musicians play more confidentally and boldly when they're well rehearsed, and play it safe and spend even more time counting when they're not.

In short, the Furtwängler myth of getting more spontaneous performances from fewer rehearsals is total, abject nonsense on multiple levels. Far more was studied and clearly pre-arranged than the myth allows.

You know what spontaneous (i.e. under-rehearsed) performances sound like, even of standard repertoire? Timid, under-played, careful, boring, sloppy crapola.
 

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Never said and have never read that Furtwängler performances were under-rehearsed. But it is well-known he took liberties in the moment and by his own admission left things for live inspiration. He didn’t care if this led to occasional ensemble inaccuracies. Whereas with Szell it sounds to my ear like he is putting a great amount of emphasis on precision and clarity, to the detriment of a feeling of inspiration and spontaneity. To each their own. Just compare video of the two men conducting, and it’s obvious that one valued clarity and one was seeking something else.

I’m sure members of community orchestras are thinking mainly if not exclusively about counting and being together. The members of the Berlin Philharmonic, at least in Furtwängler’s day, were interested in something more.
 

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Just compare video of the two men conducting, and it's obvious that one valued clarity and one was seeking something else.
That's fair.

I'm sure members of community orchestras are thinking mainly if not exclusively about counting and being together. The members of the Berlin Philharmonic, at least in Furtwängler's day, were interested in something more.
Nope. This is false. You have to count like crazy; the other option is screwing up.

There is literature about the importance of counting in the performance of music going back to the Baroque period, if not earlier. All professional musicians are counting more or less all the time, I guarantee it.

And the Berliner Philharmoniker was never, ever any different, because they're all just humans, too. Furtwängler wasn't some magical fairy who could make people play together with nothing more than his vague twirling gestures. It's just a fact that the more uncertain you are about what's happening on the podium, the more carefully you must count. It's true now and it was undoubtedly true then.

Learn to separate myth from reality.
 

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I bigly enjoy the Furtwängler discussions, especially when they are so well-argued as the posts on this thread are.

I have no dog in this fight, but I will say that I have had two road to Damascus moments in my journey through classical music and they both concern WF.

I had a huge 'Wagner moment' when Tristan finally snapped into focus and I realised it to to be the incredible experience that the work can be (listening to the 1952 London studio performance); and secondly, I experienced a total Zen-like transcendental out of body experience during a listen the 1954 Lucern Festival performance of Beethoven 9.

As I said, I have no dog in this fight and I rarely talk about Furtwängler or even own many recordings, but there is something spooky about his art ..............
 
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I don't know if Szell's a 'favourite conductor' for me, but I will say that he holds an important place in my journey through classical music. Principally GS was my introduction to Mahler 4 & 6 and his Cleveland recordings were my gotos for many years.

I adore his Beethoven overtures and his Walton symphony #2 and Partita are unsurpassable.

His Wagner orchestral excerpts were almost as important to me down the years as Klemperer's.

I revel in his Brahms and his Egmont, PC 3 & symphony 5 on Orfeo is to die for!

 
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It's not a myth. By definition the tempo fluctuations required feeling the changes together in the moment, and they weren't done the same way every performance.
You still have to count. And in fact you have to count more when things aren't consistent or are under-rehearsed. That's just a fact.

And...I can't believe I let myself get sucked into another Furtwängler debate. Ugh.
 

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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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By definition the tempo fluctuations required feeling the changes together in the moment...
The more I contemplate the implications of this, the more absurd I think it is.

What, do you think humans are shoals of herring? Or flocks of starlings?

Hint: no such luck. Humans are primates. We require instructions.

Or maybe Furtwängler was telepathic! That must be it. Maybe he shot powerful, magic rays from his eyes that controlled people's actions! :lol:

No such luck, I'm afraid.

The weird truth is: you want things to sound "spontaneous"? Then you have to to rehearse more.

It's a paradox, but it's the truth. Otherwise you are able to only lean on old habits, good or bad, and an orchestra will paradoxically play more carefully and more sloppily, and either way in other regards what happens is totally predictable, because it'll be just how it went before, i.e. the opposite of spontaneous.

And musicians always have to count.
 

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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.
You're preaching to the choir here. Furtwangler was from the subjectivist school.

It was Toscanini who claimed to be producing accurate, "objective" accounts of the composer's intentions. That was a bunch of cackie poo. Toscanini was just as subjective and interventionist as anyone. His clipped, martinet-like Beethoven interpretations were singularly, unmistakably his own. They have less in common with any other conductor than Furtwangler, Jochum, and Abendroth had with each other.
 

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Other than the polemical characterization deriding his Beethoven, I largely agree with you about Toscanini.

True objectivity is as much an illusion in music (or in anything humans do) as the idea that conductors are expressing emotions via their conducting.

The scientific method is necessary because humans cannot be objective.
 

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Other than the polemical characterization deriding his Beethoven, I largely agree with you about Toscanini.

True objectivity is as much an illusion in music (or in anything humans do) as the idea that conductors are expressing emotions via their conducting.

The scientific method is necessary because humans cannot be objective.
I think Human beings can be 'truly objective'.

When I say "I enjoyed that meal" that is a completely objective statement (eg "that was a good meal" is not an objective statement).

Thinking about Popper, falsification is the key.
 

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Is this thread about Szell? Are you sure? :lol:
It does seem to me there really shouldn't be much controversy about Szell. His career was decades ago; he had an undeniably great career, even to detractors; some people really like his recordings and some don't. I do. He achieved a degree of clarity and polished orchestra virtuosity with Cleveland that has very rarely ever been matched.

Szell's recording with Cleveland of the Notturno movement from Mendelssohn's incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the most magical moments in all of recorded music that I can think of! And the Overture and Scherzo are demonstration class, for both recording and orchestral virtuosity.
 

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On the discussion of spontaneity, Charles Munch was well known for the spontaneity in concert. Beethoven's 5th has lost all of its spontaneity for me over the years, but Munch's version made it fresh for me and is the only version I listen to from time to time now.

"When you played a concert with Charles Munch or attended one of his performances as a listener, it was not just a concert - It was an event. He never used the same palette twice. As a player, you had to give 110% of yourself, or be left out of the music."

-Vic Firth, percussionist, Boston Symphony Orchestra
 
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