The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

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Modernistfan
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The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by Modernistfan » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:20 am

The Berlin Philharmonic label has just released a 22-CD set of Wilhelm ​​Furtwängler’s wartime recordings with that orchestra, remastered in SACD. This is probably the most pointless set of recordings ever released. First of all, I cannot see the point of SACD remastering of 75-year-old mono recordings (even if they were originally recorded on tape, not shellac). Secondly, given that all of the Jewish members of the orchestra had been dismissed (and, by that time, if they had not emigrated, they would most likely have been in concentration camps), and also that the exigencies of war had taken their toll on the orchestra, I would think that the standard of playing would probably have been below what would today would be acceptable in, say, the Fresno Philharmonic. All this for the bargain price of $219.25 (at Presto Classical)!
I know that the ​​​Furtw​ängler fanatics will jump all over me, but I cannot see the point of this set (not to mention the ethical considerations). I would rather wish that the Berlin Philharmonic label would release in-house recordings of some of the composers, such as Boris Blacher or Hans Werner Henze, played by the orchestra after the war.

Heck148
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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by Heck148 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:32 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:20 am
The Berlin Philharmonic label has just released a 22-CD set of Wilhelm ​​Furtwängler’s wartime recordings with that orchestra, remastered in SACD. This is probably the most pointless set of recordings ever released. .......Secondly, given that all of the Jewish members of the orchestra had been dismissed (and, by that time, if they had not emigrated, they would most likely have been in concentration camps), and also that the exigencies of war had taken their toll on the orchestra, I would think that the standard of playing would probably have been below what would today would be acceptable in, say, the Fresno Philharmonic.
You make a good point about the quality of the orchestra - the expulsion of all the Jewish musicians was a huge loss, of course, so were the terrible casualties inflicted on the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front....by 1944, who was left to play in the orchestra??

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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by Lance » Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:09 am

https://d27t0qkxhe4r68.cloudfront.net/t ... 1548672651
Catalogue No. BPHR180181, 22 SACDs

Thank you for that post, Modernistfan. Followers of Wilhelm Furtwängler abound and probably always will. It was my impression that Furtwängler fought loud and hard to keep his Jewish musicians within the orchestra and was accommodated for the most part. Yehudi Menuhin has noted that Furtwängler assisted many Jewish musicians in more ways than one. Just who does one believe today? I, too, am a great fan of the conductor. While I haven't checked the contents, many of his recordings appear on DGG, Audite, Orfeo, and myriad other labels, especially of the radio recordings. So it could be there is a lot of duplication of material within this new 22 SACD boxed set. I show the text blurb below regarding this boxed set:

"The radio recordings between 1939 and 1945 with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Wilhelm Furtwängler are among classical music’s most compelling sound documents. Created at the peak of the collaboration between orchestra and conductor, Furtwängler’s artist personality is conveyed more vividly than anywhere else. What can be heard is music in which inspiration and the expressive will know no bounds and in which, not least, the existential experience of the Second World War reverberates. For the first time, the Berliner Philharmoniker are releasing a complete edition of these recordings on 22 CD/SACD.Wilhelm Furtwängler is accorded almost mythical status to this day. Biographically and artistically rooted in the 19th century, he embodies a bridge to the late Romantic period and the founding years of the Berliner Philharmoniker, whose chief conductor he was from 1922. Furtwängler’s auratic charisma stems from an intriguing basic interpretive concept which avoided authoritarian gestures and deliberately aimed at the blurring of tonal contours. The result was a warm, mixed sound, in which developments and intensifications never appear calculated, but seem to grow organically. Includes Bonus Interview with Friedrich Schnapp.

Please Note: JAPAN, CHINA & HONG KONG - For contractual reasons, we have been asked not to sell this product to customers in Japan, China and Hong Kong. We apologise for any disappointment or inconvenience caused."


I would imagine that within this orchestra, even during the time frame of these recordings, there were some Jewish musicians still within the orchestra that Maestro Furtwängler "protected" even though they may have feared for their lives. No matter what, it was one of the most horrendous times in the history of mankind. It is noted that the Hitler regime was not pleased because Furtwängler would not give the Hitler "salute" in his presence, which even caused him some problems. Reading the book, Furtwängler by Hans-Hubert Schonzeler sheds some light on some of this. The foreward is by Yehudi Menuhin, Jewish himself, who has nothing but praise for the conductor.

And like you, despite SACD (how much could these recordings be improved?), I believe this might be a waste of $$$ as well. •
Lance G. Hill
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John F
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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by John F » Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:32 am

Modernistfan wrote:Secondly, given that all of the Jewish members of the orchestra had been dismissed (and, by that time, if they had not emigrated, they would most likely have been in concentration camps), and also that the exigencies of war had taken their toll on the orchestra, I would think that the standard of playing would probably have been below what would today would be acceptable in, say, the Fresno Philharmonic.
You couldn't be more wrong. Have you ever actually listened to any of the Berlin Philharmonic's wartime broadcasts with Furtwängler, or compared them with any of his recordings from before the Nazi era? If not, then you don't know what you're talking about. The answer fo the second question is almost certainly no, because there are very few such recordings and only one of a major work, Beethoven's 5th in 1926. It just isn't possible to judge that the orchestra's playing deteriorated during that period for whatever reason. It remained powerful and brilliant throughout.

That's a side issue anyway compared with the quality of the performances as interpretations of the music. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, as shown in the broadcast recordings, his performances grew in intensity and passion as things got worse in his homeland, first from Nazi tyranny and then from the allied bombings. Whether these developments were related, whether Furtwängler's emotional expression deepened because of what was happening to his country, is impossible to know, but that's my guess.

John Ardoin says in "The Furtwängler Record," "The 1942 Berlin Ninth, like the wartime performances of the Third and Fifth Symphonies, remains one of his most breathtaking achievements on disc."
John Ardoin wrote:It is impossible to listen to the Berlin Ninth without an acute awareness of the political and historical events of the moment, both in terms of Germany and Furtwängler. One of the noblest utterances of the human spirit was being voiced in a country engaged in some of the most appalling atrocities to be committed in the twentiety century. Furtwängler felt this blatant dichotomy, and it was surely responsible for the cyclonic fury of the 1942 performance. It is drenched with torment, anger, and a sense of struggle that goes beyond [Furtwängler's previous Ninth] to a more frightening and exhausting sxpressive plane. Accents are brutal in the first and second movements, bug there is a greater repose in the slow movement (it is Furtwängler's most expansive on disc0. It is the finale, however, that makes the greatest impact with its almost desperate appeal, as if Furtwängler were somehow attempting through the music to alter or reversd the events engulfing him."
And here it is:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AI9kp02eq0

For an example of the "cyclonic fury" Ardoin rightly speaks of, listen to the eruption after 9:20 in the first movement.

This is far and away the most powerful, the greatest Ninth I have ever heard, not least because of the playing of the Berlin Philharmonic. Its reissue, along with other similarly outstanding Furtwängler performances, is not only not "pointless" or "a waste of money," it is very welcome, especially if the sound has been improved.
John Francis

John F
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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by John F » Thu Feb 21, 2019 6:48 am

Heck148 wrote:the expulsion of all the Jewish musicians was a huge loss, of course
You and I don't know how many Jewish musicians were in the Berlin Philharmonic before the Nazis, how many left or were expelled, who most of them were, and what effect if any this may have had on the orchestra's playing.

Furtwängler hired Szymon Goldberg as concertmaster and Gregor Piatigorsky as principal cello, but they played in the orchestra only a few years before the Nazis came to power. But I should think, though I don't know, that any vacancies in the orchestra at whatever time and for whatever reason would have been filled by some of the best players in Germany. It's as in Vienna where the Philharmonic's long-time concertmaster was replaced by Wolfgang Schneiderhan; the quality of that orchestra would hardly have suffered from that, though its style of playing would most likely have changed (vibrato in the strings, for example). I don't know who the Berliners' concertmaster was before and after Goldberg, but then I don't know who their concertmaster is today.
John Francis

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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by diegobueno » Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:52 am

Modernistfan wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:20 am
Secondly, given that all of the Jewish members of the orchestra had been dismissed (and, by that time, if they had not emigrated, they would most likely have been in concentration camps), and also that the exigencies of war had taken their toll on the orchestra, I would think that the standard of playing would probably have been below what would today would be acceptable in, say, the Fresno Philharmonic.
That was precisely my reaction upon hearing Beethoven's 6th in a war-era performance by F. Whether or not that was literally true, the performance was bad enough to convince me that the orchestra's best players must have been elsewhere, either in America or Auschwitz. In any case I have no use for F's heavy-handed interpretive style, and the tinny 1940s acoustics does the music no favors.

maestrob
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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by maestrob » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:42 pm

This is an issue for historians only. While I agree with JohnF about that Beethoven IX, I'm not much into Berlin radio performances these days, except for singers, as there are better sounding performances with power and passion available in today's market of Furtwangler's repertoire. Then, there's the issue of room on my shelves....... :roll:

huizhu55
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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by huizhu55 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:15 pm

I bought the Japanese import version: kkc5952, sound quality of these sacd are indeed better than previous cd/sacd.

maestrob
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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by maestrob » Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:05 am

huizhu55 wrote:
Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:15 pm
I bought the Japanese import version: kkc5952, sound quality of these sacd are indeed better than previous cd/sacd.
Greetings and welcome huizhu55, and thanks for posting! Hope we see you around often....

John F
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Re: The Biggest Waste of Money Ever?

Post by John F » Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:30 am

Yes, by all means so speak up whenever you like.
John Francis

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