Furtwängler bites!

Posted by: Todd A on 08 September 2000

Just wanted to see if that got any attention this weekend. Actually, Furtwängler is one of the great conductors of the century. Obviously.

The reason I write this is that I increasingly find myself listening to older recordings of classical music, particularly of the orchestral variety, due almost solely to the conductors. It is clear to me that many conductors of yore were more likely to interpret music more personally and insightfully than many of today’s conductors. Granted I have to put up with lower quality sound and in some cases less technically proficient orchestras, but the music is better.

So much of today’s music is bland and more or less played by the numbers, so to write. Can anyone out there honestly tell the difference between a Salonen and Rattle recording? If they can, is it as different and telling as the differences between, say, Walter and Klemperer or Furtwängler and Toscanini? There are other erstwhile conductors that float my boat – Kubelik, Karajan (earlier recordings), Bernstein (earlier recordings), Dorati, Reiner (limited repertoire), Beecham, Fricsay and some others – and some current conductors are quite enjoyable – Haitink and Slatkin come to mind – but generally I find many older recordings more satisfying.

Being relatively new to classical, I can only divine that the cause is the same as the decline in so many other areas of creative endeavor: excessive corporate greed. Some greed is good, and indeed a necessary part o’ capitalist life, but too much is not only destructive, but, more insidiously, leads to mediocrity. It looks like that has happened to classical as well.

I will say that this does not apply as much to chamber music and the solo piano repertoire. How can it with performers like The Lindsays and Andras Schiff, among many others, out there.

Just wanted to see if anyone else shares my views here. Please refrain from hurting my feelings or using any bad words as that may incur the Wrath of the Moderators. And I’ll automatically discount any harsh criticism of certain high volume contributors who shall remain nameless.