YES WE CAN HAS! (aaangyl) wrote,

On Vox: // Furtwanglert. /

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I lent my copy of Tristan und Isolde to Hans, explaining that while I didn't have words for what it was I liked, there was some particular quality to that production that caused me to feel very involved in the music and emotions and always caused that recording to stand out to me.  He focused in on the conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler.  This fellow, it turns out, is interesting for a number of reasons.  It seems he was very kinetic, but not very articulate at all - in fact, the more I read what other people had to say about him, the more he sounds like an Aspie.  (If so, his willingness to stay in Germany makes a lot more sense - there seemed to be a certain rational detachment required in those who stayed despite opposed morality, even if they did so in attempt to help embedded Jews escape, as his widow claimed he did.)

When conducting, he flailed about, largely expressionless of the face, often off the beat, throwing his entire body into a twitching, convulsive expression of some deeper emotional movement only he could feel, that he was desperately trying to breathe to his orchestra through his body.  His players loved him - you don't have to guess, you can look at their faces in the videos, or listen to the sheer magnificence of the recordings of his concerts, and you can tell he's infusing them with a great holy fire.  It's almost like he trusts them to organically handle certain things that other conductors are sticklers for - consider Toscanini's metronome-like presentation and crisp precision in contrast.  Furtwangler's movements are about intensity and emotion, about building and carrying the story, and leaving his people to handle the details underneath - very rarely do you see his body insist to any of the musicians "do this bit this way in precise detail", rather, he leads everyone collectively in broad sweeping arcs punctuated by energetic explosions of emphasis.

Here's s YouTube of him conducting Beethoven's 9th in 1942, so you can see what I'm talking about here:

Such a profound departure and such a great impact did he make, that he became a verb.  Speaking approvingly of his successor, Daniel Barenboim, Furtwangler's widow said, "Er furtwänglert." ("He furtwänglers.")

Bonus Material:
- Don Giovanni - Commendatore scene
- Conducting Flagstad in Gotterdammerung
- Aww heck, you can search YouTuba as well as I can, huh?

Originally posted on


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