Something-German: Michael Gielen, Furtwangler & DB

Dear New York Folks,

This is Jiwon.

Am I able to finish this work? Sometimes, I am sleepy. Sometimes, I exercise too much. Sometimes… I wanted to wear my favorite jeans and it was like… an elephant was struggling with…  I am never born a beauty, and what is worse… now with elephant’s legs…? Another approach to meet the same result. Then, orange colored urine in the morning, keep yawning all day…

I know I am on the right track. How do I know? When I wake up in the morning, my breathing or heartbeat is fine.

In Kansas city, where Ms. Block tried to teach me Zukerman-like horn sound, I had suffered from a strange heartbeat while waking up in the morning. Since then, I used to check my physical condition with my morning heartbeat. Weird… this another approach didn’t work when I first tried it several months ago. It starts working… Very tired next morning, though.

I’ve already finished most of this work weeks ago, but I am still in trouble to organize them and to write introductory remarks. I just want to sleep. I am not sure… do I even have an ability to finish this work?

Story 1-4: (Done!)

Story 5: Barenboim (Starting…)

Story 5+: German… whatever (Today’s writing)

Story 5+: Furtwangler (Today’s writing)

Story 5: Daniel Barenboim

5-1. Things that I can not understand. (Divans)

5-2. What specific did Barenboim pick up from my previous writings?,,2092-2124967_1,00.html  (April 09, 2006) “He is equally dismissive of speculation that he will crown his career by joining La Scala in Milan: “Absolutely not.” Instead, he will concentrate on the Berlin State Opera and its financially strapped sister orchestra, the Staatskapelle, while exhorting Germans to take more pride in their culture. “This horrible stamp of the Nazi period does not have to affect the way Germany perceives itself,” he declares. It’s a strange thing for an Argentinian Jew to say, but Barenboim the musical purist has never been averse to striking discordant notes. The Reith lectures are broadcast…”

This interview was in The Times.

Then, I realized that Barenboim understood nothing in my writings about Furtwangler. Then while searching for more information to finish this work, I also realized that Barenboim’s Israel was escorting Glander’s clarinet sound.

Whoever says whatever, Barenboim is a Jewish patriot, then what does it mean?

What means German culture?

Who are German audience?

I’ve already finished my writing on Furtwangler, and I no more want to waste my time repeating the same thing again and again.

Story 5+: German… whatever  [Barenboim replacement] from the Google Group

Forumite 1: You have just been appointed by the CSO board to choose Barenboim”s successor. Who do choose and why?

Forumite 2: Bring back Fritz Reiner!

Forumite 3: Seconded! Even dead Fritz is better than ANY of the conductors Chicago has seen since he departed this sorry earth. As for Barenboim, I would be happier if he just stuck to the piano.

Forumite 2: I would be rather unhappy if he did that too. Have you heard his Chopin Sonatas or Nocturnes?

Forumite 4: Given that he totally murdered Haydn’s D major Cello Concerto with du Pre, and that his Mozart sonatas let me to buy a different set, I would rather he stopped attempting either.

Forumite 5: [>Bring back Fritz Reiner!] – Hopefully not. While Barenboim is not a conductor for whom I would reach often (there is something rather “abstract” about his “passion”, were that to make any sense), the best of Barenboim I’ve heard I prefer to the best of Reiner I’ve heard (Scheherazade). Reiner at his most rigid? Better unmentioned.

Forumites: Bla-bla-bla talking about the reason of Barenboim’s departure… One interesting opinion among them.

Forumite 5: Well, it’s his choice obviously, but let’s ask the question from a different angle: for a music director who care for the orchestra he leads and for the orchestral musicians who perspire for him, is it really such an unimaginable sacrifice — or “torture”, to use Mr. Barenboim’s word — to have dinner with a person generous enough as to give a million bucks to the orchestra? I mean a musical leader is not there only to wave the baton, cash in and fly away, but also to care for the people without whom his baton-waving would resemble some ineficient form of fly-hunting. Not to mention that while it is possible that a (potential) sponsor might be a superficial, boring, attention-seeking snob, it is also possible that it would be a considerate, passionate, generous music lover. Why having aprioric opinions on a member of your audience? (Continues…) I remember reading somewhere that Furtwaengler had some similar problems during his not very long New York adventure — he preferred receiving after concert young single female admirers rather than have dinner with the sponsors or something like that. But I also recall the same Furtwaengler, in times of monetary crisis for the Vienna Philharmonic (possibly around 1944, Mr. Fogel may correct me) sending serious money from his own funds to the orchestral musicians. Some of the old-time “dictators” really cared about their orchestras and the musicians felt that.

Forumite 2: [>How about CSO?] The CSO has been in an unstoppable decline since Reiner. Barenboim was only the latest installment in this ongoing disaster.

Forumite 6 (From Germany): [>Barenboim’s successor. Who do choose and why?] – Michael Gielen. He’s a first-rate conductor in *any* repertoire. Please note that other US symphony orchestras have often favored German conductors.

Forumite 7: Including Gielen! Who has the further advantage of being one of the tiny handful of most imaginative and musical conductors alive.

Forumite 8: I am surprised you think that. He led a number of concerts in Chicago — over a period of 3 years or so — and they were among the most sleep-inducing, boring, and unimaginative interpretations of classics that I have ever heard. I don’t understand the acclaim he gets.

Forumite 6 (From Germany): Maybe you thought so just because he isn’t an American?

Forumite 8: He’s a boring old hack as his concerts in Chicago have shown.

Forumite 9: Not the CSO concert I was at of Poulenc, Dutilleux and Ravel. And I’d see him again without hesitation. Am I wrong to see some similarity between BouleZ and Gielen in their musical tastes and abilities?

Forumite 7: Gielen phrases with greater distinction and is much less interested in sound qua sound. It’s partly a question of German inwardness versus French sensualism. Some of their 20th-century repertory overlaps, of course, but I’d rather hear Gielen than Boulez in classical repertory. 

Forumite 10: You are quite right, of course. Gielen is also in many ways the reincarnation of Hans Rosbaud, a connoisseur’s favorite with a wide repertoire and a special expertise and flair for difficult music. These attributes make Gielen about as likely to replace Barenboim in Chicago as Elaine’s sometime boyfriend the Maestro is, or that Intrilligator fellow that our new friends from Dubuque are so enthusiastic about.

Forumite 8: [>Not the Gielen’s CSO concert I was at of Poulenc, Dutilleux and Ravel. And I’d see him again without hesitation.] – I heard that concert. It wasn’t that bad but it was nothing special. Gielen makes X look imaginative.

Forumite 6 (From Germany): Very much a minority opinion.

Forumite 8: Not in Chicago.

Forumite 7: Everybody interested in classical music that I know in Chicago loves Gielen.

Forumite 8: Well, some of them are on this newsgroup and I can assure you they don’t. There is a reason he know longers appears in Chicago and many of us are grateful for it.

Forumite 11: HEAVENS!!!!!!!! Even some “overfed, overpaid union musicians” (Forumite-7’s ‘opinion’) are glad to see Gielen gone from Chicago. Gee, a musician in agreement with Forumite-7. There must be some wintery precipitation in Hell!!!

Forumite 8: We were bound to agree on something some day!

Forumite 6 (From Germany): [>HEAVENS!!!!!!!! Even some CSO musicians are glad to see Gielen gone from Chicago.] – Positive proof about how little musicians know about music-making. 😉


I collected interesting opinions, whether I agree with them or not. It was at the same night that I accidentally found Forumites’ opinions about Zukerman and Gielen. I was so surprised that I wanted to go further. But it was impossible to find more interesting things about maestro Gielen. I went further on subjects like Furtwangler, Mehta… but the result was nothing new. My first work had almost everything.

Funny… my taste is never the same as German listeners.

No wonder… according to her own interview… not France but Germany was where Elena Bashkirova’s professional life was welcomed.

Maestro Gielen really thought this Russian whore was talented. (Still weird… if “Gielen phrases with greater distinction,” what makes Bashkirova’s music sound so stupid?)

Then more funny… why this German pianist needs her Jewish fame to preserve her professional career in Gielen’s German land? In Israel, where so many Russian immigrants are striving for their practical life, Elena Bashkirova is regarded as not a Russian musician, but a German queen, who is bringing her luxurious German culture into the penniless, poorly educated Jewish audience.

In Germany, she is busy at selling her Jewish fame and trying to draw a line between her Jewish achievement and Barenboim’s Middle East Peace Project.

Really really weird… Bashkriova’s Jewish market seems to miss Barenboim’s du Pre more and more and more. Or is it simply a business trick played by Bashkirova’s Jewish partner, Yeheskell Beinisch, the Chairman of the JCMF?

Something interesting here.

I searched for the specific opinions from this German listener.

Gielen’s German fan doesn’t appreciate Barenboim as a maestro. It was just like Meier’s fanatic fan-club elsewhere, who didn’t appreciate Barenboim as a proper conductor.

How many times did I write that Elena Bashkirova was the best accompanist for vocalist Waltraud Meier or even the violinist Pinchas Zukerman?

Not Barenboim-Fan-Club, but Barenboim-Haters’ opinions are proving my analysis.

This is something German I know.

I never want to go to Germany for the musical reason.

I hate dark, mushy places. One and a half years at the UI-UC is enough.

Story 5+: Furtwangler

1.  [A Couple Of Furtwangler Questions] from the Google Group

Forumite-1: Someone posted the DG CD of the 1951 Haydn 88 and 1953 Schumann 4 with the Berlin Phil. 1) Is this representative of Furtwangler’s way of conducting?  2) Who are Furtwangler’s most succesful disciples? 3) Which conductors are really a bastardization of the Furtwangler method when actually trying to emulate him?

Forumite-2: Yes. Barenboim. Barenboim.

Forumite-1: How should one interpret that????

Forumite-3: 1) Yes. 3) Nobody. Anyone who would emulate Furtwangler would be have been run out of the business long ago.

Forumite-4: [Anyone who would emulate Furtwangler would be have been run out of the business long ago.] – IMHO, Barenboim is an exception to that statement. Whether he sought to emulate Furtwangler or not, his capricious and wayward musical manner has been mistaken by too many who should’ve known better as emulating Furtwangler.

Forumite-5: To me, when Barenboim is “on,” he’s very good.  But when he’s “off,” results can be disastrous.

Forumite-4: Your “on/off” statement is quite accurate IMHO

Forumite-3: I don’t follow. DB is not an exception to what I said if he did not seek to emulate Furtwangler. I seriously doubt that he did. Do you have any anecdotal evidence to the contrary? Does he invoke Furtwangler in rehearsal? The comparison between DB and WF is pernicious because it obscures DB’s individual achievements as well as WF’s. “Waywardness”, deep thick sonorities, slow tempi, spontaneity, caprice–none of these characteristics is definably “Furtwanglerian” or “Barenboimian”. And you can easily put similar labels on XYZ, and others without a moment’s thought of WF or DB. Real caprice and spontaneity–stretching the bounds of preparation–that’s the domain of Knappertsbusch (read: Furtwangler at his worst)–and that would kill a career today. I don’t fit DB in that category, either. I can’t think of a single recording or broadcast that would support the Furtwangler comparison.

Forumite-6: Have you heard his first Teldec recording of Beethoven’s 9th? I haven’t for a number of years, but when I had the disc, I can recall thinking that it was a fairly blatant attempt to sound like a Furtwangler 9th. However, having said that, I think that’s much more the exception than the rule.

Forumite-3: Haven’t heard that one (I wasn’t really interested at the time). I’ve heard other Beethoven symphonies in broadcast and on Teldec that didn’t make me think of Furtwangler–maybe Keilberth or Suitner. What was it in that disc that turned on the WF switch, in your opinion?

Forumite-6: From memory, it seemed to me at the time that he handled key moments in a similar manner to the more extreme Furtwangler performances. It’s hard for me to remember more specifics at this point. It’s probably been a good five or six years since I got rid of the recording. But I do recall that it’s a much more extreme recording in terms of tempo shifts, rubato, etc. than the one that comes with the complete LvB set he recorded a few years later with the same orchestra. I think the reason that some people associate Barenboim with Furtwangler is that Barenboim himself has said that Furtwangler was a big influence on him as a very young musician… Of course, none of this means that he is attempting to get a Furtwangler-like sound when he’s conducting. I don’t get that impression for the most part (with the above exception that I gave).

Forumite-7: Imitating Furtwangler is no mean feat. To do so a conductor has to get an orchestra to phrase with one voice, breathe, maintain incredible tension, and deftly maneuver around hairpin turns, all the while appearing to do so with complete spontaneity. Even if one wished to replicate a Furt performance note-for-note, it is far easier said than done. Sometimes I think Barenboim has it in his head to achieve similar effects, but he does not possess the ability to achieve his ends.  This is not for any lack of intellect, musicianship, or intent – he just can’t communicate his intentions to the orchestra in real time in a way that achieves the desired effect. How much of this ability (or lack thereof) derives from technique, or charisma, or even telepathy I don’t know. All I can observe is that Barenboim the pianist is far more successful conveying musical thoughts through his fingers than Barenboim the conductor is at conveying these thoughts through a body of musicians.

Forumite-3: I think he often has in his mind a unanimity of phrasing. One hears that because often his idea of phrasing is rather quirky or non-lyrical. Sometimes it is lyrical, but often not. This involves breath, of course, either real or implied. He often makes a good deal about underlining breath in his piano playing and very obviously asks for it in his orchestras. His Mozart is a particularly good example of this. (Continue…) Hairpin turns? Incredible tension? I almost never hear that in his conducting and basically not in his piano playing either. This is a huge difference between Barenboim and Furtwangler. “Deft maneuvering”? I guess that depends on the rehearsals, but that’s something that Furtwangler often didn’t achieve. I’d score Barenboim higher for deftness, but when Furtwangler got it, it was more astonishing because of the rounder, intentionally mushier style of play his orchestras were shooting for. (Continue…) [but he does not possess the ability to achieve his ends.] – Did it occur to you that (A: Barenboim is not really as prone to exaggeration or dramatic effect as you want him to be; he does some dramatic things on the piano, but doesn’t ask for it with an orchestra.) and (B: It’s not just Barenboim, but his collaborators, who are so far removed from the “wing-it” and “rounded” ethos of the 1940s BPO that there’s no point in blaming the conductor? Conducting is leadership and its collaboration. Barenboim is definitely good at the latter, and is sometimes good at the former, it seems. But even if he clearly exhorts an orchestra to do more of this and that, he’s just nudging them within the bounds of what they’re willing to do. The bottom line is that Barenboim’s musical personality is complex and not easily characterized by high energy, dramatic extreme, or brooding intensity. As a musical personality rather mellow, dignified, and uncomfortable with lyricism, by my estimation–transcendent in introspection at times, but often hard to read at a glance.) (Continue…) [Barenboim the pianist is far more successful…] – Also, keep in mind the difference in the repertoire. Have you ever heard him do Bruckner, Mahler, and Wagner on the piano? Strauss? Debussy? Carter? Boulez? These are things he has conducted successfully at times–this is why he became a conductor. He has also made a real attempt at basic Russian repertoire, as well as Brahms, with mixed results. The real intersection of his piano/orchestral repertoire is very limited: Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann… There I would say his success rate is very similar, conducting versus piano playing.

Forumite-8: 3) I don’t think anyone really fits either category. I’ve fairly often seen Barenboim described as a would-be reincarnation of Furtwangler, but like [Forumite-3] I don’t hear it in any performances of his I’ve heard. Nor do I hear it in X where I’ve also seen the comparison. Some reviewers seem to think that if someone is not especially fast, favors unsubtle rubato and doesn’t elicit razor-sharp ensemble, then he’s Furtwanglerian; but of course there’s more to Furtwangler than those traits and, as often as not, those traits aren’t found in Furtwangler performances anyway.


I happened to find them.

One sentence was catching my eyes, so I clicked the site and I was reading all the postings: “Anyone who would emulate Furtwangler would be have been run out of the business long ago.”

Then I wanted to go further, and I found very specific postings about Barenboim and Furtwangler.

2.  [Why is Barenboim considered similar to Furtwangler?] from the Google Group

Forumite-1: I’m a novice classical music listner. Why is Barenboim considered similar to Furtwangler? I can’t hear it.

Forumite-2: To be honest I can’t hear it very clearly either. If we take Beethoven symphonies performed by both conductors and try to compare them, both have strong dynamic contrasts and slow tempos. Furtwangler also conveys a sense of mystery that I do not always find in Barenboim.

Forumite-3: I wouldn’t exactly call Furtwängler’s tempos slow. I’d rather call Furwängler’s tempi flowing. He used to speed passages up (the coda of Beethoven 5/IV), while slowing others down (the transistion from Beethoven 5/III to IV). The only performance of Barenboim I have, where he tries to impose a similar approach to tempi is a videotape of the *Ring*. The difference, though, is, that Furtwängler’s way worked, while that of Barenboim doesn’t convince me.

Forumite-4: Danny doesn’t sound much like WF to me, either, but he has declared himself a disciple (essentially) of Furtwängler. Has anyone actually claimed Barenboim to be “similar?”

Forumite-5: Barenboim is a very strange case. I’ve heard Barenboim live with the CSO many times, and when he was on he was very very good and when he was not he was dull. I think one problem with some of Barenboim’s performances is that he needs, not a timid modern orchestra that avoids deeply etched phrasing, but an old fashioned one to accomplish what he wants to. It’s all well and good for him to stand there conducting phrases, but not if the orchestra is comparatively unresponsive. The obvious retort to this is that it’s the conductor’s job to induce a response, but no conductor is going to be able to induce the same kind of response from any of the great orchestras of today that he might have induced from one of the great orchestras of, say, 1950.

Forumite-6 (From Israel): Well, have *you* ever seen a photograph of the two of them standing next to each other?

Forumite-7: As a matter of fact, yes, I think I have.

Forumite-8: With his recent Beethoven cycle, he uses slow tempos and his phrasing seems long and, well, rounded, as opposed to sharp and edgy like X. Whether his conducting is as “magical” and “deeply moving” as Furt’s, well, I don’t know about that.

Forumite-5: Furtwängler’s Brahms, Bruckner, and Wagner isn’t slow in the least.  It’s only in classical repertory that he’s comparatively slow.

Forumite-7: And even there, I think it is a fair generalization that he takes fast parts faster and slow parts slower than average, so that there is no overwhelming impression of slowness at all. Furtwangler ultimately is sui generis, and it is misleading to say that anyone else’s performances resemble his.

Forumite-9: [It’s only in classical repertory that he’s comparatively slow.] – Have you ever heard Furtwängler’s VPO recording of Mozart’s Sym. no.40 ? I suggest that “comparatively slow” is hardly the word for that performance…

Forumite-10: Barenboim has become a better conductor as he’s gotten older.

Forumite-5: I’m not sure I’m in a position to make such an assessment, but I like a lot of the performances in Barenboim’s mid-60’s Mozart symphony box very much.

Forumite-11: Apparently, the young Barenboim studied with Furt for a summer in Salzburg, and it’s always been a part of his press. In addition, in the late 60s and early 70s, when he and DuPre and Zuckerman et al were all kind of hanging out for the benefit of the media, there were a number of interviews where Barenboim spoke of Furt’s influence, and how the group was very taken with Furt’s interpretations of various pieces. He also for quite a while, IMHO, adopted a very ponderous approach to music making which seemed to beg comparison with Furt’s (although I see no similarity) – the best evidence for Barenboim’s approach is in the first, disasterous set of Moart/DaPonte operas he recorded.

Forumite-12: Neither can I. Methinks Barenboim is considered similar to Furtwaengler mainly because he suffers from the same disease — he is seriously, terminally serious. He does not make music when he conducts, he rather performs a sacred service — or so he thinks.


It was before May that I finished searching this group. Then I’ve wasted more days to find proper sentences to organize those information. Then, this news has suddenly popped up.  (May 18, 2006) Is there a difference between the orchestras in Milan and Berlin? “A different type of playing, the sound is different and so is the phrasing, and, mainly, the way that they hold the sound. Maybe our biggest secret in the Staatsoper is how we hold the sound, from the moment it is created until it is ended. That is what gives it its depth and weight. In Milan, it’s different.”

Barenboim’s biggest secret in the Staatsoper; its depth and weight.

This was exactly how I started my Furtwangler writing, in which I explained why Barenboim’s thick sound never had the same result of Furtwangler’s thick sound. Especially from the moment it is created…

Then I also wrote what specific in Barenboim’s pianism had destroyed cellist du Pre’s music-making.

So sick of this kind of depth and weight. Who will be the first one in Milan to follow Barenboim’s depth and weight?

5-3. Who I think Barenboim is.

Forumites wrote in their “Furtwangler” debate.

Forumite-5: To me, when Barenboim is “on,” he’s very good.  But when he’s “off,” results can be disastrous.

To be continued…

Sincerely yours,


P.S.: (May 21, 2006) “Without Barenboim, the Civic Orchestra might have disappeared: When the CSO ran into financial problems during Barenboim’s first season (partly due to high costs involved in mounting three semi-staged productions of Mozart operas), the board looked for ways to trim the budget. A few members suggested that the Civic, founded in 1919 to train future CSO players, was no longer necessary. A fervent advocate of music education, Barenboim protested vehemently. The Civic gained a conditional reprieve, and Barenboim and other high-profile guest conductors became actively involved in Civic Orchestra programs. In three years, the Civic was on back on track financially and artistically.”

Well… I just said, “Barenboim was famous for his aversion to conduct his Civic orchestra.” Who said it? Go to the master class held by the CSO’s principal horn!

Still now, I am so sick of the Civic, which was Clevenger’s favorite tool to maintain his political power. The only Civic’s concert I know is that Alice Clevenger was a soloist in Clevenger’s Civic with Boulez conducting.

Isn’t that enough to define the Civic?

You know, my late Korean teacher had “openly” set up a youth orchestra to prepare his son’s professional future. So many stories since then…  Who is the most famous alumnus/alumna of this group? Who is the most hopeless music in Korean professional orchestra?

The Youth Orchestra have trained not their talent, but their courage to play on the stage, adapting themselves as soon as possible to so-so environment. Years later, all the members never betray the function of their sound or native talent, with their aging body.

Which is exactly same as Barenboim’s Civic or Divan Orchestra.

I am now too tired to search for all Barenboim’s interviews, in which he explained the two different jobs as a professional performer and a music professor. He said that what a poor life is to live as a music professor.

It was years ago. Then I started to find more and more information about Barenboim’s Folks, whose active involvement in Barenboim’s ME Peace Project was to collect young students from Middle East, and their another job as a music professor. (Where is Barenboim’s Viola teaching now?)

Famously good music professors are very busy during their summer vacation; from festival to festival, from students to students… Who could find free summer time every year to go to Spain to teach penniless, so-so talented students? Only Barenboim’s employees can do this. (I am pretty sure that part of them don’t enjoy this summer job unless it is helping their professorship.)

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