Victoria’s Secret, Bruckner & DB, Recording Sound

Dear New York Folks,

This is Jiwon.

Too tired and I don’t know why. No specific reason to be exhausted but skipping days of work, anyway. I am sending what I finished last week.

Story 1-4: (Done!)

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?

5-3. Who I think is Barenboim?

Barenboim’s musical taste reminds me of mine while young:

I always preferred to listen to music by low voices and used to be sick of the noisy, frivolous or hysterical personalities of the high-pitched M-U-S-I-C-I-A-N-S. High person or music was never my favorite. Clarinet was my most favorite instrument. Then I went to America for my further study and studied how to analyze myself, and then to figure out my favorite music. Now, I hardly enjoy the low music, unless it sounds imaginative. No specific reason. It’s just boring to listen to those limited PHYSICAL abilities. At the same time, I always think of the better way to deal with high personalities. If I can handle them, the result could be more hilarious and more intuitive. This is perhaps why I always prefer to be around the kids.

Just out of curiosity:

How many recordings of Daniel Barenboim are being sold in these days, either as a pianist or a maestro? They say that Barenboim’s live concerts are all sold-out in spite of the high ticket price, especially in Berlin. The Staatskapelle Hall is small, compared to the Orchestra Hall. (I read that Barenboim’s conducting the Furtwangler was not full in Chicago.)

The Philharmonie or the Musikverein are always sold out, no matter who conducts the BPO or the VPO. (I may by wrong. I need the right information…) Even Rattle’s Wagner is all sold-out and how much is it? (Is it in France?)

What about his recordings?

Most critics and some forumites are hailing Barenboim’s recent recordings, especially with the Staatskapelle. Yet, all I hear from the radio, even now, is mostly his old recordings.

I heard the Staatskapelle play the Beethoven couple of years ago, and it sounded funny or weird. (Apart from the orchestra members’ unbalanced ensemble, sometimes I wonder the recording engineer did some trick to fulfill Barenboim’s wish to make a hellish dynamic range. Hellish… in case you want to compare it with Furtwangler’s heavenly one. They sound artificially amplified. Or is this truly a real ensemble sound from the Staatskapelle?)

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.

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

When is when Barenboim is ON, and when is when Barenboim is OFF? Does Daniel Barenboim know when his music is OFF? Does Daniel Barenboim think his music was OFF, when PART of his audience heard a disastrous music from his conducting or even from his hammering the piano?

This has been my evaluation of Barenboim’s conducting. I still think so:

A diligent student is working on his paper. He is studying so hard, trying to give full details. He works so hard that he even sleeps in a library couch. He flunks. Whatever he does, his work is out of topic. Does this poor student perceive his problems? If so, he is not Danny Boy. He plans to revise his work by providing more details, which are also out of topic. He won’t sleep until he finishes his revised version. Professors are speechless. Even if his paper is accidentally done well, he still hasn’t a clue what specific he has researched. How can they make this hopeless workaholic to grasp the concept of TOPIC?


1a: one of the general forms of argument employed in probable reasoning

1b: Argument, Reason

2: bla, bla, bla…

The TOPIC of Music?

The REASON of Music?

What is his reason of dwelling in a music library while born a workaholic? 

Partly because the female librarian always wears a red colored “Victoria’s Secret” after realizing that Danny Boy is colorblind?

Professors start feeling headaches, and finally, they decide to seek advices from the Google Group. 

Story 5+: bla, bla, bla (Done!)

Story 5+: Bruckner

This is their “Maazel” debate in the Google Group. Since their original subject is not Barenboim, I replaced every Maazel with X in my draft, in case other maestros had no desire to be invited to this dirty party. Now I decide to show this thread with a real name. I still appreciate his photographic memory, and envy this unbelievable talent.

But then, why does he still fail to “see” his members, “click” their sounds, “analyze” their personalities, and “organize” their ensemble, while all the musical notes are stored in his brain without any damage?

Forumite-1: {Jiwon: The debate starts from this posting, but I can’t understand his English. Simply… who is better? O.O?} [Maazel tends to bend things all out of shape at will.] – I find this to be an interesting remark. 25 years ago, I would’ve agreed completely. All these years later, and after being exposed to the self-indulgent pulling about of Daniel Barenboim for the last 15 years, Maazel now seems absolutely staid in comparison to D.B. Barenboim has been deified on this board while Maazel comes up for criticism for, IMHO, a somewhat similar musical approach. I wonder what this says about musical tastes and the way they’ve evolved over the last 30 years. Or is it that Barenboim receives some slack for acknowledging influence from Furtwangler recordings? Just wondering.

Forumite-2: Perhaps Barenboim is just better at it (that is, “pulling about”) than Maazel is.

Forumite-3: By “better,” I suppose you mean more to your taste. The way Barenboim brings out inner voices and accompanying figures at the expense of the melodic line in his new Mahler 7 has been driving me nuts. I can’t believe the high praise that the recording has received here. Could it be just because it’s so “different?”  (I did enjoy the outstanding orchestral playing and recorded sound, though.)

Forumite-4: [It is that Barenboim specializes in the composer that so many people on this newsgroup consider the greatest of them all: Bruckner.] – Same here. In fact, I think Maazel’s 8 with the BP is *one of the best* 8s out there. I also heard the live concert. But back then, I didn’t really “get” Maazel’s Bruckner. Revisiting the performance after many years recently, I was very pleasantly surprised. The recorded sound is very good, too. But I also listened to Barenboim’s Bruckner 9 (BP) again recently, and simply couldn’t find too much to like on that disc. The concept is OK, but somehow the whole performance just passes by without exciting much interest. The sound is pretty strange, too. I don’t know if it’s too glassy, or too muddy, or both, but somehow Teldec couldn’t make sense of the acoustics of the Philharmonie. I even bought Barenboim’s CSO 9th a few months ago. Yes, call me stupid, but I thought his concept might work better in the somewhat more transparent and leaner CSO sound. Maybe posters such as Forumite-6 influenced me, because I thought it might at least be spectacular brass wise. But it isn’t, neither brass wise nor musical in general. Funny, I did like some of the Barneboim CSO performances when I listened to them many moons ago. I somehow liked the clarity and directness of his concept. But many moons later, I just find them bland and uninteresting, and I don’t even like to use the word “bland”.

Forumite-5: [Barenboim’s Bruckner 9 (BP)…without exciting much interest] – I’ve always admired Barenboim, but I had a similar problem with those Bruckner performances. Some of his most engaging concerts have been with the Berlin Staaskapelle. For instance, I have great memories of a live Beethoven cycle played in London. But I couldn’t find the same level of excitement in the studio recordings. Talking about all that pulling the music and comparisons with Maazel… Yes, they both tend to be quite interventionists, and possibly that’s why I like them both so much.

Forumite-6: I suspect that some of the things that make them interesting to audiences can, in Barenboim’s case in particular, make them difficult and annoying to play for and rehearse with. I have only occasionally felt much admiration for Barenboim’s recordings as compared to his live concerts, though he has made some excellent recordings (as listed in a recent thread). The problem is that he has made an equal number of duds. He easily loses the forest for the trees, which is a killer tendency in a Brucknerian, and it is more likely a problem on a record than in a concert–or at least that’s my limited experience of him. Unlike Forumite-3, I think his Mahler 7 (at least the concerts) show him finding the forest and and some significant trees along the way, not the other way around. Same with Maazel’s, however. In this respect, however, Barenboim is like anyone else at that level… As a daily experience, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want any boss for 15 years unless he or she was really easy to get along with. I certainly wouldn’t stand for inconsistency for 15 years, as a listener or player.

Forumite-7: As for DB, I actually admire him more than I once did (when with du Pre), and I think he has become warmer as a person. As for his pianism, it has never attracted me, and I have to say I haven’t heard much of his conducting at all.

Forumite-5: The most pulled about Brahms I’ve ever heard -by far- has been with Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle. Infinitely more extreme than the recordings with the CSO. I loved it, but I agree it wouldn’t be a concept it would look good on a CD for repeated listening. But on the heat of the moment, it was great.

Forumite-6: I wouldn’t mind hearing that on CD once, and then putting it away for a few years before trying it again. But it sounds like a great concert memory that makes his recordings all the more difficult to appreciate. The most frustrating way to approach Barenboim, on record for sure, is to assume he’s going to be like Furtwangler.

Forumite-8: Look for Barenboim’s DGG Saint-Saens 3rd Symphony. His Bruckner cycle with the CSO shows the orchestra in excellent form, but the “heart” of Bruckner is best heard elsewhere.

Forumite-4: I already have the Organ symphony on my amazon wish list, originally because I thought it was with Orchestre de Paris. When I “discovered” it was actually CSO; I wanted to delete it, so thanks for the tip. Isn’t the organ on this one dubbed in, the organ in Chartres? I am usually rather doubtful about this. The Karajan recording has the organ from Notre Dame dubbed in, it sounds nice, but you can also hear it is somehow in a different sound space. I recently bought Bruckner 9 with CSO/Barenboim, but at first ear, it did not leave a big impression on me. I had actually expected some extra massive brass playing here, but it was actually fairly plain… I have XYZ and generally like them much better than Solti’s roughly contemporary recordings. It does seem to me though that Orchestra Hall might be somewhat problematic acoustically… Have you heard the Mahler 5 recording made live in Vienna? The one with Solti standing on a pier or something like that on the cover. While I don’t think it is musically that outstanding, it also seems to sound more “realistic” in the benign acoustics of the Musikverein.

Forumite-9: [Almost anything by Solti on Decca will not show the orchestra accurately.] – An absurd statement, of course. Anyone familiar with Solti’s muscular, overblown, hyperactive approach to music in his CSO concerts – he would sell out Carnegie Hall every time he showed up with “his” band – will recognize the sound on the dozens of Decca recordings. You can like it or hate it, but it’s all him and the CSO gave him precisely what he wanted.

Forumites: bla-bla-bla…



Some say that there is a huge difference between the live concert and the recording sound, especially in Barenboim’s case. And you need to listen to the live concerts if you want to evaluate the conductors’ ability, especially the good one.

Then, they compare Barenboim’s live concert with the dead men’s recording sound.

For example, Forumite-6’s favorite Top Ten are Mravinsky, Maderna, Rosbaud, Furtwangler, Scherchen, Mitropoulos, Kubelik, De Sabata, Cantelli, and Toscanini.

How many do I know? Unbelievable…

Then he also says: “I agree DB’s recordings can seem like compromises, but what works in concert doesn’t always work so well on record anyway. (June 21, 2006)”

Something another… my life experience:

Since the moment I entered the professional music society, some sound really bothered me. I was always forced to dwell in that sound-kingdom, and I was sick after finishing my everyday job. Physically and mentally sick…

What do I do when they are technically impeccable and a king of chamber music? Some time later, I felt to be brainwashed and was able to accept that sound. Then I was able to make my instrument match that sound. (As a result, my range was always limited, never able to play upper middle and high notes.) Then the classical music approached me as a mere job… to survive my life. The instrumental music never existed for my spare time, and my only choice was to listen to the piano music. By then, I even didn’t know opera was something music, and I was mentally not accepted to listen to the pop music.

It is now worth remembering the assertion of one of them: You have to come to my live concert, for the recordings never catch the attractive, heated moment of my instrument.

Whether it is right or not is not my point.

It is just interesting, because I always try to imagine the real sound while listening to the recorded one. I hate technical tricks by the recording engineers, because they prevent me from imagining the real sound. At least… I can hear Mr. X “totally” kill the Vienna musicians when I listen to their recordings, which some say are legendary but in fact a masterwork by the recording engineers.


This is why Forumite-6, whose favorite Top Ten are Mravinsky, Maderna, Rosbaud, Furtwangler, Scherchen, Mitropoulos, Kubelik, De Sabata, Cantelli, and Toscanini, also says: “Barenboim just isn’t the kind of conductor who shows a range of sonorities and great sense of colorful detail. And yet… no conductor does everything well. (June 21, 2006)”


Another very interesting posting from Chicago on June 21, 2006:

I attended the Carter-Mahler (first) and Bouelz-Bruckner (second) nights. My expectations were that the potential for inspired readings would be great on these valedictory occasions. I had attended maybe three of Barenboim’s performances during his tenure. The most memorable was a Bruckner fifth several years ago, in which the first movements were very well played and interesting, but then things degenerated into a performance which was memorable only for its mediocrity. Both the Carter and especially the Boulez performances were truly impressive. Intensity and involvement of Barenboim and the musicians was captivating. But in the second portion of both programs the focus gradually deteriorated in much the same fashion that it had years ago with the Bruckner fifth. The revealing balances in Carter and Boulez were lost in beautiful brass sonorities that always seemed at least one dynamic level too high, especially in the Bruckner. Shaping of phrases was inconsistent despite sometimes histrionic gestures from Barenboim. There were some distracting mistakes, especially from soloists whose abilities are unquestioned. Essentially, the performances lost effect through lack of focus and concentration–unlike the Carter and Boulez. There were many, many wonderful moments and much truly impressive playing. But they didn’t lead me anywhere. It seemed to me that Barenboim failed to inspire interest, and at times even attention, from the musicians–who I think really wanted to make these performances special. It is the responsibility of a conductor to have a vitally clear conception and to convey this to the musicians so that unity of purpose and interest in realizing that vision is generated. When he steps before an orchestra he needs to know exactly what he wants and have the capacity to communicate his vision. But here we had two concerts where the identical pattern of loss of interest, hence concentration, prevailed. It was much more obvious in the Mahler, possibly because of its greater length. Based on the few Barenboim performances I have witnessed, I feel comfortable in saying that he is not a consistently capable conductor because he usually fails to engage the musicians and audience. His departure should be a positive for the orchestra. The audience, however, looked past everything that I heard and gave him such extended ovations that after the Mahler the orchestra finally walked off stage in order to bring things to a conclusion. Many of the same individuals who were thumbing through programs during the performances were unrelentingly vociferous.  Oh yes–and he got long ovations after walking on stage, before a single note was played. So I suspect this had more to do with civic pride than with music. But perhaps they succeeded in making Barenboim feel good about what had just happened.



I don’t need forumites’ opinions, for I already know the reason.

I just need them, because it was the only way to prove my identity, including your diagnosis of my mental illness, when no one in your professional group knows how to understand the content of my study.

I don’t need old recordings to study, for I already know the reason while listening to the modern music. However, I must say that some of their writings are so brilliant, so hilarious that it gives me a mental pleasure. Another good choice for the indoor pastime.

At the same time, I am thinking while reading those writings that I have to study more, just to understand their intelligent debate.

Whatever… their debate still lacks couple of technical things. Why no one still mentions this, especially while comparing Barenboim with Furtwangler or even Solti?

To be continued…

Sincerely yours,


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