Saturday, July 23, 2011

Furtwangler In 1941

Gerhard Taschner and Wilhelm Furtwangler in 1941, the year Furtwangler appointed Taschner—only nineteen years old—to the post of concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Taschner (1922-1976) was a notoriously difficult man. His career was over by age 40, largely because of his abrasive personality, and his life was over by age 54, largely because of alcoholism.

Between Taschner and Furtwangler may be seen a photograph of the great Arthur Nikisch, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1895 until his death in 1922.

Upon Nikisch’s death, Furtwangler was named Nikisch’s successor.


  1. I heard that the "official" reason why Taschner abandoned concertizing in 1962 was a "bulging disc" in his back. Right.

    By the way, I can't believe that Alex Ross wasted space in his August 1 New Yorker pages commenting upon the "completed" finale to Bruckner's Ninth, which Rattle and Berlin will play next February in Carnegie Hall. I suppose such "discussion" makes one appear sooooooo intellectual.(Well, I've heard all the versions of that "completion": The music is absolutely unremarkable.)

  2. Apparently Taschner was a very strange man, full of demons.

    I don’t read Ross. He has nothing worthwhile to offer—he merely recites the various dogmas and clichés of the day. I shall have to look up what he wrote about the Bruckner Ninth, but I cannot imagine Ross having anything penetrating to say on the subject.

    You should read Michael Hovnanian’s Bass Blog. He takes a few unnecessary swipes at Christoph Dohnanyi rehearsing and conducting the Chicago Symphony last week.

    If you have not read Hovnanian already, I warn you: Hovnanian, like Ross, is a bit of a weirdo.

  3. I cannot read whatever Ross wrote about the Bruckner Ninth. My parents stopped subscribing to The New Yorker years ago. The magazine’s website provides only an abstract of the article, and I refuse to pay in order to read the complete text.

    I shall try to glance at the article the next time we are at the food store.

  4. I read the Bass blog post, together with all 13 comments, including your own two no-nonsense contributions.

    I remember well the Dohnanyi / Boston Symphony scandal of 1986, or thereabouts, though I was not living in Boston at the time. I remember Richard Dyer's headline in the Globe the day after the maestro walked out in the middle of his two-week engagement: "Dohnanyi Departs, but Why?" The "official" reason, issued by the Cleveland Orchestra General Manager was that Dohnanyi had taken ill with the flu and was bedridden in his home in Shaker Heights (the Plain Dealer).

    Some BSO musicians at the time carped endlessly about the very same things the bass player in the myserious midwestern Orchestra complained about. One BSO musician was furious over Dohnanyi's spending an entire hour on only one phrase, snapping his fingers "like a Gestapo Colonel" to indicate the proper rhythm.

    As you have pointed out to Mr. Hovnanian, the concerts at Ravinia WERE well reviewed; so SOMETHINGS that Dohnanyi did worked out to satisfaction.

    I am concerned, however, about one thing, Andrew: It is quite apparent that the no-name midwestern Orchestra NEEDED to be drilled so during those rehearsals (as had the BSO years ago), much to the chagrin of Mr Hovanian and perhaps others. Why, then? THAT is the question which bothers me.

    I recall a story about how one representative of Columbia records approached Bruno Walter after an especially grueling rehearsal for Walter's famous Mahler Nine. The man apologized for the grousing from some players about Walter's rehearsal methods. Mr. Walter in is own charming, smiling way, defended his Los Angeles musicians by saying, "No, no, by all means, my friend, you should always LISTEN to what the musicians have to say . . . but not when they talk."

  5. That’s a great Bruno Walter quote.

    To answer the question raised in your fifth paragraph: apparently Hovnanian believed that the Chicago Symphony was NOT in need of any drilling—and he very much objected to it.

  6. I myself have never subscribed to the New Yorker, nor have I ever spent money on any single issue of the New Yorker after Andrew Porter's exit . . . until yesterday, that is, when I stupidly dropped $6.00 for this one-time, online access. (My curiosity had been spiked by a subscriber friend.)

    Mea culpa.

  7. On principle, I refuse to give The New Yorker $6.00, even if I thought Alex Ross had something worthwhile to say (on any subject).

    Next time we go to a food store, I'll flip through the rag to see what Ross had to say about Bruckner's Ninth.

  8. Do you remember Ross writing, two weeks after Alan Gilbert took over the New York Philharmonic, that Gilbert had the NYPO sounding like the Berlin Philharmonic?

    That was one of my favorite Ross howlers.

  9. Goodness, I missed that one. I wonder if that remark had been a calculated, back-handed insult, though, since Rattle's Berliners today are nowhere as precise as the NY Phil.

    Apart from limited thinking ability, Ross apparently has limited hearing talents as well. He swoons over the fabled precision of the Cleveland but (apparently) doesn't notice the more important musical attributes, or, if he does, is unable to articulate what those musical attributes are.

    I suppose Josh is done, or almost done, with his bar exams, right?

  10. Yesterday was the final day of the Minnesota Bar Exam.

    Yesterday was also my father's birthday.

    We had a big celebration last night.