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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler

V-1

J.S. Bach: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Colón

Bass [Jesus]: Angelo Mattiello; Soprano: Nilda Hoffmann; Mezzo-soprano: Margarete Klose; Tenor: Anton Dermota; Bass: Josef Greindl

Wilhelm Furtwängler Center of Japan

May 1950

2-CD / TT:

Sung in German (arias) and Spanish (choral mvts.). 1st recording of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 by W. Furtwängler. Recorded at Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires (abriged version).
Buy this album at: Société Wilhelm Furtwängler

V-2

Bach: Passion selon Saint Matthieu (incomplete Vienna 1952)

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Wiener Singakademie & Wiener Sängerknaben (Chorus Master: Hans Gillesberger) / Wiener Philharmoniker

Tenor: Julius Patzak; Soprano: Irmgard Seefried; Contralto: Hilde Rössel-Majdan; Baritone: Victor Braun

Polish ARSMUSICA / Société Wilhelm Furtwängler

April 1952

CD / TT: 63:00

2nd recording of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 by W. Fürtwangler. Recorded at Konzerthaus, Vienna. Part One Nos. 1-33.
Buy this album at: Société Wilhelm Furtwängler

V-1+2

J.S. Bach: Matthäus-Passion -The Complete Surviving Material from Buenos Aires 1950 & Vienna 1952

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Wilhelm Furtwängler

1st performance: Buenos Aires
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Colón

Bass [Jesus]: Angelo Mattiello; Soprano: Nilda Hoffmann; Mezzo-soprano: Margarete Klose; Tenor: Anton Dermota; Bass: Josef Greindl

2nd performance: Vienna
Wiener Singakademie & Wiener Sängerknaben (Chorus Master: Hans Gillesberger) / Wiener Philharmoniker

Tenor: Julius Patzak; Soprano: Irmgard Seefried; Contralto: Hilde Rössel-Majdan; Baritone: Victor Braun

Archipel

May 1950 (1st); Apr 1952 (2nd)

2-CD / TT:

1st & 2nd recordings of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 by W. Furtwängler. Recorded at Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires (abriged version) & Konzerthaus, Vienna (Part One Nos. 1-33). Previously issued by Wilhelm Furtwängler Center of Japan (1st) & Polish Ars Musica (2nd).
Buy this album at:

V-3

Bach: Matthäus-Passion

 

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Wiener Singakademie & Wiener Sängerknaben (Chorus Master: Hans Gillesberger) / Wiener Philharmoniker

Tenor [Evangelist]: Anton Dermota; Baritone [Jesus]: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; Soprano [Arias, Maids, Pilati Weib]: Elisabeth Grümmer; Contralto: Marga Höffgen; Bass [Arias, Judas, Petrus, High Priest, Pilatus]: Otto Edelmann

EMI Classics / Movimento Musica

April 1954

2-CD / TT: 90:40

3rd recording of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 By W. Fürtwangler. Recorded at Großer Konzerthaussaal, Vienna. Abridged version [omits 19, 23, 29, 38, 40, 41, 48-51, 55, 61, 64, 70, 75; abridges 32, 34, 39, 52, 63, 67, 73, 76]. In the original performances 14 numbers from the score were omitted, and some of the recitative was slightly trimmed. When editing and remastering the tapes for the CD transfer, a further 2 items had to be cut because of the insurmountable technical problems in the original recording.
See: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

St. Matthew Passion - Furtwängler & Grossmann

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 4, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Is there a recording of SMP by Klemperer from 1947? In my continuing research to compile complete lists of the recordings of Bach's vocal works (all of them can be found in the Bach Cantatas Website), I have never come accross such a recording. If this is not a mistake in the >year of recording, would you be please so kind to send me the >details, so that I shall be able to update the list: >
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244.htm

Aryeh, of Furtwängler's 1954 performance: in addition to the EMI set you list, there was also an issue of it by the "Virtuoso" label, #2699212, three CDs, 1989. I haven't checked carefully but I think it has the same abridgments.

=====

The Grossmann performance has no dates anywhere on the box, notes, or discs, but I would guess the early 1950s (from the low number VOX BOX 200). In the CD retrospective set "50 Years of Vox Recordings 1945-1995" the booklet says: "After Klemperer's departure [1952], [George] Mendelssohn recorded Bach's Christmas Oratorio and St John and St Matthew Passions under Ferdinand Grossmann (...)" But it doesn't say how soon after 1952 that happened.

My own copy of this boxed set (Grossmann's SMP) looks like a later one, probably a reissue: the discs have the maroon label, and the booklet lists some "Great Choral Works On VOX RECORDS" including some stereo recordings. The booklet is only a libretto, nothing about the performance. The cast is listed only on side 1 of the records, and is as you have it except there is no Kurt Equiluz credited.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (March 4, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Aryeh, of Furtwängler's 1954 performance: in addition to the EMI set you list, there was also an issue of it by the "Virtuoso" label, #2699212, >
It was also issued, always on 3cds by Frequenz. As regards Furtwängler there exists 2 other partial recordings of SMP :

Matthäus-Passion, BWV 244. O-?
Wilhelm Furtwängler (dir.), Teatro Colón Orchestra and Chorus, N. Hoffmann, M. Klose, Anton Dermota, J. Greindl., Mattiello. Buenos Aires, Teatro Colôn, 1950. O5. 02. [Abridged version.]
LP
-Japan AT 15-16
-Refrain double LP set

Matthäus-Passion, BWV 244. [Part One Nos. 1-33] O-299
Wilhelm Furtwängler (dir.), Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Singakademie, Wiener Sängerknaben, Julius Patzak (t), Seefried (s), Hilde Rössl-Majdan (ca), Braun, Wiener. Wien, Konzerthaus, 1952. O4. 09.
LP
-Japan GCL 5003
CD
- Polish ARSMUSICA 006e

These info are taken from Furtwängler's discography
http://www.fornax.hu/wfsh/disco.html

Pete Blue wrote (March 4, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Have you (or any other List member) heard these other Furtwängler SMPs? I ask the 1954 one, despite great soloists (except the bass, whose wobble there is hard to bear) and wonderful chorales and slow (not glutenous) and just tempos, has merciless cuts. Is the Buenos Aires equally "abridged"? Are all numbers 1 through 33 in the Vienna?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (March 4, 2003):
Pete Blue wrote:
< Have you (or any other List member) heard these other Furtwängler SMPs? >
No, unfortunately I know them only by this discography. I don't think they're legal releases. However the Argentinian set is listed as "abridged", while the 04-09-1952 Vienna recording contains only the "Pars 1" of the SMP.

As regards the others pressings on 3 CDs (Frequenz-Virtuoso) of the EMI version I think they contain what was in the original 4-LP set. EMI, when trasferred tapes to CD, had some technical problems, and they were forced to cut 2 arias and some recitatives.

Some time ago I talked with a Swiss Furtwängler collector who told me that he never conducted a complete SMP.

I'm very curious about these recordings, if someone know them tell us something!

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 4, 2003):
Riccardo Nughes wrote:
< Some time ago I talked with a Swiss Furtwängler collector who told me that he never conducted a complete SMP. >
From Heyworth's volume 1, about Klemperer: "There were, however, aspects of Furtwängler's musicianship which did not appeal to [Klemp's] more austere taste. Their approaches to Bach were too different for either man to find much to admire in the other's interpretations. Furtwängler considered that Klemperer's insistence on performing the St Matthew Passion in its entirety imposed an excessive burden on twentieth-century ears. (...)" (p406; the footnote says that that comment of WF was from "information provided by Frau Hilde Firtel")

 

Archipel 2 Furtwängler MP partials including R-M

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 16, 2005):
How unfortunate that Archipel seems to be doing conductors rather than soloists and that the long sought after by some persons remnants of the live Furtwängler Matthäus-Passion performances are being released (OK, not unfortunate; much historical interest) whilst the only known Johannes-Passion with Rössl-Majdan doesn't seem to be on anyone's release list.Aryeh's announcements of the new releases including these Furtwängler remnants led me to read the old duologue in the bach-cantatas.com/ web pages and there I found the very different 20th century I experienced from the one that Furtwängler experienced. A man who finds that the complete Matthäus-Passion imposed an excessive burden on the 20th century ears whilst the fourteen hour Rings for which he was so well known imposed far too little a burden.

Please give me the Matthäus-Passion and take Siegfried, please!
Give me the Rössl-Majdan Johannes-Passion:
Gottfried Preinfalk
Austrian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Soprano: Herta Seidl; Alto: Hilde Rössel-Majdan; Tenor: Erich Majkut; Bass: Otto Wiener; Bass: Walter Berry
Remington / 1952 / Abridged
----------------------
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Rec/Rec-2005-12.htm

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 4, 2003):
<< Riccardo Nughes wrote: Some time ago I talked with a Swiss Furtwängler collector who told me that he never conducted a complete SMP. >>
< From Heyworth's volume 1, about Klemperer: "There were, however, aspects of Furtwängler's musicianship which did not appeal to [Klemp's] more austere taste. Their approaches to Bach were too different for either man to find much to admire in the other's interpretations. Furtwängler considered that Klemperer's insistence on performing the St Matthew Passion in its entirety imposed an excessive burden on twentieth-century ears. (...)" (p406; the footnote says that that comment of WF was from "information provided by Frau Hilde Firtel") >
--------------------
This is Late Romantic non-understanding of the baroque.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (December 27, 2005):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Please pardon my delay in commenting on the relatively recent, but nonetheless stale, BachCantatas list thread about Furtwängler's performances and recordings of the St. Matthew Passion. As a general I do not monitor the posts on a daily basis, and that has been especially true in recent months. Because the thread is stale, I am writing to you privately, and I am taking the liberty of copying in Aryeh, in case he might also be interested in what I have to contribute.

The allegation that Wilhelm Furtwängler "never conducted a complete SMP" may well be untrue.

In my collection of Bach reception history ephemera, I have a copy of the program for a performance of the St. Matthew Passion that Furtwängler conducted in the Grosser Musikvereins-Saal in Vienna on February 27, 1924, at "punkt 7 Uhr abends." The libretto in the program is the complete text. There is no indication, either printed or in the hand of the now unknown individual who kept the program, that any cuts were made.

Of course, in the absence of corroboration from other sources, this evidence is not conclusive proof that WF in fact made cuts on this occasion. (I can think of several objections that could be offered to refute the conclusion.) Nevertheless, until evidence to the contrary is presented, the probability that Wilhelm Furtwängler conducted a complete performance of the St. Matthew Passion on at least one occasion exists.

Of course, you and Aryeh should feel free to forward this information on to the List, if you feel it pertinent and appropriate.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (December 27, 2005):
< The tradition of Late Romantic Bach (think Mengelberg; I know you are expert on all this stuff) is strongly deficient in appreciating not only Bach but equally insistent on making Beethoven sound like Bruckner. >

[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Mengelberg and Furtwängler (and others of similar early 20th century temperament) are in no way representative of mainstream 19th century Bach performance practice.

I hope to touch on this to some degree during my segment on WKCR tomorrow afternoon.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 27, 2005):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< Please pardon my delay in commenting on the relatively recent, but nonetheless stale, BachCantatas list thread about Furtwängler's performances and recordings of the St. Matthew Passion. As a general I do not monitor the posts on a daily basis, and that has been especially true in recent months. Because the thread is stale, I am writing to you privately, and I am taking the liberty of copying in Aryeh, in case he might also be interested in what I have to contribute.
The allegation that Wilhelm Furtwängler "never conducted a complete SMP" may well be untrue. >
Dear Teri [Cc Aryeh] (listed on the WKCR program without "Noël" as middle name; I wonder whether that is an attack against "Christmas":-) ),

Such proofs or evidentiary data of the most minimal sort are always of great interest but, as I read what you are saying, of minimal probative puissance (Oops, I am really out of my element here in juxtaposing all those high-flying words, but I am trying to sound smart:-).

If Furtwängler actually made that statement about 20th century ears whilst conducting the abominable Ring (esp. the endless Siegfried wherein in the first two acts at least there is much harangue and little music), then I really think that he was clueless about Bach and that is not surprising. The tradition of Late Romantic Bach (think Mengelberg; I know you are expert on all this stuff) is strongly deficient in appreciating not only Bach but equally insistent on making Beethoven sound like Bruckner.

All Furtwängler, think Gluck overtures, sounds like Bruckner. I think he was a one trick pony: Bruckner and Brucknereque Beethoven and highly abridged Bach. There is much controversy over his attitude towards Mahler. In some 80th birthday programs DFD has been saying how it was HE whforced the old man to record and perform LefG (1951/1952 twice with DFD and once with Alfred Poell) whilst the Furtwängler worshippers, who are legion, insist that he was devoted to Mahler but could not play him bc. of the Regime. Someone has presented a long history of Furtwängler doing a lot of Mahler in the 1920s. It may be true yet DFD insists that the old man abhorred Mahler.

In the end all of this is of little importance and such Bach as he performed is not really of interest to me: it was again a Late Romantic Bach and the idea that the MP is intolerably long casts a poor light on the man's aesthetics. I repeat: Siegfried is far too long and I am not a Wagner basher. I actually, as opposed to many Berliozites, appreciate large parts of Wagner's music or music-dramas in spite of his being the most odious man ever to exist as a great musician.

I would never even have had a look at Furtwängler's fragments except for Rössl-Majdan but inasmuch as she is present with other fine soloists under Scherchen and the later Wöldike (about whose recording date I still remain confused), it is still the Johannes I look for with her.

Believe it or not, there is a group of scholarly papers in various journals trying to prove that Jussi Björling at some time in his life sang a particular aria in Ballo in Maschera although he omits it on both live recordings and the evidence mounted to show that we cannot prove that he never sang it verges on the silly. However scholars need to write articles. After all these years that is my conclusion about much publication: Scholars need to find things to write about even when the only case that can be made is that we cannot prove that something never happened.

Yesterday on NPR there was a rather silly discussion on why there are six spelling of Chanukkah. It could have served as a intelligent and educational segment to inform the lay public about not only Hebrew but Arabic and the whole concept of transliteration and sounds proper to one language and not another. The concept of the difference between Hebrew ch phoneme and Hebrew kh allophone and the differences between Semitic phonemes k vs. q would have been enlightening and they could do this without being boring but public radio has abdicated all responsibility to be anything but inane and entertaining.

Someone like me who came from an educationally, culturally, and economically deprived Umwelt was able to learn many things from the radio in NYC as existed in my childhood and youth and the level of the NYTimes back then. There are no public media today that take such responsibility or care and we thus all come to the level of the president who was rather taken off guard to learn of Kurds and Shiites. My Goodness, I knew about Kurds when I was 10 years old and only from the NYTimes and I knew that Pres. Wilson had promised them a state at the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
End of harangue,

 

Wilhelm Furtwängler SMP (BWV 244)

Derek Lee wrote (May 30, 2006):
Hi! I'm new here; I joined up because it's hard for me to find people to talk to about music, especially Bach, and really get something back. I'm kind of laughing at myself for picking one of the most controversial Bach recordings out there as a subject of my first post! I think I should say right out that, in general, I am in awe of Furtwängler's artistry and consider him the greatest conductor on record, so take what I'm about to say for whatever it's worth. Overall, I feel the recording (1954) is on a very high plane of inspiration, but it's definitely not without it's drawbacks: the Singverein definitely not at it's best, Hoffgen sounding strained and out of breath, and some decisions that Furtwängler makes that just don't pan out. Among them the ever controversial cuts. Someday I hope to conduct the SMP and when I do, I certainly will do it complete. That said, I think there were several reasons why Furtwängler made the cuts he did. Yoel made the point that he had no trouble conducting the much longer (and depending on your taste longer winded) Siegfried complete, but the difference is that it's staged. Despite his compositional genius, Wagner's works are just dramas with supporting music, so the length of Siegfried should be seen in the same way as the length of Hamlet say (not making any relative judgement of quality here). The SMP though is a passion oratorio, so Furtwängler apparently felt that cuts had to be made to maintain dramatic grip on the audience to compensate. I say apparently because Furtwängler's unique and complicated psychology makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly why he did this. Indicisivness was at his core, so I suspect that he was accustomed to hearing it deeply cut, and was unable to change that (whereas the much more radical Klemperer had no such qualms). Let's not forget that for the last 2 decades of his life he set aside Beethoven's Missa Solemnis because he wasn't satisfied with the orchestration, but didn't have the nerve to change it.

Anyway, Yoel said that Furtwängler conducted everything like Bruckner, and I'd like to know in what way? Do you mean the old complaint that he did everything slowly? Because for instance he takes Kommt ihr Tochter much quicker than Mengelberg, Klemperer, or even the forward thinking Richter; not until the HIP movement was it standard to take it faster than Furtwängler does. Do you mean that he always used Wagner/Bruckner sized ensembles, because for the SMP the orchestra size was, at least to my ear, pretty modest, and couldn't have been smaller without sounding spare in the Grosser Musikvereinsaal. Maybe you mean that he projected a grave, majestic personality in the music, which you expect to find in Bruckner? But I personally think this fits the SMP to a T, and also the core German repertoire (Beethoven, Brahms, etc.). Also, if you're interested in historical accuracy, descriptions of Bach's organ playing and Beethoven's piano playing invariably use the terms sustained, noble, majestic, profound, etc. Anyway, surely this is a matter of taste, not of right or wrong?

Wow, that was a long one. But I'm full of questions and really want to hear what anyone has to say.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 30, 2006):
Derek Lee wrote:
< orchestration, but didn't have the nerve to change it. Anyway, Yoel said that Furtwängler conducted everything like Bruckner, and I'd like to know in what way? Do you mean the old complaint that he did everything slowly?
I had made up my mind not to participate in this forum but since you kindly adduce my name multiple times, I guess I should say something.

(1) I have not heard either Furtwängler MP.
(2) I almost bought the one you are speaking about several years ago and there was a problem.As to my statement about his everything being Bruckner, I am thinking of his so lauded Beethoven.

I have long belonged to a symphonic list where the extreme excesses of most conductors are abhorred but where the ultra-extreme excesses of Furt's handling of Beethoven and other major symphonies is literally worshipped.

To me his Beethoven in not Beethoven. His Gluck of course is not Gluck. The last is not his fault as that was an age where baroque or transitional was handled the same as late Romantic.

I simply don't enjoy his Fidelio or his Otello at all.

If one takes his Beethoven as adaptation, hyphenated Beethoven-Furtwängler, on those terms, I assume that some may enjoy it.

To me the time of such Beethoven is best consigned to history like many Bach recordings I have listened to.

< Because for instance he takes Kommt ihr Tochter much quicker than Mengelberg, Klemperer, >
I dislike Mengelberg's MP and never intend to listen to it again. Klemperer I grew up with but it is rather extreme.

In the case of Mengelberg and Klemperer of course we are dealing with Mahlerians and fascinating ones.

< or even the forward thinking Richter; not until the HIP movement was it standard to take it faster than Furtwängler does. >
I accept your word. I cannot any longer listen to cut MPs. I recently listened to a transfer of the Macmillian and wrote a piece for this list and then forgot about it.

I am intending to get the Furtfragmentary MPs on Archipel for reasons of Rössl-Majdan.

Thank you for your kind words,
Yoel just listening to Myaskovsky symphonies conducted by Rozhdestvensky and Svetlanov, very appropriate and ideal conductors for these works.
And that is most likely my point, right fit

Julian Mincham wrote (May 30, 2006):
Its also worth listening to Furtwängler's recording of Brandenburg 5 which he directed and played the piano.

It's some time since I heard it but I recall feeling at the time that his interpretation (the cadenza, for example had the feeling of a romantic tone poem) was all 'wrong' by contemporary standards of Bach performance, but somehow it worked---i.e. there was a musical integrity which shone through the stylictic details and anachronisms.

This is the problem often when hearing recordings of great artists from the past; I am thinking particulary of people like Kriesler. One has to try to get past the 'unfashionable ' detail in order to penetrate the integrity of the interpretation; and this is not always easy.

There are some consumate artists whose readings are so majestic that they rise above this problem. I would put the pianist Rachmaninov into this catagory.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 30, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It's some time since I heard it but I recall feeling at the time that his interpretation (the cadenza, for example had the feeling of a romantic tone poem) was all 'wrong' by contemporary standards of Bach performance, but somehow it worked---i.e. there was a musical integrity which shone through the stylictic details and anachronisms. >
Slightly off-topic, are there any HIP performances of the 5th which do not pause before the cadenza proper?

Derek Lee wrote (May 30, 2006):
Jukian Mincham wrote:
< Its also worth listening to Furtwängler's recording of Brandenburg 5 which he directed and played the piano.
It's some time since I heard it but I recall feeling at the time that his interpretation (the cadenza, for example had the feeling of a romantic tone poem) was all 'wrong' by contemporary standards of Bach performance, but somehow it worked---i.e. there was a musical integrity which shone through the stylictic details and anachronisms. >
I agree completely. Another thing about his performance of the first movement that I've never heard anywhere else is the way he separates the ritornello from the solo group. It seems to me that most performers try to make it sound as homogeneous as possible, but instead the trio of piano, violin, and flute is treated like a chamber ensemble; as a result the triplet figures which almost always are treated as a virtuoso exercise become very gentle and expressive. Of course there is no historical justification for this, but I've never thought that any performance 'tradition' should be taken sacred. I don't remember details, but I know that once Beethoven heard someone practising one of his pieces and remarked "so it can be done that way too". I'm not saying that historical research has no place in performance, because it can often provide insight that's hard to get otherwise, but I personally feel it has no place in judging whether a performance is effective or not.

< There are some consumate artists whose readings are so majestic that they rise above this problem. I would put the pianist Rachmaninov into this catagory. >
As an aside, Rachmaninov's performance of his own works is my gold standard, because he gives a very honest and direct interpretation, in contrast to wallowing in cheap sentiment which has become so common.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 30, 2006):
< I don't remember details, but I know that once Beethoven heard someone practising one of his pieces and remarked "so it can be done that way too". I'm not saying that historical research has no place in performance, because it can often provide insight that's hard to get otherwise, but I personally feel it has no place in judging whether a performance is effective or not. >
I agree, for the most part. A performance has to be communicative on its own terms. That's not to say that anything goes and that there shouldn't be any standards! (And I consider antiquarianism to be its own reward; I'm definitely not an antiquarian in what I enjoy/choose to listen to.) But, the commitment to the music has to come first, followed closely by imagination and creativity to produce something directly communicative; and never merely following anybody's instructions. Historically viable parameters make it generally easier to deliver naturally-flowing results, going with the grain of the music instead of against it; but there are all kinds of great performances (and terrible performances) on all manner of hardware, and/or styles. Style is no guarantee of being communicative.

I'm certainly no Beethoven, but I've had the experience of hearing other people perform my compositions in ways that frankly didn't occur to me at all during the composition process, or in any of my own performances of them. And if the musicians were thoughtful with it and well-practiced, these interpretations taught me new things about my own music. That's as it should be, IMO. Styles, tempos, balances, and varied treatment of detail can all tell us different things about the "same" piece of music.

As for the Furtwängler SMP in question (Vienna Philharmonic, April 1954), I've had it on both CD and LPs for years, and generally enjoy it. I put on the first 1/3 of it again today to remind myself what it sounds like. I like the performance's flow, and the flexibility in the tempos. I do not like the way the basso continuo (so important!) is mostly inaudible, much of the time; it spoils it for me, not being able to hear that foundational part. And the chorus has such problems with muddiness and pitch.

As antidote I put on part of the new performance by Jos van Veldhoven (a series of live performances from April 2006, and one of them captured for radio broadcast...I was able to get a CD dub of it). Not to slight Furtwängler, but the dramatic flow was much more urgent and exciting here, with crisper everything and all the commitment/alertness anybody could want. The Furtwängler performance just sounds like a rambling curiosity to me now, next to this. Both these performances give a good account of the music's monumentality and passion (no pun intended)...the moods flowing from highs to lows and back, as the story does, sometimes with lightning changes. But, in terms of elegance and style, van V's shows the huge progress that has been made since 1954.

Recent discussion of this same radio performance:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Veldhoven.htm
....but it's much clearer on this CD dub than it was on the internet streaming.

Further info about the tuning in this van Veldhoven performance:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/vocal.html

I still like the Mengelberg recording of SMP also!

>> There are some consumate artists whose readings are so majestic that they rise above this problem. I would put the pianist Rachmaninov into this catagory. <<
< As an aside,
Rachmaninov's performance of his own works is my gold standard, because he gives a very honest and direct interpretation, in contrast to wallowing in cheap sentiment which has become so common. >
Another fan of Rachmaninov's pianism here. And his conducting in his third symphony and the Isle and the Vocalise, wow, in the way the music surges and breathes to make its overwhelming effects! I wish he had made more such recordings as a conductor, whether of his own music or anybody else's.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 31, 2006):
Derek Lee wrote:
< I don't remember details, but I know that once Beethoven heard someone practising one of his pieces and remarked "so it can be done thway too". >
This story or the like has been told about many composers and is either apocryphal or universal. I guess that it is common place and most any composer would say something like that bc. it is reasonable.

It is very unlikely that Bach would say that about Furtwängler <VBG>, the times, the styles, the world, the instruments, the everything. So we are limiting the above to a living composer hearing his work in his own time with a slight personal take on a given detail.

< I'm not saying that historical research has no place in performance, because it can often provide insight that's hard to get otherwise, but I personally feel it has no place in judging whether a performance is effective or not. >
When a conductor believes that his place is not to "realize" the composer's intentions but to only use them as a basis for his own expression, then we come to a point that we have the interpreter foremost and the composer somewhere as a means for the interpreter to express himself.

And when the interpreter feels that the work itself is beyond endurance for a current audience as Furt apparently stated about the MP, the question is why bother with that interpreter.

You previously noted that:
"Let's not forget that for the last 2 decades of his life he set aside Beethoven's Missa Solemnis because he wasn't satisfied with the orchestration, but didn't have the nerve to change it".

Now personally I myself have never "gotten" the MS (as we all don't "get" some works) but with these Late Romantic conductors Furt seems to have shown integrity in this matter as Mahler would have simply "improved" the orchestration as he did to almost every composer of the past, Beethoven, Schumann (extremely so), Schubert ad infinitum.Oh, BTW my signature is Mahler but can also be read as referring to Bach.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 31, 2006):
< When a conductor believes that his place is not to "realize" the composer's intentions but to only use them as a basis for his own expression, then we come to a point that we have the interpreter foremost and the composer somewhere as a means for the interpreter to express himself. >
In a nutshell that's my problem listening to much of Glenn Gould's re/decompositions of Bach on the piano, anymore. It sounds to me more like "Glenn Gould's Bach" (sui generis willfulness, and standing/falling entirely on its own ability to be interesting/provocative) rather than "Bach's music played by Glenn Gould".

< And when the interpreter feels that the work itself is beyond endurance for a current audience as Furt apparently stated about the MP, the question is why bother with that interpreter. >
What about the bazillion annual performances of Handel's "Messiah" with long sections omitted?

I guess I'd rather hear Furtwängler and Mengelberg and Bernstein serve up as much of the SMP as they could muster, instead of not hearing them in this music at all. Whatever cuts are chosen, it's still the performer's job to make something coherent-sounding out of whatever remains.

You previously noted that:
< "Let's not forget that for the last 2 decades of his life he set aside Beethoven's Missa Solemnis because he wasn't satisfied with the orchestration, but didn't have the nerve to change it".
Now personally I myself have never "gotten" the MS (as we all don't "get" some works) but with these Late Romantic conductors Furt seems to have shown integrity in this matter as Mahler would have simply "improved" the orchestration as he did to almost every composer of the past, Beethoven, Schumann (extremely so), Schubert ad infinitum. >
Listening to the Shostakovich re-orchestration of Schumann's cello concerto (turning it into a violin concerto!) right now.

p.s. I don't "get" the Missa Solemnis either. And the finale of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto is plenty long, even with the customary cuts. I'm quite happy hearing only excerpts from Smetana's "Ma Vlast" instead of always the whole thing. Ditto for tasteful abridgments of Strauss's operas...and only about 20 minutes of "Schlagobers" at a time. :)

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 1, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< In a nutshell that's my problem listening to much of Glenn Gould's re/decompositions of Bach on the piano, anymore. It sounds to me more like "Glenn Gould's Bach" (sui generis willfulness, and standing/falling entirely on its own ability to be interesting/provocative) rather than "Bach's music played by Glenn Gould". >
We admire Vivaldi-Bach and Pergolesi-Bach and even Bach-Bach ("Wachet Auf", why not Bach-Gould, Bach-Busoni and Bach Stokowski. I think arrangements of works by performers and composers are a genre in themselves which are designed to tell us something about those admirers,

Yang Jingfeng wrote (June 1, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] If Bach's arrangements of Vivaldi (et al.) were for study purpose or for admiring the work or just for fun, then Glenn Gould might have taken his "arrangements" of Bach too seriously, beyond admiration. Sometimes I even feel that he was trying to convince his listeners of the approach. Maybe that's where my little dislike of Glenn Gould arises after many times of listening.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 1, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling]
I might add, a bit OT, the Ellington/Ellington variations, ranging from solo piano to full band for the same tune, and with cadenzas suiting the available soloists. Incidentally, the improvised cadenzas can often be heard repeated note for note, in various live performances. Sounding equally vibrant (or sometimes not), from one version to the next.

Raymond Joly wrote (June 1, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] The embarrassing thing about Glenn Gould is how successful the marketing has been.
"I will not appear on a platform anymore, because I despise the pianists' narcissistic showmanship. I will vanish and be the transparent medium for the composer's music. I will live in seclusion, me, myself and microphones" (with just a few devoted admirers allowed to trumpet all my sayings abroad).
Strange: after three bars of any composer he plays, what stands out is:
Ha, GOULD!

Never mind. We need heroes, and his worst tics get passed off for a style.

 

The Furtwängler MPs on Archipel (1950 and 1952)

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 14, 2006):
I've been listening to the 1950 (Buenos Aires) and 1952 (Wien) Furtwängler MP performances (as they exist) as issued on Archipel. Most of the basic facts concerning what these recordings are are already in the archives from
their issue on private labels. Basically on Archipel CD1 is a complete as performed Part I 1952 Vienna
performance. The same deletions are taken as in the 1954 recording, to wit ##19, 23, 29, and some recitative trimming.This runs c. 66.10.

The CD is filled out with the opening chorus of the 1950 Buenos Aires performance. When you add this 8.23 chorus to the 77.08 of CD2, you get 85.30 for the Buenos Aires performance which in addition to Part I (only #1 and ## 8-33 remain, the rest being lost and ##19, 29 are again deleted by the conductor, but #23 is included this time), we have ##34-46 of Part II with #41 deleted by the conductor.

We are told that in the Buenos Aires performance the chorus sings in Spanish. I would not have known as the choral singing is not that clear.

What I do find starting is how in several obvious places, "Buss' und Reu" (contralto aria preceded by recitative) and in "O Schmerz...ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen", the timings are extremely different between the two recordings.

My other observations are aesthetic ones and those are of course of a subjective nature.

Margarete Klose of the Buenos Aires performance is a very "tough guy" singer. I generally find her so.

Comparing the two renditions of "Buss' und Reu", I get chills from that of Rössl-Majdan in the Vienna performance and a feeling of respect Klose in the Buenos Aires performance.

In the duet "So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen", the whole makes little impression to me on first hearing in the Vienna performance with R-M and Seefried while in the Buenos Aires performance with Klose and Nilda Hoffmann (a soprano of very pure and innocent style) there is more substance.

The following chorus "Sind Blitzen...." in neither performance makes the impression it can and does in many performances.

In the Vienna performance I find Patzak as both evangelist and soloist gruff and perhaps hoarse but Dermota in the Buenas Aires performance is totally annoying. He seems to sing very high, with an emphatically high tessitura and in both his "O Schmerz...I will bei meinem Jesu wachen" and as evangelist I really am emphatically turned off.

A few days ago I heard a private performance where the last named recitative and aria (and the evangelist) were sung by Josef Traxel. That was and remains a high standard and it was unforgettable. This tenor recitative and aria seems to remain even where (as in the 1957 Traxel recording) all alto and bass arias are deleted (boo!).

In the Buenos Aires performance Jesus is sung by one Angelo Mattiello and he rolls his /r/s emphatically. He is rather engaging.

There is an annoying piano used in the b.c. in Buenos Aires. I wasn't aware of such in the Vienna.

All-in-all, interesting and I was less unhappy with Furtwängler in his Bach than I expected to be.

Obvious errors are to be expected by the nature of my typing anything longish.

 

Furt '54 MP problem

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 17, 2007):
I have just listened with the print out from the BachCantatas website to what claims to be an integral pirate of the Furtwängler 1954 Matthäus-Passion. Now, Aryeh, you state on the website that in the actual performance 14 numbers were omitted but, when EMI edited the tape, a further two numbers had to be omitted for technical problems. However the numbers omitted which you list add up to 15 and not 14.

The pirate which Jeff uploaded has these precisely identical omissions (including the more than "slightly abridged recitative"). It is in fact identical except for the tracking (I do not have the EMI). Does anyone know, Aryeh or Teri, which further two numbers were performed? Since the various places where for alto and bass we have the recitatives but lack the arias, this is precisely what I would expect from such a performance: those were customary cuts. Furt's cuts are not as severe as those of many conductors. So this is my question: (1) the site says a further two were omitted from the recording in addition to the 14. That would come to 16 but but we do have only 15 omitted on this pirate (which may be Priceless (Jeff says it is not Virtuoso). The sound is excellent.

Aug 8
Bach: Matthaus-Passion, BWV 244
14~17th Apr. 1954, Großer Konzerthaussaal, Wien(14 numbers omitted)
Elisabeth Grümmer (S), Marga Höffgen (A), Anton Dermota (T), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Br), Otto Edelmann (B)
Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Singakademie, Wiener Sängerknaben
Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting.

This is not the EMI CD set, which omitted 2 numbers.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 17, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] As you may know, I am not especially fond of this performance, but, at the time I wrote the critical discography, I did make a list of the omissions and the abridgements in the Fonit-Cetra LP version:

Furtwängler, Wilhelm. Elisabeth Grümmer (s), Marga Höffgen (a), Anton Dermota (t), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar) [Jesus], Otto Edelmann (bs) [Arias, Peter, Pilate, High Priest], Wiener Singverein, Wiener Sängerknaben, Vienna Philharmonic. Fonit Cetra FE 34 (3 LPs) (omits 19, 23, 29, 38, 40, 41, 48 - 51, 55, 61, 64, 70, 75; abridges 32, 34, 39, 52, 63, 67, 73, 76)

That list indicates that 15 movements were omitted entirely.

Another oddity: I have a copy of the programme for a performance that WF conducted in Vienna in 1924. If the programme book is accurate, on that occasion, every movement was performed.

I hope that this helps.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 17, 2007):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Not only according to Aryeh's discography but all over persons request the full Furt rather than the EMI with the alleged two omitted items (bc. of technical difficulties with the tape). Are you stating that such is a myth and that these 15 items constitute all that he omitted in the actual performance? If so, then it would be worthwhile for Aryeh to change the listing (which many use as a reference). I wonder whether that misinformation is not simply given by the EMI CDs. The performance as is on Jeff's pirate (= the EMI) seems to me to be what he would have given.

As to 1924, well some claim that he even loved Mahler back then. However DFD claims that his late recordings of the one Mahler song cycle ((LefG) which is recorded with him three times (twice with DFD and once with Poell) was something that DFD had to force Furtwängler to perform and that Furt abhorred Mahler.

All we know for sure is that he gave the world premiere of the complete Gralerzählung in 1936 while Frau Wagner (daughter-in-law, I think) and Herr Hitler beamed from delight. This is absolute fact. Sadly the recording only has the first stanza which Archipel has released together with the studio recording of both stanzas as recorded immediately thereafter by Tietjen with the same wonderful Volker singing Lohengrin.

The man remains a mystery and the MP performance is surrounded by further myth.

Finally Aryeh's listing as the soprano as both "Maids" which is not accurate. The 2nd Magd is certainly (as it should be) the mezzo.

As to my personal response to his performance of Bach or his association with the 1000 year Reich, that is not the present subject.

Much thanks, Teri, for all information.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 17, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Not only according to Aryeh's discography but all over persons request the full Furt rather than the EMI with the alleged two omitted items (bc. of technical difficulties with the tape). Are you stating that such is a myth and that these 15 items constitute all that he omitted in the actual performance? If so, then it would be worthwhile for Aryeh to change the listing (which many use as a reference). I wonder whether that misinformation is not simply given by the EMI CDs. The performance as is on Jeff's pirate (= the EMI) seems to me to be what he would have given. >
All I am stating is that the cuts and abridgements that I listed in the 1991 discography are what I wrote down at the time. I have no reason to believe that the list is inaccurate.

It is not one of my favorite performances - cut or uncut - and, apart from referring to my set of CDs to obtain a timing for a presentation that I made two years ago, I haven't bothered with it in a long time. I therefore cannot remember what label my CD transfer is on. I'll try and have a look this coming weekend.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 24, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I dug out the 1924 programme, and it appears that my first, admittedly cursory, assessment was incorrect. It looks like WF did make cuts.

For all I know, my copy of this programme may be the only one extant, and, for that reason, I have taken the time to scan it.

The scans of the programme are presented below:

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 24, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] The recording of the Furtwängler 1954 performance that I used as my reference recording when I wrote the critical discography of the St Matthew Passion for the critical discography that I contributed to Alan Blyth's anthology Choral Music on Records was the the three CD set that was published by Movimento Musica. As it happens, unlike most such "pirate" issues, the booklet provides the libretto not only for the Furtwängler "performing version" but also for the entire uncut version. The cuts are easy to discern, because the complete movements that are included have the little box beside them; the movements that are omitted altogether are indicated with a black square beside the opening line; and in those movements that are abridged the omitted passages are indicated in bold face type.

The scans below contain the pertinent pages from the booklet. The omitted pages contain annotations that do not shed any light whatever on the cuts that Furtwängler makes.

I hope that this information will resolve the various issues for you, and to your satisfaction.

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - L. Bernstein | BWV 244 - F. Brüggen | BWV 244 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - R. Chailly | BWV 244 - S. Cleobury | BWV 244 - J. Daus | BWV 244 - D. Fasolis | BWV 244 - W. Furtwängler | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - W. Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - P. Goodwin | BWV 244 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 244 - R. Jacques | BWV 244 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - T. Koopman | BWV 244 - S. Koussevitzky | BWV 244 - S. Kuijken | BWV 244 - F. Lehmann | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 244 - E.&R. Mauersberger | BWV 244 - H. Max | BWV 244 - P. McCreesh | BWV 244 - W. Mengelberg | BWV 244 - K. Münchinger | BWV 244 - R. Norrington | BWV 244 - G. Oberfrank | BWV 244 - S. Ozawa | BWV 244 - A. Parrott | BWV 244 - G. Ramin | BWV 244 - S. Rattlr | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - H. Rilling | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch | BWV 244 - H. Scherchen | BWV 244 - G. Solti | BWV 244 - C. Spering | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - J.v. Veldhoven | BWV 244 - B. Walter | BWV 244 - F. Werner | BWV 244 - M. Wöldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [T.N. Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [U. Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [D. Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [J. Rifkin] | The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frühfassung) [T. Braatz] | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography) [W. Hoffman] | Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion [W. Hoffman] | Bach and the "Great Passion" [D.G. Lebut Jr.] | The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [W. Hoffman] | Early Performances of Bach's SMP [T. Braatz]

Wilhelm Furtwängler: Short Biography | Recordings | BWV 244 - Furtwängler

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: ýSeptember 24, 2007 ý15:07:37