I have indeed sampled many of Norrington's interpretations over many years. I am not basing my views on prejudice. However, I like your allusion to banker-bashing. I would make the comparison with politician bashing, for they justify their actions by constant repetition of the "facts" they want you to believe.
Originally Posted by Dave2002
Whether Norrington is mad as a box of frogs, a self-promoting egomaniac (almost unthinkable in a conductor - though I suspect he doesn't take it out on the musicians he works with; except by making them play like a 'school orchestra', of course) - the recordings of the Haydn London Symphonies, of the Beethoven symphonies, are such living, joyous, things I'd find it hard not to love them. And I'd not say they were especially controversial now (unlike the Mahler 9 of celebrated outrage). Though that in itself (them not being especially controversial now) may well be a sign that All is Lost and that Civilisation has gone to Hell in a Handcart .
Here's Lud and Rog in Japan
Just a few comments and observations from an amateur string playing beginner with cloth ears. (i.e. tone deaf).
Originally Posted by JohnSkelton
Does anyone notice that Norrington's guestures seem to have nothing to do with the shape of the music? (The orchestra must ignore him 80% of the time. With most conductors it is probably 50% of the time).
The first mvt is played very fast in 3/4 and this does sound quite together and exciting. But when the strings have the odd more sustained passage, then the sound is pretty dead and lifeless.
I thought the first flute sharp for the first half or more of the first movement. May have been the heat - TV lights and all of that. Also looked like wooden flute?
The second mvt I got very tired of after only a minute or so, because of the dead sound in the sustaining passages in the strings.
Of course I bow to you all possessing superior knowledge about these things, and I have no idea about how good or bad these performances by Norrington are.
I've not heard the latest Norrington versions of Beethoven. I liked some, but not all of his earlier attempts at performances of various composers' works, including Beethoven. I'm not sure about the vibrato less Mahler, though I didn't dislike it as much as some. I recall that some of his earlier Mozart performances had ludicrous speeds - an antidote to lethargic performances from the past maybe, but still ludicrous. In recent years he seems perhaps to have followed Harnoncourt slightly by working with more conventionally modern orchestras, and asking them to play in what might once have been considered unusual ways.
I have been trying some of his more recent Mozart played by SWR - not bad really Here is one of them - http://open.spotify.com/track/37TlNfKDKp4q6NWr66WSNk - you can find the other movements from the link. This is really rather good IMO.
I am finding his approach preferable to the stately approach of Sir Colin Davis in Mozart and Haydn with other German orchestras over the last decade or so, though Davis in the past was for me inspirational. Now I'm finding that going back to Klemperer is a worthwhile experience, and I even like some of what Karajan did whereas I was not so keen before. Some of Norrington's work is definitely worth hearing, but different listeners may react in different ways, and also to Norrington from different times in his career.
And that is important because?
Originally Posted by Ariosto
He may have got most of the points he wants to make done beforehand in rehearsal. It seems to be fashionable now to think that there's a correct way to conduct an orchestra, and that may depend on stick technique and convention. I understand that Simon Rattle wasn't invited to Tanglewood because of the Americans' obsession with SOPs and stick technique. They did, however go for Seji Ozawa.
Conventional stick technique may be important for conductors who work with many different orchestras with very little rehearsal time, and a novice conductor who doesn't conform may not get another chance. However looking at videos of conductors doesn't really show much consistency. Many considered Mravinsky to have been a great conductor. I was surprised and shocked when I saw videos of him conducting, and that doesn't take away from his greatness. He also did not look encouraging! Probably the most important thing for a conductor is to have ideas, and to get them expressed by the orchestra by whatever means he or she has available. As such I'd say that Norrington is a success, and also others such as Gergiev, who chooses frequently to resort to hand waving are similarly so. There was also Furtwängler!
I cannot help wondering what Norrington - and or general reactions to him - would be like in, say, British scores such as David Matthews's Sixth Symphony, Tony Payne's Time's Arrow, James Dillon's ignis noster and helle nacht, Brian Ferneyhough's La terre est un homme and Plötzlichkeit (just as I also wonder why on earth it is that no one seems to play those Dillon pieces these days)...
Basically with standard rep such as Beethoven the orchestra plays and it does not matter what balletic contortions the conductor indulges in - because they mostly ignore him.
Yes, things will have been worked on in rehearsal and the players will have a good idea of the tempo he want's - unless (like some conductors) it changes drastically in the concert situation.
I can equate Gergiev's conducting to musical shapes and phrases, and the same with Feutwangler and others. But I don't see any connection with Norrington's arm waving and the music being performed. But then I know nothink.
There's an understatement! Does a photograph of him laughing or smiling exist? To come to think of it, had I lived under the regimes he endured, I'd look pretty sour. As you say, that doesn't take away from his greatness.
Originally Posted by Dave2002
As far as Norrington is concerned, and forgive me if I've mentioned this before, a concert he and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta gave in Swanage Parish Church some many years ago and ending with Beethoven's First was riveting, breathtakingly exciting and intensely musical. Of his Beethoven recordings, I prefer his earlier cycle on EMI.
But ariosto, if the orchestra really do ignore them so much, why do the readings sound so different? Why do listeners want to hear many conductors' take on the standard repertoire? Why would Norrington be so controversial if his conducting is largely ignored?
Originally Posted by Ariosto
I think you, EA and others have to at least accept that Norrington playing LVB in Japan, or Mahler in the RAH, is going to sound very different from Haydn or Beethoven in Stuttgart, where he and the orchestra have self-evidently worked on the sound itself, as well as the interpretative approach, for many months if not years. I have myself sometimes disliked the "dead" string sound, the stiff phrasing and metronomic beat in HIPP-styled performances from Norrington and others, but it isn't true of these particular Stuttgart cycles, which are consistently fresh and expressive.
Gardiner is my usual bete noire, but earlier this year his 2008 Edinburgh Festival Brahms German Requiem was released, and it's one of the greatest of all performances (I bought his earlier account and rather regretted doing so). So I think one can't always brand a conductor with a particular approach, just because it makes musical judgment easier. It remains a problem that we tend to identify ourselves with our opinions, and the longer we hold them the harder it gets to acknowledge change and error.
Wise pragmatism of the kind that we've all come to expect from and admire in you! No small wonder, then, that this forum now includes a thread for The Thoughts of Chairwoman Jayne (if you'll forgive me - which you probably won't - just don't throw a Bösendofrer 290 at me for it, that's all I ask!)...
Originally Posted by jayne lee wilson