Review of a Classical CD: Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur, Wilhelm Furtwangler
by Jonathan Horowitz
New York, New York
I have never really been able to enjoy or find much interest in classical music. My father, on the contrary, is a huge classical music fan and abhors all forms of popular music. When I was growing up, if he could so much as hear the faintest sound of rock music coming from my room, he'd go into hysterics and demand that I lower "the noise." Likewise, I would throw a tantrum whenever my father played classical music in my presence. I would suspect that this conflict might have something to do with my inability to enjoy classical music. But it might not.
Over the years, I've made periodic attempts to get some pleasure from these so-called classics, but I've never been very successful. I thus decided to use this opportunity to write a review to make another attempt, thinking that perhaps the pressure to articulate an opinion might sharpen my hearing. As I know so little about classical music, I decided to choose an object for criticism based upon its cover art. Looking through the classical CD department at Tower, however, I saw virtually no CDs with packaging that aroused my curiosity. I ended up choosing Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur by Wilhelm Furtwangler because it looked generic, and because I had never heard of the composer and thought that his name sounded funny.
Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur is really boring. There's a violin and a piano. There are three parts. In the first part, there's a phrase which recurs. Its not very catchy though. The second part, I would say, is slower. But then it gets faster. It's more flowy and trilly. I think I like it more than the first part, but I don't really like it at all. The third part, I would say, is more like the first part, and that phrase recurs a few more times. Actually, there are so many shifts in tempo and volume that the three-part division doesn't really feel like it's of much structural significance. Despite all of these shifts, Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur retains a plodding linear flow that makes it hard to breathe. I think that it would be better with more pauses in it.
It sounds as though something is trying to be evoked or expressed by Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur, but I can't tell what it is. The piece doesn't really make me think or feel anything, and it sounds more like exercise fragments than a melodic composition. Because it never feels resolved or settled, I thought that maybe it was written in a minor key or was atonal, but from the English translation of the liner notes, I learned that Dur means major, and from the Oxford English Dictionary, I learned that atonal means not in any key. Perhaps Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur lacks engaging qualities because it's supposed to be modern, but maybe it's just like a pop song without a hook.
We learn from the liner notes that Furtwangler chose to remain in Germany during Hitler's reign; I wonder if Hitler liked Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur. I really can't imagine that he did. It's so boring. I can imagine people in mink coats and tuxedos listening to Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur in a concert hall and being bored by it and thinking that it sounded like classical music. Assuming that there was a reason for its existence, or otherwise it wouldn't exist, they probably said to one another after the show, "Wunderbar!" and never thought about Violinsonate Nr. 2 D-Dur again.