The Furtwänglerian art of conducting: a panorama (with music samples)
Furtwängler conducts the final of Symphony n°9 by Beethoven - 31st August 1951 - Salzburg
Furtwängler's life as a conductor can be divided in four parts : after having learned the art of conducting with second class orchestras, he became a reputed conductor from 1922. But the nazi era imposed him to make a choice : Furtwängler stayed in Berlin, but as an exiled in his own country, as he used to say. With the end of the war, he was given the opportunity to come back at the head of European musical culture, promoting humanity in music. But times were changing, and he was perceived more than ever as distant from "modernity", as this concept was understood then.
The "General concert listing" by René Trémine, 1997 remains available:
The learning years: 1906-1922 (PDF file, 18 pages, 500 Ko)
The glorious period : 1922-1934 (PDF file, 22 pages, 600 Ko)
Exiled in his own country: 1935-1947 (PDF file, 11 pages, 400 Ko)
Apotheosis: 1947-1954 (PDF file, 11 pages, 400 Ko)
The list of Furtwängler broadcasts/broadcast recordings from 1930 to 1954, established by Henning Smidth, is based on various private and official lists, most of them given by Frau Elisabeth Furtwängler during his visits in Clarens in the 1970s. Despite numerous revisions since 2002, and the last revision dating from 2010, it is still known incomplete!
Furtwängler broadcasts/broadcast recordings (revised 2013) by Henning Smidth (PDF file, 18 pages, 400ko)
78 & 33 RPM (see more images of records)
The complete recordings listing
The best recordings
The French Wilhelm Furtwängler Society has chosen a selective list of recordings, which can be considered as a priority of newcomers to the art of the conductor. It does not pretend to be exhaustive but it is definitely a good starting point !
Bruckner. In his performances, whether they concern the "stations of the cross" of the Adagio of the Seventh Symphonie, or the Dionysian dance of the Scherzo of the Eighth, Furtwängler appears to be possessed. The Brucknerian heritage of Furtwängler, far less voluminous than the Beethovenian legacy, is nevertheless of capital importance for a deep knowledge of the conductor as well as the composer.
Furtwängler, Bruckner interpreter, by Felix Matus-Echaiz, 2005
Critical Discography by Philippe Leduc, 2005 (English translation Sami Habra)
Furtwängler conducted Bruckner's works no less than 222 times. His favorites were clearly the Symphonies n°7 to 9, but he never conducted the Ninth after the concert on 11th October 1944 in St. Florian Collegiate Church, whose Bruckner have been the organist. It is the Symphony n°4 which he conducted most often, with no less than 61 concerts.
Bruckner's discography as recorded by Furtwängler, by Philippe Leduc, 2006 (PDF file, 1 page, 50 Ko)
John F. Berky is maintaining an exhaustive discography of Bruckner, which includes Furtwängler's recordings.
Comparison of timing between 28 recordings between 1935 et 2000 of the Passion (PDF file, 1 page A3, 500 Ko)
Excerpts of the score (PDF file, 1 page A3, 700 Ko)
1929, Brahmsfest, Volkshaus hall of Iena
with the Berlin Philharmonic
Nürnberg, 6th May 1953
At a concert. Lastly, Charles Schlacks Jr, who founded the Furtwängler Society of America, gives us a report on a concert by Furtwängler in Nürnberg in 1953 where he took the two pictures below.
The Maestro's atelier by Philippe Jacquard (RTF file, 23 pages, 160 Ko)
Concert booklet, 6th May 1953
Berlioz, Ravel, Strauss, Brahms - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Die Berliner Philharmoniker nach dem Kriege (in German), by Peter Wackernagel (PDF file, 7 pages, 1,6 Mo)
Furtwängler conducting the Berlin Philharmonic
1947, Berlin, Funkhaus
The four following listings are in French, but English readers who are looking for factual information on concerts (date, program) given by Furtwängler will find them useful.
Berlin Philharmonic around 1930 at the alte Philharmonie
1) The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on tour 1924-1936
The BPO on tour by Stephane Topakian, 1993 (RTF file - 11 pages - 100 Ko)
1949 - Italy
1954 - Italy
2) In Italy, Furtwängler gave 115 performances in 32 years. The most moving was maybe the one on 6th April 1947 in Rome, the very first after the end of the war : « …will I still be able to conduct an orchestra ?" he told to Enrico Mainardi...
Furtwängler en Italie par Angelo Scottini, 1990 (fichier RTF - 25 pages - 200 Ko)
3) In France, Furtwängler gave 71performances in 18 years by René Trémine, 1986.
Furtwängler et la France par René Trémine, 1986 (fichier RTF - 26 pages - 300 Ko)
1938, Alte Philharmonie
4) In Francfort, where Goethe was born, had an outstanding Concert Association since 1808. Furtwängler gave numerous concerts in the city, among them the world premiere of Bartok's Piano Concerto n°1, on 1st July 1927. Jascha Horenstein was his assistant, and Scherchen was also conducting this evening.
Furtwängler in Francfort by Hermann Wendel et Philippe Jacquard, 1986 (RTF file - 25 pages - 170 Ko)
Furtwängler with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Salzburg Festspielhaus, 1951