Thursday, April 14, 2011

Furtwangler In Color

A rare color photograph of Wilhelm Furtwangler, obviously from the very last months of his life.

Furtwangler was a fascinating figure.

Some odd facts about Furtwangler I recently learned, all of which surprised me greatly:

Furtwangler never conducted the Dresden Staatskapelle.

Furtwangler never conducted the Czech Philharmonic.

Furtwangler conducted performances of Handel’s oratorio, “Judas Maccabaeus”.

Furtwangler conducted performances of Tchaikovsky’s opera, “Iolanta”.

Furtwangler disliked the symphonies (but not the songs) of Mahler, yet Furtwangler nonetheless conducted a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in 1920.

Furtwangler disliked the symphonies of Shostakovich, yet Furtwangler nonetheless conducted at least two performances of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in 1950.

Furtwangler did not conduct the premiere of his own first symphony. Bruno Walter conducted the premiere performance of Furtwangler’s Symphony No.1.

On two of the three occasions on which Furtwangler came to America to conduct the New York Philharmonic (and only the New York Philharmonic), he took the New York Philharmonic on tour, appearing with the orchestra as far south as Washington and as far west as Pittsburgh.

During World War I, Furtwangler conducted in a portion of France under German occupation. Furtwangler conducted wartime performances in Lille while the city was under German control (Lille was occupied by Germany for most of the war).

During World War II, Furtwangler conducted in occupied Denmark. Furtwangler on two separate occasions conducted a Danish orchestra in wartime performances in Copenhagen while Denmark was under German occupation. (Furtwangler had also been in Copenhagen, preparing concerts, on the day Germany invaded Denmark. Those particular concerts were cancelled.)

The latter appearances contradict Furtwangler’s oft-repeated public claim that he never conducted during wartime in countries or territories occupied by Germany.

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