Notes and Editorial Reviews
Film by Jan Schmidt-Garre
ARTHAUS 101 811 (DVD: 68:12
Text and Translation)
MP3 files of Furtwängler rehearsal fragments, speeches, and interviews
This is a very peculiar, but appealing film that will be of interest to anyone interested in Wilhelm Furtwängler. At the center of the film is the remarkable widow of the conductor, Elisabeth, who was in her
early nineties when this film was made (in 2004, assuming the skimpy information provided with it is being correctly interpreted), and who remains alive as I write this in May 2008. The film purports to explore Furtwängler’s loves—music and Elisabeth—and does so in a very touching, human way.
is described as a “film essay,” and it is a deeply personal and revealing portrayal of both the artist and the man. Elisabeth is remarkably frank, about falling in love with him at a time he was dating her sister, about his “harem” and his many illegitimate children, and about how deeply she was in love with him and he with her. Perhaps most moving is her description of his final days in 1954, when he knew he was dying and, in fact, was ready to die.
At the same time, the film explores, through Furtwängler’s own words, his feelings about music—and about composing as well as conducting. It makes clear that he (in much the same way as Leonard Bernstein) wished to be remembered as a composer rather than a conductor. Excerpts from his Violin Sonata No 2, Fantasia No. 1 for Piano, and a song titled
Flight of the Seagull
are all included in the film.
There are a few oddities in the film—none more odd than the fact that the scenes of Berlin that are used to accompany excerpts of Furtwängler performances have a repeated
of a couple kissing passionately. Perhaps it was supposed to represent Furtwängler and Elisabeth—but I must say I never quite got the point. However, in the end I found the personal openness and conversational approach taken with Elisabeth to be both involving and moving, and I would recommend the film to anyone with an interest in Furtwängler, and this period in German history.
In addition to the 68-minute film, there is a bonus in the form of audio MP3 files, some 318 minutes worth, featuring all known Furtwängler rehearsal fragments, speeches, and interviews.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu languages: English, French, German, Spanish
Film language: German
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92: Excerpt(s) by Ludwig van Beethoven
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 1950
Der Freischütz, J 277: Overture - Excerpt(s) by Carl Maria von Weber
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1817-1821; Dresden, Germany
Date of Recording: 1952
Tristan und Isolde: Excerpt(s) by Richard Wagner
Ludwig Suthaus (Tenor),
Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Written: 1859; Germany
Date of Recording: 1953
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