Wilhelm Furtwängler

Biography

Born: January 25, 1886   Died: November 30, 1954   Country: Germany  
Although born in Berlin, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler spent his childhood in Munich, where his father was a professor. After his talents were recognized at an early age, he was removed from school and educated privately. Furtwängler's teachers included the composer Joseph Rheinberger and the conductor Felix Mottl. By the age of 17, the young musician had written numerous works and had his conducting debut three years later with the Kaim Read more Orchestra, where he directed the opening Largo from his own first symphony, Beethoven's overture Die Weihe des Hauses, and Bruckner's Ninth Symphony. The ambivalent response to his music and the financial instability that composition offered caused him to focus his energies on conducting.

Furtwängler's first position was at the Breslau Stadttheater in 1906 and 1907. He went to Zurich the next season, followed by an apprenticeship at the Munich Court Opera under the auspices of his teacher Mottl. From 1911 to 1921, Furtwängler served as music director of various ensembles in Lübeck, Mannheim, Frankfurt, and Vienna. From 1920 to 1922, he served as conductor of the Berlin Staatskapelle. At the age of 35, the conductor took the baton at the celebrated Berlin Philharmonic and concurrently held the same position at the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, where he remained until 1928. Furtwängler led the New York Philharmonic from 1927 to 1929, but eventually declined an offer to remain there. It was during those years that Furtwängler was appointed music director of the Vienna Philharmonic. As the 1920s drew to a close, he held positions throughout Europe, including those at the Bayreuth and Salzburg festivals (1931-1932) and the Berlin State Opera (1933). In 1932, he was awarded the Goethe Gold Medal.

When the Nazis came into power in 1933, Furtwängler strongly and publicly opposed the Nazi agenda, despite pride in his German heritage, and refused to give the Nazi salute, even in Hitler's presence. In 1934, when Hindemith's Mathis de Maler was banned by the Nazi party, Furtwängler unilaterally resigned from all of his posts, aided numerous Jewish musicians under Nazi persecution, and refused to conduct in Nazi-occupied areas. Furtwängler eventually fled to Switzerland at the suggestion of Albert Speer. When, in 1936, the New York Philharmonic offered him the position of music director, he was dissuaded from accepting the position by anti-Nazi sentiment. After the war's conclusion, the Allied command cleared Furtwängler of charges of being a Nazi sympathizer, although the American government did not "denazify" Furtwängler until 1946. In 1949, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra courted the German conductor, but its board of directors quickly withdrew its offer under the heavy and largely unjustified criticism from the orchestra's musicians.

Always welcomed in Europe, Furtwängler enjoyed continued success throughout the region. While uninterested in recording live performances, citing the impossibility for technology to capture a mood or aesthetic, he was responsible for countless recordings, most of which were made after the war. His dedication to the works of Beethoven was unsurpassed, and his enthusiasm towards the contemporary compositions of the time impressive, evidenced by his aggressive programming. Furtwängler's idiosyncratic approach to the repertoire and spontaneous interpretations were unique to say the least. Furtwängler remained a popular artist and kept a busy schedule conducting throughout Europe until his death in Baden-Baden in 1954. According to his second wife Elisabeth Ackermann, he died a darkened and melancholy man, troubled by the atrocious history his beloved Germany had written. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 29 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Berlin Philharmonic - Centenary Edition
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001923302 Release Date: 10/22/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Hector Berlioz,  Richard Wagner,  Richard Strauss  ... 
    Performer:  Géza Anda,  Walter Berry,  Gundula Janowitz,  Hilde Rössl-Majdan  ... 
    Conductor:  Arthur Nikisch,  Alfred Hertz,  Richard Strauss,  Bruno Walter  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Singverein,  Swedish Radio Chorus  ... 
    On sale! $149.98
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  • 2.
    Wilhelm Furtwangler: Wiener Konzerte 1944-1954 [18-CD Set]
    Label: Orfeo   Catalog: 834118 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Anton Bruckner,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  César Franck,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Paul Badura-Skoda,  Dagmar Bella,  Paul Schöffler,  Anton Dermota  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Singakademie,  Vienna Boys' Choir
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  • 3.
    Furtwangler: Sonata For Violin & Piano No 1; Beethoven: Sonata Op. 12 No 1 / Moser, Huhn
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 11048 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Sophie Moser,  Katja Huhn
    CD: $17.99
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  • 4.
    Furtwangler Conducts Furtwangler & Beethoven
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 94215 Release Date: 09/27/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $24.99
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  • 5.
    Wilhelm Furtwangler - The Great EMI Recordings
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 07878 Release Date: 05/17/2011   Number of Discs: 21
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Béla Bartók,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Hans Hopf,  Otto Edelmann  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 6.
    Furtwangler, Beethoven: Sonatas For Violin & Piano / Sophie Moser, Katja Huhn
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 11023 Release Date: 04/26/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Sophie Moser,  Katja Huhn
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  • 7.
    Furtwangler: Symphony No. 2 / Jochum, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks
    Label: Br Klassik   Catalog: 900702 Release Date: 11/16/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  Eugen Jochum
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 8.
    Icon - Edwin Fischer
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 29499 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Franz Schubert,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Edwin Fischer,  Ronald Smith,  Denis Matthews,  Raymond Clark  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Edwin Fischer,  Josef Krips,  Lawrence Collingwood  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
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    CD: $82.49
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  • 9.
    Furtwangler - The Best Of The Early Recordings 1929-1943
    Label: Music & Arts   Catalog: 954 Release Date: 01/28/2010   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Christoph W. Gluck,  Gioachino Rossini,  Wilhelm Furtwängler  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
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  • 10.
    Schaeuble, Hindemith, Reger, Furtwangler: Violin Sonatas / Bettina Boller, Walter Prossnitz
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 7326/27 Release Date: 10/13/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Max Reger,  Paul Hindemith,  Hans Schaeuble,  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Performer:  Bettina Boller,  Walter Prossnitz
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 11.
    Furtwängler's Love
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101811 Release Date: 04/29/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Richard Wagner,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Ludwig Suthaus,  Kirsten Flagstad
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 12.
    Furtwängler: Violin Sonatas No 1 & 2 / Wollong, Wollenweber
    Label: Cpo   Catalog: 777217 Release Date: 04/24/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Performer:  Birgitta Wollenweber,  Matthias Wollong
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  • 13.
    Furtwängler: Chamber Music / Kerdoncuff, Kang, Galpérine
    Label: Timpani   Catalog: 1092 Release Date: 09/26/2006   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Performer:  François Kerdoncuff,  Dong-Suk Kang,  Marc Jaermann,  Nicolas Pache  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
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  • 14.
    Furtwangler: Symphony No 1 / Albrecht, Staatskapelle Weimar
    Label: Arte Nova   Catalog: 768280 Release Date: 03/14/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  George A. Albrecht
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Weimar Staatskapelle Chamber Orchestra
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  • 15.
    Furtwangler: Symphony No 3 / Albrecht, Weimar Staatskapelle
    Label: Arte Nova   Catalog: 721030 Release Date: 11/08/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  George A. Albrecht
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Weimar Staatskapelle Chamber Orchestra
    CD: $8.99
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  • 16.
    Furtwangler: Symphony No 2 / Albrecht, Et Al
    Label: Arte Nova   Catalog: 578340 Release Date: 03/22/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  George A. Albrecht
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Weimar Staatskapelle Chamber Orchestra
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  • 17.
    The Fascination Of Furtwängler
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 000388602 Release Date: 01/11/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini,  Antonín Dvorák,  Johannes Brahms,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 18.
    Furtwangler: Symphony No 2 / Barenboim, Chicago So
    Label: Teldec   Catalog: 43495 Release Date: 07/09/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
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  • 19.
    Brahms: Piano Concerto No 2;  Furtwangler: Adagio / Fischer
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1170 Release Date: 11/16/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Edwin Fischer
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
    On sale! $25.98
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  • 20.
    Schumann, Furtwängler: Symphonies / Furtwängler, Berlin Po
    Label: Dg The Originals   Catalog: 457722 Release Date: 05/12/1998   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Robert Schumann
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
    On sale! $24.98
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  • 21.
    Furtwängler: Sinfonie No 3 / Wolfgang Sawallisch
    Label: Orfeo D'or   Catalog: 406961 Release Date: 05/21/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  Wolfgang Sawallisch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Orchestra
    CD: $19.99
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  • 22.
    Furtwängler: Sonate Pour Violon & Piano 1 / Kang, Et Al
    Label: Timpani   Catalog: 1029 Release Date: 09/19/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Performer:  Dong-Suk Kang,  François Kerdoncuff
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  • 23.
    Furtwängler: Symphonie No. 2 / Furtwängler, Wiener
    Label: Orfeo D'or   Catalog: 375941 Release Date: 08/22/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $19.99
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  • 24.
    Furtwängler: Overture In E Flat, Etc / Walter, Slovak State
    Label: Marco Polo   Catalog: 223645 Release Date: 05/23/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Conductor:  Alfred Walter
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kosice Slovak State Symphony Orchestra
    CD not available
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  • 25.
    Furtwängler: Te Deum, Religiöser Hymnus, Etc / Alfred Walter
    Label: Marco Polo   Catalog: 223546 Release Date: 03/21/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Performer:  Guido Pikal,  Alfred Walter
    Conductor:  Alfred Walter
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Singakademie,  Frankfurt ausser dem Oder Philharmonic Orchestra
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