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 176 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Wilhelm Furtwängler & The Berlin Philharmonic
    Label: Biddulph   Catalog: 006 Release Date: 09/01/2017   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Richard Wagner,  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Performer:  Edwin Fischer
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Walter Gieseking: Complete Bach Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 4797362 Release Date: 08/18/2017   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Robert Schumann
    Performer:  Walter Gieseking
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 3.
    DG 111: The Conductors / Various
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 4797477 Release Date: 08/04/2017   Number of Discs: 40
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Alexander Scriabin,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Gaston Litaize,  Alain Moglia,  Luben Yordanoff,  Christa Ludwig  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado,  Daniel Barenboim,  Leonard Bernstein,  Karl Böhm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New England Conservatory Chorus,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $138.99
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  • 4.
    Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 & Adagio from Symphony No. 7 / Furtwangler, Berlin Philharmonic
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350125 Release Date: 07/07/2017  
    Composer:  Anton Bruckner
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 5.
    Wiener Philharmoniker: 175th Anniversary Edition
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 4797090 Release Date: 03/31/2017   Number of Discs: 45
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Anton Bruckner,  Emmanuel Chabrier  ... 
    Performer:  Anton Dermota,  Irmgard Seefried,  Rosette Anday,  Paul Schöffler  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Rafael Kubelik,  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  James Levine  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Arnold Schoenberg Choir,  Kuchl String Quartet  ... 
    CD: $175.49
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  • 6.
    Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 / Furtwangler
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350130 Release Date: 03/24/2017  
    Composer:  Anton Bruckner,  Richard Wagner
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 7.
    Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3, Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8 / Furtwangler
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350127 Release Date: 01/06/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 8.
    First Vienna School / Furtwangler
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350126 Release Date: 09/30/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 9.
    The Originals, Vol. 2
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002534902 Release Date: 09/09/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Helmut Walcha,  Nathan Milstein,  Géza Anda,  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay,  Carlo Maria Giulini,  Eugen Jochum,  Wolfgang Schneiderhan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Vienna Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $142.49
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  • 10.
    Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies / Furtwangler
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556699 Release Date: 08/26/2016   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
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  • 11.
    The Menuhin Century: Luxury Edition
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 555050 Release Date: 04/22/2016   Number of Discs: 91
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny,  Arcangelo Corelli  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Hubert Giesen,  Artur Balsam,  Marcel Gazelle  ... 
    Conductor:  Landon Ronald,  Pierre Monteux,  Jean Fournet,  Anatole Fistoulari  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Paris Symphonic Orchestra,  Colonne Concerts Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $250.99
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  • 12.
    The Menuhin Century: The Historic Recordings
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 555052 Release Date: 04/22/2016   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonín Dvorák,  Niccolò Paganini  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Gerald Moore,  George Enescu,  David Oistrakh  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Edward Elgar,  George Enescu,  Pierre Monteux,  Sir John Barbirolli  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Paris Symphonic Orchestra,  Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire  ... 
    CD: $58.49
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  • 13.
    Yehudi: The Art of Menuhin
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 554924 Release Date: 04/08/2016   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Giovanni Battista Viotti,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Paul Cocker,  Hephzibah Menuhin,  Louis Kentner  ... 
    Conductor:  Alberto Lysy,  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Efrem Kurtz,  Sir Adrian Boult  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bath Festival Orchestra,  Robert Masters Chamber Orchestra,  Camerata Lysy  ... 
    CD: $14.99
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  • 14.
    Deutsche Grammophon: The Mono Era (1948-1957)
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002457272 Release Date: 03/18/2016   Number of Discs: 51
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Frédéric Chopin,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Stefan Askenase,  Shura Cherkassky,  Halina Czerny-Stefanska,  Basile Bolotine  ... 
    Conductor:  Karel Ancerl,  Karl Böhm,  Serge Jaroff,  Leopold Ludwig  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amadeus Quartet,  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $145.99
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  • 15.
    Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4, Manfred Overture / Furtwangler
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350119 Release Date: 03/04/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Schumann
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
    SuperAudio CD: $24.99
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  • 16.
    111: 6 Classic Recordings [6 LP]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: B002438901 Release Date: 01/15/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Robert Schumann,  Antonín Dvorák,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Karl Ridderbusch,  Hans Haselbock,  Julia Hamari  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Herbert von Karajan,  Leonard Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Concert Choir  ... 
    LP: $130.99
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  • 17.
    Schubert: Symphony No. 9; Beethoven: Finale of the Symphony No. 9 / Furtwӓngler
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350085 Release Date: 01/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Elsa Cavelti,  Otto Edelmann,  Ernst Hafliger,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Lucerne Festival Chorus
    SuperAudio CD: $24.99
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  • 18.
    111: The Collector's Editions [111 CDs]
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002422702 Release Date: 12/11/2015   Number of Discs: 111
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Maurice Ravel,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  David Oistrakh,  Igor Oistrakh,  Sviatoslav Richter,  Martha Argerich  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado,  Daniel Barenboim,  Lorin Maazel,  Franz Konwitschny  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Amadeus Quartet,  Paris Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $325.49
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  • 19.
    Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 / Furtwangler, Philharmonia Orchestra [Vinyl]
    Label: Audite   Catalog: AUD80461 Release Date: 10/09/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Ernst Haefliger,  Elsa Cavelti,  Otto Edelmann,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lucerne Festival Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra
    LP: $39.99
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  • 20.
    Beethoven, Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 552122 Release Date: 09/18/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Felix Mendelssohn
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    CD: $13.99
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  • 21.
    Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350074 Release Date: 03/10/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Edwin Fischer
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    SuperAudio CD: $24.99
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  • 22.
    Furtwangler Conducts Beethoven - The Complete Symphonies & Selected Overtures
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 942 Release Date: 12/17/2014   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Irmgard Seefried,  Rosette Anday,  Anton Dermota,  Paul Schöffler
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Singakademie
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  • 23.
    Beethoven: Symphony No 9 / Furtwangler, Schwarzkopf, Cavelti, Haefliger, Edelmann
    Label: Audite   Catalog: 92641 Release Date: 11/18/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Otto Edelmann,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Elsa Cavelti,  Ernst Haefliger
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Lucerne Festival Chorus
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  • 24.
    Beethoven: Symphony No 9 / Furtwangler, Schwarzkopf, Cavelti, Haefliger, Edelmann
    Label: Audite   Catalog: 95641 Release Date: 11/18/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Ernst Haefliger,  Elsa Cavelti,  Otto Edelmann,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Lucerne Festival Chorus
    CD: $14.99
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  • 25.
    Weber: Der Freischutz / Furtwangler, Grummer, Hopf, Streich
    Label: Urania Records   Catalog: 121166 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Maria von Weber
    Performer:  Hans Hopf,  Oskar Czerwenka,  Alfred Poell,  Rita Streich  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $29.99
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