Wilhelm Furtwängler (conductor)
January 25, 1886 - November 30, 1954
Furtwängler rehearses Brahms's Fourth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948
One of the conducting giants of the first half of the 20th century, Wilhelm Furtwängler was also a composer. His life-long devotion to the music of Beethoven resulted in a series of almost legendary recordings. He worked with a number of German orchestras before heading – concurrently – the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (1922-28) and the Berlin Philharmonic (1922-45, and 1952-54). He remained in Nazi Germany during the war, a move that stirred up a controversy that continues to rage, and which was explored in Ronald Harwood's play Taking Sides (1995, and subsequently filmed).
Furtwängler: a tribute by Christian Thielemann
'For me, Wilhelm Furtwängler is a phenomenon. The way he combined a distinct sense for sound with a flexibility in tempo and an inherent spontaneity in his music-making is unsurpassed. Every one of his performances was different but always revealed a sense for the overall architecture and the build-up of tension. Only the greatest have been able to do that.'
'Man and Myth' (Gramophone, February 2005) by Rob Cowan