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