Biography of Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954)

Conductor and German composer born in the city of Berlin on January 25, 1886 and died in Baden-Baden on 30 November 1954.

Wilhelm Furtwängler was born into a cultured family able to appreciate the artistic skills of children virtually since its early years. Her father, archaeologist, and his mother, painter, considered it appropriate to give your child a private education, spent the first years in which the child normally attended classes at a local school, she passed away from contact with other students of their age and in charge of tutors who were already enshrined in various artistic disciplines specialists.

Furtwängler soon showed their preference and their particular skill for the study of music, which his knowledge of other artistic disciplines allowed him to explore a broader perspective. His first intention was the of devoting himself to composition, an activity that started practicing from his early composing various Chamber works, several symphonic movements, at least one Symphony complete and working, as so many other European contemporary and composers before him, on texts by Goethe, as various fragments of Faust or the Walpurgisnacht. However, the first public performances of his works did not obtain the success that the composer would have wanted, which should discourage it, at least momentarily, to follow later in this address. The orchestral direction, however, yes provided Furtwängler not only the medium of life necessary to continue with his musical studies and their creative activity taking place the death of his father in 1907, but also the most direct route into the learning style of the great masters, including that of his admired Beethoven.

The beginnings of his career as a composer were relatively anonymous, allowing him to know and experience the difficulties that would be their profession from the lower echelons. His first position was that of assayer of the theatre of Breslau, whence went to Zurich to be immediately reclaimed by the Munich opera and, later, by the Strasbourg, always occupying high positions hidden behind the prominence of other renowned teachers that, without a doubt, Furtwängler would take advantage of every opportunity to learn. With 25 years was offered his first significant job as director of the opera of Lübeck, followed by an offer of the opera of Mannheim which would give it out as one of the German directors most promising moment. At this time it was crucial for the young Furtwängler the beginning of their relationship with the theorist Heinrich Schenker, who became one of his main advisers interpretive.

From the year 1922, by accepting the post of director of the prestigious Leipziger Gewandhaus Orchestra, it would start to Furtwängler an era in which the most prestigious orchestras of his time open-air their collaboration, and this not only in Europe, but also in America. The musician thus had the opportunity to establish a regular relationship with the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as the New York. The experience of Furtwängler in United States would not always be easy, but at the same time the popularity of the director in European orchestras did not only increase.

The dark years.

Despite the great admiration that the meticulously built race of Furtwängler always in Europe, of the intense level of communication that the particular "gesture" of the director seemed to get in every one of the orchestras with which he had opportunity to collaborate and great personality revealing performances, so rich in sound levels and so daring in the choice of some tempi with which other directors of the time were not always displayed of agreementseveral were musical circles which ended up closing their doors to the German director.

The clearest case of antipathy to the interpretations of Furtwängler, later extended to the personality of the musician, was from the beginning in North America, with the Philharmonic Orchestra of New York at the head. This institution had sent to the musician, from 1925, various invitations to direct; in the beginning, were conflicts with teachers of the Orchestra which gave rise to the birth of some reticence towards the director that would result, at least in the eyes of the vast majority of the audience, in a rivalry between Furtwängler and the also director orchestral Arturo Toscanini, rivalry which, moreover, barely was founded on a real basis. The truth is that each of these directors was based on aesthetic budgets which gave rise to his performances, particularly those of the great symphonic works created by the German romantic composers, are radically different. As well, against the more academic conception of these works feature interpretations of Italian director, the variety of times and nuances that Furtwängler was taking the liberty of introducing versions resulted, in some cases, stronger applause from audiences preferred the personal versions, while in others, the displeasure from some performances that what was imposed wasat least according to the judgment of some of the American criticism, they lacked consistency and faithfulness to the original score that Yes typify those of Toscanini.

The rivalry between both musicians must have been, in any case, a new product of the imagination of critics, bearing in mind that, in 1936, the Toscanini himself suggested the name of Furtwängler to succeed him as director of the Orchestra of the society New York Philharmonic, a position that finally would be not given. Since the end of the second world war, the German director finally became persona non grata in the United States, due to the current of opinion that was its connections and its agreement with the nazi Government. This refusal of the Americans to Furtwängler resulted in a veto to the proposal that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra thought to present the musician so it accepted the post of director of the institution.

The representative role played by Furtwängler in the years of national socialism as a director of the most representative Orchestra of Germany, as well as his insistence on staying in the Germany of Hitler over the years in which other musicians chose to emigrate to the United States or Switzerland, were enough for many give because their communion with the National Socialist doctrines. Thus, became in subsequent years to war in an odious character in several American music circles and, to a lesser extent, also in some Europeans. Against this view, other musicians and followers of the career of Furtwängler have endeavoured to interpret the attitude of the director as the proof of his total conviction about the position of art as a reality beyond the momentary political circumstances. As arguments to support its position, Furtwängler defenders have referred, among others, the resistance of the director to use the greeting nazi during the concerts, as they sent the Ordinances of the era, as well as their efforts to facilitate the escape of several musicians, including some Jews. In any case, hard political responsibilities could require is a mentality so completely dedicated to the research and the artistic expression, so alien to any calculation related to the practical aspects of life as the musician gave samples of own throughout its existence.

Aside from these vicissitudes, Furtwängler continued to carry out in the years following the end of the war an intense musical activity, claimed by orchestras from all over Europe. Its influence has been evident not only in recordings of their performances, most reprinted years later digital editions, but also the teachers who exerted on several generations of musicians, among them the then violist and more late also conductor Carlo Maria Giulini, who had the opportunity to play under his baton during the stage where he was member of the Augusteo Orchestra of Romean of the orchestras with which he collaborated occasionally German director.

Selected discography.

-L. van Beethoven: symphonies 1-9. Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Performers: Schwarzkopf, Hongen, Hopf, Edelmann; Choir of the Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 653-763 606-2 (5 CD)-J. Brahms: Symphony No. 1 Op. 68 in c minor. Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (DG 427 402-2) and the Vienna Philharmonic (EMI 637-252 321 - 2) (6 CD)-J. Brahms: Symphony No. 2 Op. 73 in d major. Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 321 637-252 - 2 (6-CD)-J. Brahms: Symphony No. 3 Op. 90 in f major. Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 321 637-252 - 2 (6-CD)-J. Brahms: Symphony No. 4 Op. 98 in e minor. Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 321 637-252 - 2 (6-CD)-R. Schumann: Symphony No. 4 Op. 120 in d minor. Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. DG 427 404-2-G. Verdi / A. Boito: Otello. Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler. Performers: Martinis, Wagner, Dermota, Jaresch, Vinay, Bierbach, Greindl, Monthy, Schöffler; Chorus of the Vienna State Opera. Philharmonic Orchestra of Vienna.-R. Wagner: Tristan und Isolde. Director: W. Furtwängler. Performers: Flagstad, Thebom, Evans, Schock, Suthaus, Davies, Fischer-Dieskau, Greindl; Covent Garden choir; London Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 667-747 322-8 (4-CD).


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Lucía Díaz Marroquín.