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28 April 2019

What Parisian, catholic or not, has not been deeply moved by the tragic images and news we have received from all over concerning the fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris? They are many who, in France and throughout the world, have felt this same body blow: in just a few moments some 800 years of history seemed to evaporate with heavy clouds of smoke.

Because we must not resign ourselves to tragedy and instead think of the future, because an association devoted to art may not enclose itself in narrow confinement without taking note of what happens right next to it, the SWF is making a donation to the Fondation pour la Patrimoine.​​

22 April 2019

It has become a habit with SWF: a disc falls out of stock and is replaced by a download.

The concert in Amsterdam, 13 July 1950, released only three years ago in a double album, has been a victim of its own success and will appear as a download in a few weeks’ time, with the advantage of being in high definition. Of course the pack will include the sleeve notes, and in addition, these will be enhanced with illustrations in higher definition.

So… see you very soon!

17 April 2019

In 1953 the time was long past when almost every Furtwängler concert in Berlin featured an instrumental or vocal soloist, and when all the big names appeared under his baton. Apart from the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, there were few masters of the bow, and only Wolfgang Schneiderhan seems to have been favoured by the conductor a number of times.

Here we encounter this former Vienna concertmaster in a familiar concert, given on 17, 18 and 19 May 1953; his interpretation of the Beethoven Concerto has long been in the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue.

A facsimile of the programme can be seen here


11 April 2019

From now until the celebrations of the SWF’s fiftieth anniversary, we shall post memories of ‘former greats’ of the association.

The wrong person

I am not the oldest: only 33 years with the SWF… When I arrived it seemed to me it would be a good idea to highlight an aspect of Furtwängler that had been rather neglected: the composer. In 1989, for the twentieth anniversary of the SWF, the association organised a grand Furtwängler evening marked by the French premiere of his Second Sonata for violin and piano. Members of the Furtwängler family, led by Elisabeth, had come over especially for this.

To mark the occasion we ‘ceremoniously’ awarded to Dagmar Bella-Sturli (1920-1999), one of Furtwängler’s daughters, and a pianist and teacher in Vienna, ‘her’ disc, in other words our vinyl record of the concert that included Mozart’s Concerto for two pianos, in which she was the partner of Paul Badura-Skoda, both being accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by her father (8 February 1949). We made this record from an archival tape acquired (at some cost…) from Badura-Skoda.

The next day she came to our home for lunch with Elisabeth and Andreas. I played the record for them. She smiled and announced: “Yet that is not myself… I remember very well: I was the first piano, Paul the second; now I readily recognise the hand of Paul, but on the first piano…, it is not I who am playing”.

It should be added that it always appeared to us strange that this recording was of such good quality for the time and that, miraculously, nobody in the audience had had a cold in that winter of 1949! We were well and truly taken in…

The egg on my face! I don’t know by what ploy I managed to preserve my dignity, cursing certain pianist…

Stéphane Topakian

PS: This ‘fake’ Furtwängler has since been identified: Badura-Skoda was playing alongside Jörg Demus, Hans Swarowsky wielding the baton.

5 April 2019

Conductors today will soon be wearing jeans and a T-shirt on the podium! The days are long gone of dress shirts and wing collars… You needed time to get all that together.

“And then he had to put on his outfit… and the sartorial harassment might have an unfortunate effect on a superstitious artiste…”
(Charles Munch, Je suis chef d’orchestre, Ed. du Conquistador, 1954)

Furtwängler in the wings. Concert in Munich, Deutsches Museum, with the Berlin Philharmonic, early 1930s. (Archives of the Berliner Philharmoniker)