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25 January 2024

A quick glance at the cover of this programme reveals only “Concertgebouw” in large letters printed across the top. A closer look reveals that this is not one of Furtwängler’s rare concerts with this orchestra, but a performance on tour by the Berlin Philharmonic. And looking even more closely, this is no longer Amsterdam, but The Hague…

There’s nothing unusual about this all-Beethoven line-up.

But this evening of February 8, 1932, and others around it, deserve our attention for a very special reason. Furtwängler and his orchestra are accompanied by an unusual guest, photographer Erich Salomon — who disappeared in 1944 in the Theresin camp — the man who was once called “the King of the Indiscreet”, so successful was he in capturing politicians and artists at a glance with his little Leica.

He was close enough to Furtwängler for the latter to allow him to take snapshots during his breakfast in Potsdam! In any case, the result is a unique and remarkable report on Furtwängler and his 1932 tour, and in particular on his stopover in The Hague: an impressive number of shots, of which here is an example, taken during the “Sitzprobe”.

18 January 2024

It’s been many years since we heard the precarious recording of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, made at their premiere — or dress rehearsal? — on May 22, 1950 in London. Kirsten Flagstad was the performer — chosen by Strauss himself — accompanied by the Philharmonia conducted by Furtwängler.

Comments on the origins of the recording abounded, most of them attributing the initiative to Walter Legge, head of the Philharmonia, rather than to the BBC.

A press article, which has gone completely unnoticed, shed some light on the subject. It appeared in La Presse, a Parisian newspaper launched in 1836, which ceased to be a daily and then barely a weekly, disappearing altogether in 1952. The unsigned article appeared in the June 11, 1950 issue, with the headline “Un maharadjah ressuscite la musique de Strauss” [“A maharajah brings Strauss’s music back to life”].

It explains how the maharajah of Mysore (Jaya Chamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur), a patron of the orchestra, had made the concert possible by guaranteeing the income, in order to allow the posthumous premiere of the composer’s last song, which had died eight months before; and concludes :

« The singer’s triumph would have been complete, had the man who made it possible been present. But the maharajah, detained in his homeland by his duties as sovereign, was not in London.
It won’t be long, however, before he gets to know the last four lieder on which he has spent so much money: Kirsten Flagstad’s voice has been engraved in wax, and the discs have been flown the day after the concert to Mysore, where the maharajah is waiting to grant them a place of honor in his record library, which numbers no less than twenty thousand recordings. »

(Source Gallica/BnF)

10 January 2024

The Wilhelm Furtwängler Centre of Japan released a new 3-CD album, entirely devoted to Beethoven’s two 9th Symphonies of 1954.

The 3 CDs include:
– the rehearsals of the 3rd and 4th movements, on 8 August 1954
– the Bayreuth concert on 9 August 1954
– the Lucerne concert on 22 August 1954.

It also includes the interview with Henri Jaton of 1954, and is attached the facsimile of the Bayreuth programme.

The box is available for €43/ $47 (6800 yen). If you wish to download the high definition files, it will cost you €13 / $14 extra (2000 yen). Of course, you must first join the Centre.

Here is the link:

3 January 2024

This is the time of good wishes. May this new year bring you and your loved ones as much happiness as possible.

For the SWF, after a decisive year (several products and studies in download, the youtube channel, streaming, etc.), the new one is also very beautiful, with new products (Vienna, Stockholm, Bayreuth, etc.).

A few years ago, the issue of the download of Beethoven’s 9th of March 1942 (SWF D01) was accompanied by the facsimile of the concert programme. The scan was not of very good quality: we reworked it, and the new facsimile joins the now long list of ‘Get the programme’.

Link to the document