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22 February 2024

Among the many autograph letters by Furtwängler available on online sales sites, there’s one that strikes a nerve among us Furtwänglerologists. It is dated March 29, 1915, and addressed to the director of the Blüthner Orchester, from Lübeck, where Furtwängler was the conductor of the Verein for a few more weeks.

This very independent ensemble from Berlin, founded in 1907 and merged with the Berlin Symphony in 1925, had a very adventurous programming strategy involving young conductors and soloists. Eugène Ormandy performed there at the age of 18, and Edgar Varèse premiered one of his first works.

In the letter, Furtwängler mentions the invoice he received from the Orchestra (which he no longer finds) for the hiring of extra musicians, and ends the message with the request to kindly express to the musicians his gratitude and satisfaction for the concert…

Which concert? The lists documenting the conductor’s activity from 1906 to 1954 place Furtwängler’s first appearance in Berlin on December 14, 1917, conducting the Philharmonic. However, the terms of this letter are explicit: he conducted a concert in March, or even February, more than two years earlier, leading the Blüthner Orchester.

Can anyone give us some information?

15 February 2024

We were about to pusblish a wanted notice…

We found the following poster on the Internet, which caught our attention and made our thoughts wander. This was in London, in the 1924-1925 season of the London Symphony. It informs us that tomorrow — yes, tomorrow, but what date? — Furtwängler will conduct a fine program including Lalo’s Cello Concerto, performed by the great Pablo Casals.

But this concert was not on any list. Not even in John Hunt’s Furtwängler and Great Britain. So what happened? Was the concert cancelled?

Fortunately, the LSO archives are well kept — thanks to Libby Rice — and we now know that this concert did indeed take place, on November 24, 1924, four days after another with the Royal Philharmonic.

Our database has been updated.

8 February 2024

When Furtwängler arrived in Leipzig at the end of January 1922 for a concert scheduled for the 26th, the news was already in: Arthur Nikisch had died the day before. The concert therefore shifted to a commemorative tribute, and the programme changed: Coriolan, Brahms’ Vier ernste Gesänge with Sigrid Onegin, and the Eroica.

Nevertheless, some (notably the family) thought the complete performance of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony was unwelcome, while only the slow movement — the Marcia funebra — or even the 1st movement, seemed appropriate.

The programme, already printed, was once again modified, leaving only the Funeral March from the Eroica, with Michael Raucheisen replacing Günther Ramin to perform with Sigrid Onegin.

Here are the two front pages of the programmes. Before and after.

1 February 2024

The Streaming collection is today expanded to include works from the 20th century, including Furtwängler’s 1967 “re-premiered” Te Deum.

Paul HINDEMITH: Symphonic Metamorphosis. BPO 1947
Karl HÖLLER: Cello Concerto No. 2. Ludwig Höllscher / BPO 1949
Arthur HONEGGER: Symphonic movement n° 3. BPO 1952
     The work is dedicated to Furtwängler and the BPO.
Maurice RAVEL: Rapsodie espagnole. VPO 1951
Richard STRAUSS: Metamorphosis, for strings. BPO 1947
Wilhelm FURTWÄNGLER: Te Deum
Edith Mathis, Sieglinde Wagner, Georg Jelden, William Dooley
Philharmonischer Chor Berlin / BPO / Hans Chemin-Petit (Berlin 1967)

Stay tuned for new additions.