A close shave

Bayreuth 1931 welcomed Furtwängler for the first time and it was also the first time, after lengthy negotiations with the Festival, that the radio broadcast a performance live: Tristan und Isolde.

We were almost deprived of all that and even of Furtwängler himself for ever.

For a reason that escapes us, and in order to get to Bayreuth from Berlin on Sunday 14 June — the rehearsals beginning there on the fifteenth — he accepted the invitation of an acquaintance to go there by plane. Not a passenger aircraft, there were hardly any at that time, no: a sports plane, a Daimler-Klemm L20, a two-seater, bearing the registration number D-609, one similar to that in the photograph below.

The only problem was that the pilot, at about 6 pm, wanting to make a stopover to refuel, mistook the airport of Halle-Nietleben for that of Halle-Leipzig, badly calculated his descent and took a nose dive into a field of rye. The plane was overturned, and Furtwängler (as Elisabeth told the author of this note), as a good sportsman, curled up into a ball in the cabin. More scared than hurt: the plane was ready for the scrapheap, yet Furtwängler and the pilot were unharmed, and the conductor was free to continue on his way with what was a safer mode of transportation at the time: the train.

10 February 2019

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