Furtwängler “in a concert”, we know that well enough! Just think of it, he conducted more than 3000! However, as for Furtwängler “at a concert”, in other words attending a concert, we have in fact very few records.
Here is a visual document: a private concert in Berlin in 1936, at which Maria Reining gave a recital of lieder by Brahms.
After a conversation with his friend André François-Poncet, the French ambassador in Berlin, Furtwängler was able to settle down comfortably in order to appreciate the singer’s artistry from amongst the audience for once.
So the 19th was a great day, marked as it was by the 50th anniversary of the SWF.
We shall talk about the General Assembly at some future date, presenting to you a copy of the report.
This 50th anniversary was the occasion for an exceptional concert, one that will without question remain etched in the memories of those who were present for a very long time. The Varian Fry Quartet, who made their debut in France on this occasion, proved itself to be of the very highest quality. At the request of the musicians, the programme order was modified: Schubert – Beethoven – Ravel. The breadth of tone, the precision of the tuning, the masterly readings of the scores, the total investment of the players received particular praise.
As announced in the programme (reproduced on the ‘Concerts’ page), the concert was also recorded, and this should become available for streaming by members before the end of the year.
Wait a minute! Don’t imagine Furtwängler in a jogging suit padding around the Bois de Vincennes. Simply put, in the company of a few officials he took part in a ceremony before a monument surrounded by mystery and totally unknown to the people of Vincennes and their Parisian neighbours.
The first lecture of the season — see this page for details — will be devoted to an orchestra dear among all others to the ears of Furtwänglerians: the Philharmonia of London, the orchestra of the 1952 Tristan.
This will also be an opportunity to listen once more to our favourite lecturer, Sami Habra.
This Wednesday 23 October at 8pm.
A month ago we published a facsimile of the programme for the Berlin Philharmonic’s concert in Essen on 11 May 1951, the penultimate performance of their tour which ended the next day in Münster. One might have hoped for some rest for Furtwängler, who had been on the road for more than a month! But not a bit of it; he went on to give a subscription concert with the Vienna Philharmonic on the 19th and 20th of the same month. The facsimile can be seen here.
And don’t imagine that this is an unadventurous programme. It certainly includes Beethoven’s Fifth, but this is preceded by Walton’s Scapino Overture and Franck’s Symphony in D!
The microphones seen in the photo above, taken on 19 May, broadcast the concert, but the radio station, Rot-Weiss-Rot, does not seem to have preserved it…
It was announced a long time ago and now the dream that became a project has become reality: the 50th anniversary of the SWF will be celebrated on Saturday 19 October.
There is still time to join us.
Here now available is the new release of the SWF: the download (high definition and CD format) of the Schubert concert that Furtwängler and his Viennese gave at the Konserthuset of Stockholm on 12 May 1943.
We do not have the whole concert. Lacking are the Overture to Rosamunde, the slow movement of the Unfinished and a good part of the encore: The Emperor Waltz by Strauss. Yet the essence is still present: the 9th, the ‘Great’, amplified by a highly Viennese interpretation with regard to style, a performance out of the ordinary, and above all in a relaxed spirit. We are far from Berlin and its very dark 9th, from the abyss of a nation at war: the musicians seem to have rediscovered peace in a country that neutrality kept away from the sombre agitation of those years
Yet first and foremost we must insist on the excellence of the aural result. Swedish Radio, that provided us with a copy from its archive, did its job well, and — apart from some slight background noise (conservation of the direct engraving discs 33rpm/40 cm) — we benefit from a recording that does justice to the phrasing, to the incredible dynamics, to the rich colours of the woodwind, the opulence of the brass and the seduction of the strings.
A release of this recording has never before reached such a pinnacle, and the merit for this belongs notably to the Studio Art et Son (Christophe Hénault). The release reprints, for the notes (bilingual), the very beautiful text drawn up by the late Lee Schipper for the first vinyl pressing, in addition to articles that appeared in the Austrian papers on the occasion of this nordic tour of 1943.
ProQuartet — the principal association devoted to chamber music and notably to the quartet – brings us its support for the presentation of our concert of the 19th.
Every year, the Association ProQuartet-European Chamber Music Centre takes over the most emblematic venues of the capital as part of the ‘Nuit Blanche à Paris’ (White Night in Paris).
This year too, the finest international ensembles such as the quartets Agate, Piatti, Harold, Elmire, Kuss, Arod, Yako, Mona, Cheng, Maurice and Tchalik will perform masterpieces of yesterday’s and today’s repertories in the course of the Nuit du Quatuor (Night of the Quartet). In an atmosphere of intimacy and unreality, the public will be able at no cost to take advantage of these concerts held within the mythical hall of the Nymphéas of Claude Monet at the Musée de l’Orangerie. This year the public will be able to hear in a pre-premiere three unpublished works composed by pupils of the composition class of the Paris Conservatory.
Access: Musée de l’Orangerie – Jardin des Tuileries – Place de la Concorde, Paris
And that’s not all! ProQuartet is also the Nuit du trio (Night of the Trio).
The ordinary General Meeting of the SWF will be held on 19 October next at 4.30 pm at the Centre Universitaire Malesherbes, 108 bd Malesherbes, Paris. You will find the invitation, together with the agenda and a reply-coupon in the rubric Invitations and minutes of our site.
A new feature: there is no longer any need to send in a reply-coupon. An electronic form will enable you to reply to the matter of your presence or of giving procuration to someone else if you are not able to attend. This form will also be found on the page ‘Invitations and minutes’.
As already announced, this General Meeting of the fiftieth anniversary will be followed by a concert in the Salle Cortot, right next to the venue for our AGM. Read the information about this concert
NB: As the Centre Malesherbes is a public establishment, access to it is controlled, and we warmly recommend you send in the reply-coupon in order to facilitate entrance.
From now until the celebrations of the SWF’s fiftieth anniversary, we shall post memories of ‘former greats’ of the association.
A beautiful story
It is said that the ineffable cannot be told, yet nonetheless I shall try!
I was thirteen (1961) when the film Goodby Again (Aimez-vous Brahms) appeared in the cinemas. About the film, nothing. Yet my parents had offered me for my tenth birthday a Teppaz record player. And my brother, who had seen the film as he was old enough, offered me the 3rd Symphony of Brahms in a recording by the Berliner Philharmoniker made on 13 December 1949. It was winter, as was clear from all the coughing. Antibiotics were no doubt not yet (very much) in fashion. No matter, the conductor had me enthralled.
From that day onwards, anything to do with Furtwängler could not escape me. I spent my time in record shops searching for treasures.
Some time later, in 1969, I made the decision to contact admirers of the great conductor. There must surely be others, though I did not know to what extent! So I decided to write to music magazines in vogue at the time: Diapason, Harmonie and others, in order to seek out soulmates who (was it possible?) would have the same admiration for Furtwängler as I.
That same year, when I had almost completed my mailing, on the radio station France Musique, Pierre Massé announced the birth, in Bordeaux, of a Société Wilhelm Furtwängler and he presented us with the B side of Beethoven’s Fifth. I can still remember it. To be listened to “on your knees”, he said.
My now superfluous letters tossed away, I quickly joined the Société that would fulfil my dreams by enabling me to discover all (or almost) about the supremely illustrious conductor. There I got to know Sami and I still sometimes wonder if I did not attend the lectures of the SWF primarily for his wit. And the much lamented and friendly Benoît Lejay. And then all these masterpieces!
Today I host a programme on one of the last remaining free radios in France and on it I broadcast from time to time works conducted by Furtwängler, or played by him on the piano, sometimes even his own compositions. Yet not too often. Some of them I keep jealously for no-one but myself. The ones I would taken with me on a desert island!
Thank you to the Société Wilhelm Furtwängler for existing.
Michel Ponte (August 2019)