For very many years now the SWF has been publishing ‘studies’. Because, in the past, they were printed and addressed to members at the same time as other news items, they were modestly called ‘circulars’, whereas in fact their scope, their importance and the permanence of their publication makes them hard to be considered as mere information bulletins for the members of the association.
These studies have increased in number and in variety, and a good many have been republished in a new digital format. As members are not always aware of the riches they represent, here, quite simply, is a catalogue of these recent studies, and bear in mind that older studies will soon acquire a similar lustre!
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.
The concert of 27 January 1952 was an “all Brahms” programme, with the Double Concerto featuring two soloists of the Vienna Philharmonic.
We already have the sound — the concert was recorded in full; we have a letter from Furtwängler —see the circular—; now we present the facsimile of the programme, and three press clippings for good measure.
Only the SWF makes such documents available!
From now until the celebrations of the SWF’s fiftieth anniversary, we shall from time to time post memories of ‘former greats’ of the association. We start the series with Daniel Cordova.
Eroica for ever
The performances I had known of the Eroica symphony before I joined the newly-formed Furtwängler Society were really few and far between. My late father possessed old 78s of the London Philharmonic version conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, and I remember that, when I was a child, I preferred listening to those of the 2nd Symphony (still of Beethoven) by the same orchestra, yet conducted by Thomas Beecham.
In hindsight I think that this was perhaps not just because the latter used up fewer records than the former…
Indeed, shortly after the birth of the Society — which I had joined principally to be able to re-listen to Furtwängler conducting Brahms’ 4th Symphony, the recording of which was quite unobtainable at the time — the Society had distributed to its members as a ‘preview’ a 17cm long-playing record of (necessarily) short extracts of the recording of this Eroica Symphony as performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Furtwängler in 1944. WHAT A SHOCK! I had certainly not waited till then to think of Furtwängler as a truly great performer – there were three or four records of his in my father’s collection. I noticed with this sample that a performer of this calibre could totally change the point of view I could have concerning a work I had listened to a thousand times. Like his fans, I listened to this sampler-record in a loop for weeks on end… and as I am pathologically conservative, I still have it!
We have already written of the celebrations for our fiftieth anniversary.
For various reasons, the date of the fiftieth anniversary is fixed for Saturday 19 October — and no longer the 12th as indicated in the newsletter of 1 January — and the Board has settled upon the definitive programme.
After our General Assembly and a ‘glass’ among friends, we shall offer you a concert, to be held in the Salle Cortot, a venue steeped in history, an annexe of the École Normale de Musique which this year celebrates the centenary of its foundation by Alfred Cortot.
In order to establish a bridge between the generations and across frontiers, we have chosen to invite a string quartet, the Varian Fry Quartet, comprising young musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, something that brings us even closer to Furtwängler.
We are currently working towards the success of this project, and will keep you posted..
As we have already said, it becomes very complicated to organise lectures in Paris, given the costs of the halls and current time-tables. In addition, and for a long time now, we are well aware that this concerns solely members who live in the region…
One way to mitigate these inconveniences is to create a podcast, addressed to all members, notably by offering an English translation of the spoken contributions. The SWF is working at what could be its first podcast: the ‘pilot’ is currently being prepared so that it can soon be tested by the governing body.
The subject: Furtwängler at the Festival of Görlitz, conjuring up through sound (and image) the contributions of the conductor and his Berliner in the ‘Musical Celebrations in Silesia’ of 1925, 1928 and 1931.
We announced it in November: the SWF offers you a previously unpublished, large-scale study of the centenary celebrations of the Wiener Philharmoniker in March 1942.
This 20-page study contains three sections:
– an historical overview: a snapshot of the Philharmonic at the time drawn up by the well-known chronicler of French media, Christian Merlin,
– a detailed calendar of the various events, with some rare and hitherto unpublished documentation and iconography,
– Furtwängler’s speech in homage to the orchestra
In view of the importance of the document, we have made a point of presenting it also in English (something that cannot be the case for all our studies), including Furtwängler’s speech that had never been included in his ‘Writings’ published in Great Britain. Jeremy Drake has been entrusted with this voluminous work.
Furtwängler speaks to a musician (Vienna, 1939)
The list of Furtwängler’s concerts (v. bottom of the homepage) reveals the recurring, albeit infrequent, participation of Furtwängler as a soloist in his concerts: at the piano for concertante works, but also as a partner in chamber music or an accompanist for singers. In time, such performances became even more infrequent, until he appeared at the keyboard only in the 5th Brandenburg or — albeit for an entire recital and in Salzburg — to accompany Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
It is in a concerto of Mozart that we find him in a concert of the Berliner in Hamburg, on 17 April 1936, and here is a facsimile of the programme.
2019 is not just any old year for the SWF.
In January 1969 an association was born, the Wilhelm Furtwängler Society, which doubtless had no idea that people would one day celebrate its fiftieth anniversary!
This celebration will not be held in January — time is needed to prepare it and hold a General Assembly — but in October next, and in Paris. Already the management team is working to prepare what will be ‘our’ day: the General Assembly, the release of a disc, a cocktail and a big public concert.
Even if it is still very early, make a note in your diary right now for the date Saturday 12 October. Before then we shall have occasion to return to this event.
In the meanwhile, the Board of the SWF wishes you and all who are close to you, a
Happy New Year!
PS: It is also the fiftieth anniversary of “one small step for a man, one giant…”; yet it is obviously less important.
The well-known site ResMusica recently awarded its ‘Clefs d’or’ (Golden Keys) to standout recordings of distinction. And in the selection is a double CD album from Audite, ‘Furtwängler at the Lucerne Festival’, with, notably, Schumann’s Fourth Symphony and a novelty, the Overture to Manfred.
This album had been referenced by Philippe Jacquard in November 2017 as a current news item on our website (see article).
You can consult the article that ResMusica devotes to it.