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17 April 2019

In 1953 the time was long past when almost every Furtwängler concert in Berlin featured an instrumental or vocal soloist, and when all the big names appeared under his baton. Apart from the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, there were few masters of the bow, and only Wolfgang Schneiderhan seems to have been favoured by the conductor a number of times.

Here we encounter this former Vienna concertmaster in a familiar concert, given on 17, 18 and 19 May 1953; his interpretation of the Beethoven Concerto has long been in the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue.

A facsimile of the programme can be seen here


11 April 2019

From now until the celebrations of the SWF’s fiftieth anniversary, we shall post memories of ‘former greats’ of the association.

The wrong person

I am not the oldest: only 33 years with the SWF… When I arrived it seemed to me it would be a good idea to highlight an aspect of Furtwängler that had been rather neglected: the composer. In 1989, for the twentieth anniversary of the SWF, the association organised a grand Furtwängler evening marked by the French premiere of his Second Sonata for violin and piano. Members of the Furtwängler family, led by Elisabeth, had come over especially for this.

To mark the occasion we ‘ceremoniously’ awarded to Dagmar Bella-Sturli (1920-1999), one of Furtwängler’s daughters, and a pianist and teacher in Vienna, ‘her’ disc, in other words our vinyl record of the concert that included Mozart’s Concerto for two pianos, in which she was the partner of Paul Badura-Skoda, both being accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by her father (8 February 1949). We made this record from an archival tape acquired (at some cost…) from Badura-Skoda.

The next day she came to our home for lunch with Elisabeth and Andreas. I played the record for them. She smiled and announced: “Yet that is not myself… I remember very well: I was the first piano, Paul the second; now I readily recognise the hand of Paul, but on the first piano…, it is not I who am playing”.

It should be added that it always appeared to us strange that this recording was of such good quality for the time and that, miraculously, nobody in the audience had had a cold in that winter of 1949! We were well and truly taken in…

The egg on my face! I don’t know by what ploy I managed to preserve my dignity, cursing certain pianist…

Stéphane Topakian

PS: This ‘fake’ Furtwängler has since been identified: Badura-Skoda was playing alongside Jörg Demus, Hans Swarowsky wielding the baton.

5 April 2019

Conductors today will soon be wearing jeans and a T-shirt on the podium! The days are long gone of dress shirts and wing collars… You needed time to get all that together.

“And then he had to put on his outfit… and the sartorial harassment might have an unfortunate effect on a superstitious artiste…”
(Charles Munch, Je suis chef d’orchestre, Ed. du Conquistador, 1954)

Furtwängler in the wings. Concert in Munich, Deutsches Museum, with the Berlin Philharmonic, early 1930s. (Archives of the Berliner Philharmoniker)

29 March 2019

As you know, an association like ours exists only because of you.

For the present our main objective is to ensure the 50th anniversary of the SWF is a great success. This success will only be possible with your help and your support.

Nearly a month ago we set up a fundraising plan with ‘kisskissbankbank’. To date, there has been no activity in connection with it, which is a pity. We have reached less than 20% of the intended figure.

We would like to remind you that a reduction of 60% of the sum donated can be included on your tax return and that for every sum there are compensations.

Also, do not hesitate to send the link to your circle of acquaintances. The Management Committee is always available to answer any questions you may have about the fundraising.

In advance please accept our thanks for your contribution to the success of the fundraising and the 50th anniversary.

The Board


26 March 2019

From 1930 Furtwängler gave almost all his concerts in Paris at the Paris Opera, the so-called Palais Garnier, in homage to the architect of this grandiose building.

We do not have any photos of him at work in the illustrious venue. In recompense, we can offer this photo taken during a rehearsal with the Vienna Philharmonic, in October 1949.

And as there are microphones, we can rightfully dream…

21 March 2019

On 26 February we published — see the news — an article signed by Philippe Jacquard on the set of 22 SCADs issued by the Berliner Philharmoniker. Here is the translation of this article.

20 March 2019

Nothing more ‘well-worn’ than this programme. And yet it hides a particular reality: that of a conductor who wants to leave his mark in the midst of the torment.

This poster refers to his return to the podium of his orchestra and his city of Berlin: in 1935 and in 1947. And it is also refers to his participation in the festival of Munich in 1935.

Here is a facsimile of this programme.


14 March 2019

From now until the celebrations of the SWF’s fiftieth anniversary, we shall post memories of ‘former greats’ of the association.

1969: Inauguration of the SWF in Bordeaux

Presentation by M. Léon, deputy to the then mayor Jacques Chaban-Delmas. Not a single name pronounced correctly. So:

founder members: J.P. Brenchenmüècher instead of Brechenmacher, Henri-Jean Cestas instead of Testas, and inevitably Sam Abraham instead of Sami Habra.

Next came the reading of the list of honorary members, in alphabetic order:

Karl Bohême for Karl Boehm; Pierre Boulet for Pierre Boulez; Germaine Lupin (grand-daughter of the fictional detective Arsène?) for Lubin; Quel Empereur for Otto ​Klemperer, and so on and so on. When it came to Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, everyone was waiting with a broad smile to see how M. Léon would manage that tongue-twister, but the joke was in fact on all of us, as the presenter concluded his list by declaring astutely: “as well as many other famous musicians”!

This remark was greeted by a huge burst of laughter that surprised the presenter.

Sami Habra

8 March 2019

We are not going to present the song popularised by Liza Minnelli, rather to recall that Furtwängler was there three seasons running conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra: 75 concerts!

The archives are available and well deserve being looked at more closely. If one of our members, a citizen of the USA, would like to undertake the task…

The point is, there is a lot to do. If you visit the official site of the Orchestra and go to the page devoted to musical directors, you will learn that in 1928 Toscanini succeeded Mengelberg, who had followed Stransky in 1922. And Furtwängler somewhere in the middle? He does not seem to be present. That led us to exchange a few emails with the curator of the archives. If the documents available for consultation seem to place Mengelberg and Furtwängler on the same level, it is nonetheless the case that the latter cannot be considered as having been (co-) musical director of the NYPO: no responsibility with regard to recruitment or the selection of tours, for example. Let it be noted!

To be true we know that Furtwängler’s time in New York resulted in a series of missed opportunities, and a big clash of political origin; yet even so, to treat a musician of the stature of Furtwängler as just another guest conductor betrays a certain degree of bad faith, clearly apparent since 1927, well before History intervened.

As we wait for a study, let us be satisfied with the only photo (Evening Post) of our conductor in the Carnegie Hall. It is 1926, during a rehearsal.

3 March 2019

In view of some questions, here are some details about the fundraising via Kisskissbankbank.

Any money paid gives rise to a counterpart.

During the fundraising operation, the sums paid are frozen.

If the €2,500 target is not met, the amounts already collected are immediately refunded to donors.

If the target is met or exceeded, counterparts are sent before October 19, and donors—at least French—can deduct 60% of the amount from their taxes.

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