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8 March 2024

In the news article of February 22, we raised an enigma: did Furtwängler perform in Berlin as early as 1915, long before he performed with the Philharmonic?

Investigations brought results: yes, Furtwängler did conduct the Blüthner Orchester in 1915. It was on March 19, in the Blüthnersaal photo below, for a charity concert to support survivors of the Navy.

Performing with him were Joachim’s pupil, violinist Waldemar Meyer (1853-1940), Austrian soprano Hedwig Francillo-Kauffmann (1879-1948) and baritone Sydney Biden (1873-1957).

The programme (compiled from articles):
– Gluck: Overture for Alceste,
– Beethoven: Leonore III Overture
– Strauss: Tod und Verklärung
– Mendelssohn: Concerto for violin (W. Meyer)
– with Hedwig Francillo-Kauffmann:
   – Haendel: Aria with flute, from L’Allegro, il Pensieroso ed il Moderato,
   – Verdi: Aria from Traviata and/or Meyerbeer: “Ombre légère” from Dinorah
– with Sydney Binen: Beethoven: “An die Hoffnung” (orch. Mottl)

1 March 2024

Selling off the stock of CDs and closing the box

You may have noticed some changes and new features here: a new look for the site, the introduction of streaming and the launch of the YouTube channel.

Now we’re making another major change: as the title says, we’ve decided to sell off our stock of compact discs and close the storage space (a car park box).

Of course, it is your right to know the reasons for this.

Sales of our CDs have fallen off sharply over the last 2 or 3 years. At present, they barely cover a third of the annual cost of our box (rent and insurance), so we’re losing several hundred euros a year — money we could use better elsewhere.

On the other hand, since 2017 we have stopped publishing physical media and moved towards downloading, supplemented by streaming. The references currently on CD will not disappear: they will gradually be streamed. In a way, this change is a logical follow-up to those made since the last General Meeting, during which we promised you a renewed and modernised SWF.

To clear our stock, which still contains more than 4,000 items, we are offering a final sale consisting of a pack (SWF 2024) containing one copy of each available reference of the French society’s CDs, referenced SWF xxx. — View the catalogue

To order : SWF 2024

The price is €30

Shipping costs of €10 (France/EU/Switzerland/Monaco) or €20 (rest of the world) will be charged in addition.

This special promotion runs from March 1 to March 22. Orders will be dispatched between 23 March and 10 April.

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.

25 January 2024

A quick glance at the cover of this programme reveals only “Concertgebouw” in large letters printed across the top. A closer look reveals that this is not one of Furtwängler’s rare concerts with this orchestra, but a performance on tour by the Berlin Philharmonic. And looking even more closely, this is no longer Amsterdam, but The Hague…

There’s nothing unusual about this all-Beethoven line-up.

But this evening of February 8, 1932, and others around it, deserve our attention for a very special reason. Furtwängler and his orchestra are accompanied by an unusual guest, photographer Erich Salomon — who disappeared in 1944 in the Theresin camp — the man who was once called “the King of the Indiscreet”, so successful was he in capturing politicians and artists at a glance with his little Leica.

He was close enough to Furtwängler for the latter to allow him to take snapshots during his breakfast in Potsdam! In any case, the result is a unique and remarkable report on Furtwängler and his 1932 tour, and in particular on his stopover in The Hague: an impressive number of shots, of which here is an example, taken during the “Sitzprobe”.

18 January 2024

It’s been many years since we heard the precarious recording of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, made at their premiere — or dress rehearsal? — on May 22, 1950 in London. Kirsten Flagstad was the performer — chosen by Strauss himself — accompanied by the Philharmonia conducted by Furtwängler.

Comments on the origins of the recording abounded, most of them attributing the initiative to Walter Legge, head of the Philharmonia, rather than to the BBC.

A press article, which has gone completely unnoticed, shed some light on the subject. It appeared in La Presse, a Parisian newspaper launched in 1836, which ceased to be a daily and then barely a weekly, disappearing altogether in 1952. The unsigned article appeared in the June 11, 1950 issue, with the headline “Un maharadjah ressuscite la musique de Strauss” [“A maharajah brings Strauss’s music back to life”].

It explains how the maharajah of Mysore (Jaya Chamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur), a patron of the orchestra, had made the concert possible by guaranteeing the income, in order to allow the posthumous premiere of the composer’s last song, which had died eight months before; and concludes :

« The singer’s triumph would have been complete, had the man who made it possible been present. But the maharajah, detained in his homeland by his duties as sovereign, was not in London.
It won’t be long, however, before he gets to know the last four lieder on which he has spent so much money: Kirsten Flagstad’s voice has been engraved in wax, and the discs have been flown the day after the concert to Mysore, where the maharajah is waiting to grant them a place of honor in his record library, which numbers no less than twenty thousand recordings. »

(Source Gallica/BnF)

10 January 2024

The Wilhelm Furtwängler Centre of Japan released a new 3-CD album, entirely devoted to Beethoven’s two 9th Symphonies of 1954.

The 3 CDs include:
– the rehearsals of the 3rd and 4th movements, on 8 August 1954
– the Bayreuth concert on 9 August 1954
– the Lucerne concert on 22 August 1954.

It also includes the interview with Henri Jaton of 1954, and is attached the facsimile of the Bayreuth programme.

The box is available for €43/ $47 (6800 yen). If you wish to download the high definition files, it will cost you €13 / $14 extra (2000 yen). Of course, you must first join the Centre.

Here is the link:

3 January 2024

This is the time of good wishes. May this new year bring you and your loved ones as much happiness as possible.

For the SWF, after a decisive year (several products and studies in download, the youtube channel, streaming, etc.), the new one is also very beautiful, with new products (Vienna, Stockholm, Bayreuth, etc.).

A few years ago, the issue of the download of Beethoven’s 9th of March 1942 (SWF D01) was accompanied by the facsimile of the concert programme. The scan was not of very good quality: we reworked it, and the new facsimile joins the now long list of ‘Get the programme’.

Link to the document

23 December 2023

On the online shop is now available a new SWF product, D13, featuring the concert given by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra on 27 August 1947:
– Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 with Adrian Aeschbacher,
– Beethoven: Leonore III Overture,
– Brahms: Symphony No. 1

The Concerto is played by a young man and… an older man. But who is the younger of the two? As for the Symphony, performed by a white-hot orchestra, there’s nothing mellow about it, like the various Viennese versions. It is rather similar to the one performed three years later in Amsterdam.

The product is available as a download (HD and CD format) from the shop, priced at €14, and as a streaming album for those who have subscribed to the service. Please note that the digital package comes with a detailed booklet featuring a host of rare photos.

This edition differs from its predecessors (we published it as an LP many years ago…) by using the original source digitised in high definition.

Christophe Hénault — to whom we owe most of our reissues over the last few years — has kept the processing to a minimum so as not to ‘dumb down’ the musical message. Read the article “Some technical background”.

18 December 2023

For those interested in restoration techniques, here is an overview of the work carried out by Christophe Hénault, the sound engineer who has been preparing our products for some years now. Read further.

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