Memories, memories (4)

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)

21 September 2019

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