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2 July 2018

You can smile even as you learn quite a few little things. You will glean some little-known facts if you read this bilingual study, a virtual report of a recording conducted by Furtwängler. The title says it all… or almost!

27 June 2018

It is not often we come across pictures of musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra taken in close-up in the midst of work.

Here are a few, no doubt from 1931, and we have even been able to put a name to each face. Click to enlarge.


And, from the same source, here they all are under the baton of their conductor.

21 June 2018


In its issue no. 25/26 of 26 June 1918, the magazine Signale für die musikalische Welt had a news report from Lübeck: “As guest conductor, Furtwängler — to whom the Lübeck public is greatly attached on account of his activity in the past — conducted The Flying Dutchman with rare force of conviction”.

What about this: an unreported opera performance! There is no date, even if it is clear it was during the spring of 1918, but there is no trace in the known records. Nothing in what has been published concerning his activity in Lübeck and nothing either in his correspondence with Lilli Dieckmann. The nearest we find is this reference in a letter he sent her on 2 May: “It was a pleasure seeing you again in Lübeck…”

So, if you have any info…

Along the same lines we have discovered an unreferenced concert in Landau on 29 June 1920, Furtwängler conducting the Symphony Orchestra of the Palatinate.

15 June 2018
We propose a study by Rudolf Ondrich, graduate of the Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia).
He writes: 'The aim of the article is to demonstrate how Furtwängler's work (both his written philosophy and music making) can be analysed alongside German legal philosophy. The first part of the article analyses Furtwängler's written philosophy of music alongside the work of German jurists Friedrich Carl von Savigny (1779 - 1861) and Carl Schmitt (1888 - 1985). As these thinkers spring forth and come from a common intellectual and cultural tradition, Furtwängler's philosophy of music shares parallels with the work of these German legal philosophers. The second part of the article analyses Furtwängler's 1942 performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for Hitler's birthday through the lens of Schmitt's idea of sovereignty, namely as he who 'decides on the exception' to suspend the normal operation of the law. By suspending the normal love and humanism of the Ninth Symphony and instead conducting it in a violent manner, Furtwängler is able to protect that love and humanism from being associated with the NAZI regime.'
You can read the article here.
10 June 2018

The Berlin concerts of 9 to 12 January 1944 — the facsimile programme for which is now on line, and of which we have the complete recording made on the 9th — represent Furtwängler’s final appearances in the hall of the Philharmonie, which was destroyed in an air raid three weeks later.

This is the moment to recall that this hall, which had been home to the Philharmonic Orchestra since its foundation, was originally an enormous roller-skating rink. The hall was extensively modified six years after the orchestra’s first performances and underwent further changes at the beginning of the twentieth century, resulting in the appearance that it retained until its destruction. The building also housed the Beethovensaal, which remained intact for a few more months, and the Oberlichtsaal, a huge space built on the site of the original garden.

Thereafter the Philharmonic would squat in one hall after another — the Beethovensaal, Staatsoper, Admiralspalast — until April 1945, when it finally found a temporary home in the Titania Palast. But that is another story.

And since we have always seen this hall only in black and white, this 3D reconstruction allows us to appreciate its unusual and decidedly 'mittel-europa' colours.

6 June 2018

Solution to last week's riddle

The first correct answer has come from Thierry Salomon, a French member. A big bravo.

The solution: this photo was taken during a performance of Furtwängler’s Symphonic Concerto by Edwin Fischer and the Vienna Philharmonic, on 14 or 15 January 1939, at the Musikverein.


The clues, even if the photo is not top quality:
- the placement of the cellos (centre-left as seen by the conductor) corresponds to the standard pre-war layout,
- one can recognise the Leader, Franz Mairecker, at the first desk from the spring of 1938,
- it is possible, with an effort, to recognise Edwin Fischer at the piano.
After cross-referencing these clues with the concert listings for Vienna (very few piano concertos with the Philharmonic) only this Concerto by Furtwängler corresponds to the mystery photo.

We have placed this photo in an annexe of the concert record, and offer you, above, a series taken during the rehearsal. Edwin Fischer has his back towards the camera.

31 May 2018

The new SWF website has now been operational for a year, a year we have untiringly and regularly filled with new elements.

To mark the occasion the SWF proposes a little competition in the form of a riddle based on this photo: who is at the piano? and what are they playing?

To get you going, let’s say we are in Vienna… but you probably know that already! The concerts list on this homepage (below) might help you.

The first person to solve the riddle will receive two albums, free of charge, to be chosen from among the following:
- SWF 961-2 Lucerne
- SWF 963 Bruckner n° 6
- SWF 901 Beethoven n° 6
- SWF 902 Brahms/Franck
- SWF 101 Beethoven-Brahms 1943
- WF-GFJ 081-4 Meistersinger

... or a free one year membership if you are not yet a SWF member.

Answers to before 6 June.

24 May 2018

We had no visual records of Furtwängler’s concerts with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The void is now filled with two photos: the Saint Matthew of 16 and 17 April 1935 and Haydn’s Creation of 7 and 8 December 1937. On the other hand, there are no sound documents other than of the Deutsches Requiem of 1951...

And, so no-one is jealous, we have added two photos of the concerts of 11 and 12 February 1939, of the Philharmonic this time; and, notably, the only photo, as far as we know, of Furtwängler accompanying Wolfgang Schneiderhan (Beethoven’s Romance No 2).

These photos can be viewed — by members — simply by clicking above on the corresponding concerts.

18 May 2018

Once upon a time there was a musician, Viennese by adoption, who from a very early age seemed destined for a brilliant future. He was acclaimed as a genius from his first compositions. His name was Erich Korngold, and not for nothing had his father, a musician, given him the auspicious middle name of Wolfgang. The greatest figures of the day leaned over his cradle: Mahler, Strauss, Zemlinsky, Weingartner, Nikisch. And his initial successes, including two operas, Das Ring des Polycrates and Violanta, had confirmed all the predictions. But being named Wolfgang doesn’t make one a Mozart, and though he lacked neither talent nor ambition, the wellsprings of his genius gradually ran dry. For artistic reasons which were soon accompanied by political ones, the composer sought refuge and work in the United States, and in particular in Hollywood, where he got his second wind writing the marvellous scores that accompanied the handsome Errol Flynn in Robin Hood and the lovely Olivia de Havilland in Captain Blood (or vice versa...).

He cherished the hope of returning to the "classical" scene, and after the end of the war he arranged to return to Vienna with a symphony, serenade and concertos in his luggage. Furtwängler played his part, giving the first performance of the Serenade for strings at the Vienna Philharmonic. But the world had changed, and with it Vienna, and Korngold was never to recover the position which he had once briefly occupied.

We present the programme for this world première — 15 January 1950 —, in facsimile, also available from the "Get the programme" page.

12 May 2018

This is a reprint of a study first published in 1997 by the British member and friend of the SWF, Roger Smithson.

In February 1945 Furtwängler fled to Switzerland, where he was allowed to stay but reduced to silence. During this period he was obliged to undergo the process of "denazification", first before an Austrian commission and then one in Berlin. He was finally exonerated, but worn down by the months of difficulties that he faced. And even after the final decision in his favour in December 1946, it would be several months more until he could put it into effect.

In this study Roger Smithson sets out the events of these two troubled years.

6 May 2018

On 10 January last, Felix Matus-Echaiz started work on the Furtwängler-Tchaikovsky connection. His listeners will have the pleasure of finding him once more for the conclusion of his investigations in a lecture to be held on Wednesday 23 May (details on the page Lectures and Concerts).

This will be the final lecture of the season. An opportunity to get together before the summer break!

1 May 2018

We announced it several times, and now it’s a done deal! The SWF has uploaded to its online shop the first downloadable item.

This is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Berlin 1942, and the digital ‘pack’ includes, in addition to the audio files (CD quality + mp3) a varied ensemble of documents in pdf.

Once you are on our shop page, you just have to choose the product SWF D01 and then proceed as for the purchase of a CD, except that at the end of the process, after confirming the contents of your cart, you can download all the files by clicking on the large violet button and then selecting where you want to place them on your computer.

You can also download them from the link appearing in the confirmation email of your order.

Don’t miss this great Premiere!

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