C0354. WILHELM FURTWÄNGLER Cond. Vienna Phil.: Wilhelm Furtwängler – Die Salzburger Orchesterkonzerte, incl. Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Bruckner, Strauss, Pfitzner, Stravinsky & Hindemith. (Germany) 8-Orfeo C 409 048, Live Performances 1949-54, w.Elaborate Brochure. Final Copy! - 4011790409825
"Wilhelm Furtwängler was undoubtedly the living embodiment of the highest ideals of German music of the last century, and he undeniably lived through the worst imaginable catastrophe for his country. After he was allowed to conduct again in 1947, Furtwängler resumed his leadership of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic and thereby the leadership of German musical life. With the Vienna Philharmonic, Furtwängler also gave ten concerts at the Salzburg Festival between 1947 and his death in 1954, concerts that show the living embodiment of the highest musical ideals having been harshly tested and severely chastened, but ultimately thoroughly transformed and wholly transfigured. In this eight-disc set drawn from seven of those ten concerts, Furtwängler's performances are communal sacraments enacted before an international festival audience. Tested and chastened, Furtwängler's interpretations are expansive and inclusive, exalted and exhilarating, awesome and ecstatic, luminous and numinous, sublime and humane. They are not without flaws: the opening of the finale of Hindemith's 'Die Harmonie der Welt' 1951 is out of tune, portions of the 'Grosse Fugue' from 1954 are out of sync, most of Stravinsky's 'Symphony in Three Movements' from 1950 is out of temper, and the Beethoven 'Ninth' from 1951 is more harshly severe than the celebratory Ninth from the opening Bayreuth Festival a few weeks earlier. However most of the performances - the passionate Brahms Fourth and magnificent Beethoven Third from 1950, the glorious Bruckner Fifth and the fervent 'Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen' with Fischer-Dieskau in 1951 - are among the greatest ever made. Most revelatory is Furtwängler's playing the solo cadenza of Bach's Fifth Brandenburg on the piano in 1950. Alone with the music before all eternity, Furtwängler meditates on creation and destruction, on transformation and transfiguration. Orfeo's remastering is as good as possible."
- Ned Ludd
“Few other musicians are more intertwined in debates around collaboration, passive resistance, and the relationship between art and politics as the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. Forty seven years old when the Nazis came to power, Furtwängler was at the peak of his career, perceiving himself (and perceived by others) as a representative and defender of Germany’s glorious musical heritage. The son of a renowned archaeologist, he was born to a conservative bourgeois Berlin family in 1886. He was raised to believe in the supremacy of ‘German-ness’, a supremacy not linked to race but rather to spiritual and artistic creativity. Like many elites of his time, he saw the ‘Jewish question’ as one of culture rather than of race. Having studied music in Munich, the young Furtwängler acquired increasingly illustrious positions through the early part of the century. In 1922 he was named music director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and during the inter-war years he conducted regularly at the top opera houses in Europe. By the time of Hitler’s ascent to power, he was perceived by many to be Germany’s greatest conductor.
The initial rise to power of the Nazis was welcomed by Furtwängler, as by many other conservatives in Germany. Opposed to the perceived radicalism and immorality of the Weimar Republic, and drawn to the order and ‘German values’ that the Nazis promised to provide, the conductor hoped that the Nazi party would increase pay and job security for the nation’s musicians, and focus on developing the prestige and pre-eminence of the German musical tradition. As the director of the bankrupt Berlin Philharmonic, he welcomed the Nazis’ sense of urgency over the state of the nation’s arts.
Furtwängler was by no means an ideal or self-evident puppet for the Nazis; throughout his career, he made it clear that it was his desire for beautiful music, not the desire to gain political favour, that motivated his decisions. On the one hand, he was in many ways a conservative man, something that found favour with the Party. In the midst of the experimental and avant-garde 1920s, he publicly avowed his distaste for modern music such as swing, jazz, and atonal music. On the other hand, he did not ignore musical talent for the sake of these convictions. He employed many Jewish musicians in his orchestra, and maintained friendships with members of the Jewish German élite. In 1933, however, an era began in which the separation of art and politics became simply impossible.”