Politics & Society

Wilhelm Furtwängler

1886 Berlin (Germany) – 1954 Ebersteinburg (Germany)
Conductor, composer
Country: Germany
Wilhelm Furtwängler Zoom Image
Wilhelm Furtwängler

From 1922, he is the principal conductor of the already-famous Berlin Philharmonic. Furtwängler is a much-celebrated public figure in the 1920s and his appointment to the Executive Committee of Harnack House represents a coup for the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. The clubhouse is perceived as a place of culture, to which the arts belong just as much as the sciences.

With the advent of the Third Reich Furtwängler is drawn into controversy, as the maestro conducts works by avant-garde composers like Paul Hindemith, Arnold Schönberg and Igor Stravinsky, much to the chagrin of the Nazis. He protests against the dismissal of Jewish musicians by sending a letter to the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. In 1934, the recalcitrant artist is forced to step down as the director of the Philharmonic. He nevertheless returns a year later and henceforth is forced to accept compromises with the regime. Furtwängler is denounced for this after the War and is banned from performing until he is officially exonerated of accusations of Nazi allegiance in 1947.

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