The Devil's Music Master

The Devil's Music Master : Controversial Life and Career of Wilhelm Furtwangler

4.28 (25 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Wilhelm Furtwaengler was one of the most the dominant figures in Central European music between the wars, enjoying spells as conductor of the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics and the Berlin Opera House. However, his decision to live and work in Nazi Germany has clouded his achievement, and he was branded a collaborator, despite the fact that he helped hundreds of people to flee the regime. This new biography aims to balance the account, and in the light of the renewed popularity of Furtwaengler's recordings, examines his musical legacy and his influence on many of today's leading conductors.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 522 pages
  • 165.6 x 243.1 x 45.5mm | 997.91g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 16 pp halftones
  • 0195065085
  • 9780195065084

About Sam H. Shirakawa

About the Author Sam H. Shirakawa is a writer and filmmaker.show more

Review Text

Superb, fully sympathetic life of fiery German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954), who was unfairly blackened as a Nazi convert. Shirakawa, a filmmaker, presents a big, intense picture of Furtwangler, who - as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for three decades and of the Vienna Philharmonic for much of that time - was Germany's foremost cultural figure of his day. A musical Wunderkind, he had a phenomenal memory and as a child could play on the piano, from memory, the complete quartets of Beethoven - or anything else that he had heard even once. Furtwangler's power over women was equally telepathic. His illegitimate children may well have numbered 13, while he had five by his second wife. His secretary "scheduled all Furtwangler's dalliances with all the alacrity of a master taxi dispatcher." Even so, one young mistress complained that he was always composing on the weekends she spent with him. Though Furtwangler saw himself as a composer, Shirakawa says, his three symphonies - large brooding works - still await a conductor to bring out their magic. The author makes clear that Furtwangler's specialty was a nervous drive that kept audiences on the edges of their seats, a quality that is best captured on his live radio tapes, although his studio Tristan und Isolde does show the conductor at his most sublime. He fought Nazimania, had shouting matches with Hitler, refused to join the Party, and would not conduct in relation to any political activities - but remained in Berlin rather than run off to America both to protect German music from the Party and to help save Jewish musicians. During the war, Furtwangler was bedeviled by the Wagner family and by his rising young rival, Herbert von Karajan, a Party member backed by top Party hacks. Excellent on Furtwangler's recording career and worth owning for that alone. For all music lovers. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

25 ratings
4.28 out of 5 stars
5 44% (11)
4 44% (11)
3 8% (2)
2 4% (1)
1 0% (0)
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