Furtwängler, Wilhelm

BORN 25 Jan 1886, Berlin: Nollendorfplatz - DIED 30 Nov 1954, Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg
BIRTH NAME Furtwängler, Gustav Heinrich Ernst Martin Wilhelm
GRAVE LOCATION Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg: Bergfriedhof, Rohrbacher Strasse (Abteilung R)

Wihelm Furtwängler grew up in Munich, where his father taught archaeology at the university. He was educated as a pianist by Joseph Rheinberger, Max von Schillings and Konrad Ansorge.

In 1906 he started working as a repetitor and after engagements in Breslau, Zürich, Strassbourg (1910) and Lübeck (1911) he became the director of the Opera in Mannheim in 1915. In 1920 he succeeded Richard Strauss as the leader of the concerts at the Staatsoper in Berlin and from 1922 onwards he conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker. At the same time he held a position in Vienna (1921-1927) and in 1928 he became Kapellmeister of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

In 1923 he married Zitla Lund, but at that time he already had four illegitimate children. They had no children together. In 1931 he divorced her. Also in 1931 he was the artistic leader of the Festspiele in Bayreuth and in 1933 he became the director of the Staatsoper in Berlin. In 1933 he accepted the position of vice president of the Reichsmusikkammer under the nazis. But he was no supporter of nazism and actively used his influence to help Jews. After he supported Paul Hindemith in 1934 in an article he was force to resign his positions, but he continued working. In 1936 he planned to leave Germany to succeed Toscanini at the New York Philharmonic, but after false rumours that he had accepted an offer by Göring to lead the Opera in Berlin the Americans cancelled their offer.

In 1943 he married Elizabeth Ackermann. They had a son, Andreas (b.1944), who became an archaeologist. His stepdaughter, the actress Kathrin Ackermann, is the mother of another actress, Maria Furtwängler.

In 1944 he started living mostly in Luzern and in three months before Berlin was captured by the Russians he fled Germany to stay there permanently. After the war he was forbidden to work, but after Paul Hindemith, his former Jewish secretary Berta Geissmar and others spoke in favour of him, his name was cleared. However, his recent biographer Eberhard Straub called him an opportunist who profited from the nazi era.

In May 1947 he conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker again and in 1952 he was once more appointed as its Chief Conductor. He held this position until he died in 1954.

Related persons
• was pupil to Ansorge, Conrad
• was pupil to Curtius, Ludwig
• is brother/sister of Furtwängler, Walter
• helped Keilberth, Joseph
• cooperated with Lorenz, Max
• knew Neumann, Hertha
• was pupil to Rheinberger, Josef Gabriel


The grave of Wilhelm Furtwängler at the Bergfriedhof, Heidelberg.
Picture by Androom (21 Aug 2010)


Encyclopedie van de Muziek, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1959
• Hellwig, Gerhard, Der Neue Opern-, Operetten- und Musical Führer, Aktualiseerte Neuauflage, Gomdrom, Bindlag, 1994
Wilhelm Furtwängler – Wikipedia

Gabillon, Ludwig

Published: 18 Sep 2010
Last update: 03 Mar 2022