On 15 March 1933, the Nazi leadership banned Bruno Walter from appearing in Leipzig. He was also forbidden from performing at another concert which was to take place in Berlin 5 days later. The conductor, who was associated with the Berliner Philharmoniker for so many years and is regarded today as one of the most eminent orchestra conductors of the 20th century, then left Germany immediately. Wilhelm Furtwängler was not available as a stand-in, so the concert agency Wolff & Sachs then asked Richard Strauss who was conducting a series of performances of his Elektra at the Staatsoper at the time. His initial reaction was to turn down the invitation outright. It was only when he learned that the government of the Reich had asked for him to conduct that Strauss finally accepted and was ecstatically praised by the Nazi press after the concert.
Furtwängler understood the significance of events on 30 January 1933, which is why, “in the interests of cultural life”, he fought hard but ultimately unsuccessfully for the Jewish musicians who played in the orchestra at the time (concertmaster Szymon Goldberg, violinist Gilbert Back, and the two principal cellists Nicolai Graudan and Joseph Schuster). And so began a balancing act for Furtwängler as, at the same time, he was negotiating with Goebbels about a takeover of the orchestra by the authorities to avoid bankruptcy proceedings. After his public stance in the “Hindemith case”, he temporarily become a symbol of resistance. Nevertheless, he and the orchestra allowed themselves to be used for propaganda purposes.
Götz Teutsch dedicates this Philharmonic Salon to Fürtwängler’s difficult time during the Nazi era. The Scharoun Ensemble Berlin and Cordelia Höfer (piano) perform works including by Paul Hindemith, Hans Pfitzner, Arnold Schoenberg and Furtwängler. Max Hopp reads texts by Furtwängler’s personal secretary Berta Geißmar, by the music editor at the former radio station Sender Freies Berlin for many years, Klaus Lang (who published a book about Furtwängler’s denazification in 2012), and by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Jupiter und ich: Begegnungen mit Furtwängler) among others.