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Biography for
Wilhelm Frtwangler (Character)
from Taking Sides (2001)

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Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954) was a real life person who is one of the protagonists in the film "Taking Sides". He was conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic from the 1920's until his death. Considered by many to be one of the greatest conductors who have ever lived, he was the chief rival to the legendary Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957), considered at that time (and even now by many) the greatest conductor of the twentieth century. Although Furtwangler had many supporters during the early part of his career, things changed after the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933. Rather than leaving and settling in an Allied country, as so many of his colleagues did, Furtwangler accepted the sponsorship of Joseph Goebbels and stayed on in Germany because, according to his own words, he wished to keep German music from being corrupted by the Nazis. For this he was ostracized and accused of being a Nazi by many, including Toscanini, although he did protect many Jews by giving them positions in the orchestra. He was denied a position as conductor of the New York Philharmonic after American Jewish groups protested strongly, although Toscanini had recommended him for the post. "De-Nazified" after WW II ended, his reputation suffered and he died a broken man. Years later, he was rediscovered and his conducting style, once criticized as being too mannered and subjective as opposed to Toscanini's straightforward, more literal style, was re-assessed by some music critics. (Furtwangler would sometimes begin a piece at a radically slower tempo from that indicated by the composer, and then speed up the music - a completely different manner of playing a work than Toscanini, who nearly always began a piece at the indicated tempo; where Toscanini would maintain the same tempo for a given section of the piece played, Furtwangler would arbitrarily speed it up or slow it down. Many critics now consider Furtwangler's way of conducting a piece "expressive", rather than "mannered".)

Because of his re-assessment by critics, Furtwangler now enjoys a greater reputation than he did in his lifetime - unfortunately, at the expense of Toscanini, whom some critics now accuse of being too literal and unyielding.

Page last updated by critic-2, 7 years ago
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