(1886 - 1954)
Wilhelm Furtwängler was a German conductor and composer widely considered to have been one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century. His father was an archaeologist and his mother was a painter.
Furtwangler was heavily influenced by Beethoven and considered himself a composer first and foremost, who only picked up a baton originally to conduct his own works. The world however, remembers him principally as a very great conductor.
His conducting debut came at the age of twenty. Thereafter he conducted many of the smaller orchestra's around Germany until he was appointed as music director of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Salzburg Festival and later, the Bayreuth Festival, which was regarded as the greatest post a conductor could hold in Germany at the time.
Under extreme pressure from the Nazi Party before the start of WW2, Furtwängler fled to Switzerland. It was during this troubled time that he composed what is largely considered as being his most significant work, the Symphony No. 2 in E minor.
Furtwangler enjoyed an enormous reputation among singers as an authorative figure particularly in the works of Mozart and Wagner. His filmed Saltzberg production of "Don Giovanni" in 1953 and 1954 with Caesare Siepi remains today one of the most lauded presentations of the opera, ever.
Other historic recordings he was associated with is the recording with Kirsten Flagstad (in live performance) in Tristan and Isolde and also her studio recording in July 1952 - still available today. (EMI, Naxos)
His recording of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" recorded in 1950, live from La Scala in Milan is also considered as one of the finest readings of Wagner's masterpiece as is the studio performance with Wolfgang Windgassen, Ludwig Suthaus, and Martha Mödl, recorded in 1953 - (EMI).