Furtwängler’s love

A film by Jan Schmidt-Garre (2004)

Elisabeth Furtwängler, Frederik Malmqvist, Roberto Saccà, Ingolf Turban

57 min.

For us today, Wilhelm Furtwängler is a monument: immense and unapproachable. The documentary Furtwängler’s love from 2004 provides us with the opportunity to get to know the man behind the conductor. At the centre is his wife Elisabeth, who gives a vivid and thoughtful account of her years at Furtwängler’s side, full of charm and wit. 

It was in 1943 when Wilhelm Furtwängler married his second wife, Elisabeth Ackermann. The interviews which the director Jan Schmidt-Garre conducts with her cover a broad sphere – from Furtwängler’s courting of the woman 25 years his junior, to his death in 1954. Furtwängler’s most difficult decision of these years is also discussed: the question of whether to emigrate during the Nazi era. Ultimately, Furtwängler decided not to leave, and remained in Germany with his orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker, where he had been chief conductor since 1922.

Elisabeth Furtwängler’s reports are mirrored by quotes from her husband, such as when it comes to his disappointment at his lack of recognition as a composer. No less interesting are Furtwängler’s comments on conducting, his distrust of the mere beating of time, which he sets against the “greatest goal a conductor can achieve”: the legato melody, the “living, breathing flow.” Furtwängler also talks about love: It is “the opposite of judging, of comparing, it sees the incomparable, the unique.” And so the documentary makes us realise that it was not titanic remoteness that was at the centre of the musician Wilhelm Furtwängler, but sensibility and a rich inner life.

Elisabeth Furtwängler, Ingolf Turban, Roberto Saccà, Frederik Malmqvist

Written and directed by Jan Schmidt-Garre
In cooperation with Georg Albrecht Eckle
Director of photography: Thomas Bresinsky
Sound: Hartmut Tscharke
Editor: Peter Przygodda, Wolfgang Weigl
Produced by Marieke Schroeder, Jan Schmidt-Garre

A production of Pars Media in cooperation with MTV, NRK, ORF, SF, SVT, TSI, and YLE, supported by the MEDIA Programme of the European Union