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Dr Roger Allen on Wilhelm Furtwängler

A new book by Dr Roger Allen, Tutorial Fellow in Music at St Peter's, has been published by Boydell & Brewer on the renowned German conductor and composer, Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886–1954).

Widely regarded as one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century, Furtwängler was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic between 1922 and 1945, and from 1952 until 1954. He was also principal conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra (1922–1926), and was a guest conductor of other major orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic.

His extensive legacy of recorded performances of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and Wagner is widely regarded as unsurpassed.

However, more than sixty years after his death he remains a controversial figure: the complexities and ambiguities of his high-profile position within the Third Reich still cast a long shadow over his reputation. 

Dr Allen’s groundbreaking new book probes that ambiguity by means of a critical examination of Furtwängler’s extensive series of essays, addresses and musical compositions. It traces the development of Furtwängler’s thought, from its foundations in late 19th-century traditions of Bildung and associated discourses of conservative-minded nationalism, through the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic and the cultural and moral dilemmas of the Nazi period, to the post-World War II years of Bundesrepublik reconstruction in which Furtwängler found himself adrift in an alien cultural environment overshadowed by the unfolding narrative of the Nazi holocaust.

Wilhelm Furtwängler: Art and the Politics of the Unpolitical by Roger Allen is available for purchase here.

Dr Roger Allen on Wilhelm Furtwängler