When Furtwängler conducted Walton in Vienna

When Furtwängler conducted Walton in Vienna


norman lebrecht

June 27, 2015

The Vienna Phil have upgraded their website with features about ‘social responsibility’ and other diversions.

What’s really interesting is an archive feature that enables you to search every concert the orch has given, all the way back to 1842.

The strangest things turn up. On Saturday December 2, 1948, Furtwängler programmed the William Walton symphony between Weber’s Freischütz overture and Tchaikovsky’s fifth.

The concert was repeated twice.

In May 1951, Furtwängler programmed Walton’s overture, Scapino.

Another 17 years passed before the Vienna Phil played another note by the Lancastrian composer.

Explore for yourselves here.


furtwangler strauss


  • Olassus says:

    And then another 34 years before Walton returned, in 2002.

  • Olassus says:

    Love archives! When is the Royal Opera going to fill out its largely vacant semi-database? It is truly slow, given its resources and staff size.

  • harold braun says:

    really?I´d love to hear that?Is there an archived broadcast,or a pirate recording anywhere?

  • Nigel Harris says:

    A marvellous resource, but seemingly with a technical flaw: you need to activate a link to be able to see the actual programme played, and, having done so, cannot get back to the page from whence you came. Rather, you’re sent back to the search engine. In other words, to find out exactly what Andris Nelsons has played with the VPO, you end up having to type his name into the search facility five or six times. Goodness knows how frustrating this would be with, say, Boehm or Karajan! Surely it wouldn’t be too hard to make this more use-friendly?

    • Andrew Condon says:

      I agree. The Wiener Staatsoper archive doesn’t seem to have this problem so hopefully someone should be able to sort this glitch out fairly quickly

    • George Porter says:

      Open the concert in a new tab (right click in Chrome), then you can retain the search results.

  • Andrew Condon says:

    Karl Bohm seems to lead the field in number of appearances: 517, with Maazel on 386, Krauss on 334, Abbado on 333, Mehta on 322 and Karajan on 292. Is there anyone ahead of Bohm, or between him and Maazel?
    Its a marvellous resource – lets hope the glitch mentioned above can be sorted out quickly. In addition to its historical significance it will provide us all with an endless stream of amusement at some of the bizarre juxtapositions that have taken place over the years: sticking with Furtwangler, who would ever have thought of him as a conductor of Vaughan Williams (Norfolk Rhapsody in 1929)!

  • 5566hh says:

    Interesting that Pierre Boulez was conductor at a Vienna Philharmonic Ball in 2003.

  • nimra says:

    Furtwängler was actually quite internationally orientated and openminded in his choice of repertoire. To name but two examples he premiered one of Béla Bartók’s most radical works, his First Piano Concerto, and Serge Prokofiev’s Fifth Piano Concerto.
    (Doesn’t this show how absurd it is to announce Thielemann as an heir of Furtwängler as has been so often done in the German media? Musically seen, Furtwängler is also worlds apart from Thielemann!)

  • Marc-André Roberge says:

    One solution to the navigation problem is to open the link for a given concert in a new tab, which can be dismissed when it is no longer needed. The results page thus remains always available.

  • John says:

    It’s often overlooked that Furtwangler, a composer himself, did perform music of the 20th century. He wasn’t a firebrand for that cause, and Walton certainly wasn’t either, but there are recordings of him performing music of Bartok, Stravinsky, Honegger, Hindemith, Blacher and some others.

  • John says:

    My book, The Furtwangler Record, also mentions of premiere performances of Schonberg’s Op. 16, and Op. 31 as well as Stravinsky’s piano concerto, Prokofiev’s 5th piano concerto, and Bartok’s first piano concerto (with the composers as soloists), and performances of symphonies by Shostakovich and varied works of Kodaly, Vaughan Williams, Walton and Barber. Of several Bartoks works, the Concerto for Orchestra was in his repertoire (after the war).

    • Jon says:

      In reply to “John” who claims to be the author of “The Furtwangler Record”, that book was written by John Ardoin. Since John Ardoin passed away years ago, i must say I am more than a little impressed that you have come back from the afterlife just to post here. While claiming authorship of the Furtwangler Record lends your opinions here more weight, your status as deceased serves to undermine your credibility a bit.

  • chris says:

    Now I know what I’ll be doing for the next few days.

  • Warren says:

    I found Furtwangler conducting Shostakovich 9th very intriguing! I wonder if it was recorded?

  • Flip the frog says:

    @Nigel Harris – right click the link (or hold down the control button while clicking it) to open it in a new tab

    New York Philharmonic released their complete concert list as open source data (https://github.com/nyphilarchive/PerformanceHistory/) – which allows anyone with the required skills to build their own websites or apps utilizing the data. Hopefully VPO will do the same

  • Halldor says:

    Walton had his first major successes at ISCM festivals in Austria and Italy in the 20s, so it isn’t all that surprising. Mahler admired Ethel Smyth and Elgar; Berg, Wellesz and Schoenberg likewise (for Elgar anyway). And there’s a recording of Carlos Kleiber conducting George Butterworth’s English Idylls.

    What’s shocking is how little Nielsen the VPO has performed. They gave a horribly unidiomatic Nielsen 4th in Odense earlier this month; according to local rumour they’d refused to play the 3rd, arguing that it wasn’t worthy of their attenton – jaw-dropping ignorance and arrogance, if true.

    • herrera says:

      Muti is never tired of pointing out that Mahler, when he headed the New York Philharmonic, programmed all sorts of now obscure Italian composers (to Muti’s Italian pride, of course). I think you’re right, MDs who are also composers appreciate their contemporaries and perhaps can give a context and performance of these neglected works better than their peers. On the other hand Boulez did exclude contemporaries whose compositional philosophy went against his own (which he is mostly critiqued for in France, the fact he is in such a powerful position to lock out others).

      • nimra says:

        There is a persistent rumour that, shortly before his death, Mahler was planning to perform (in fact, premiere) Charles Ives’ 3rd symphony. That’s quite interesting considering both the huge differences between these two composers and their similarities (in particular their pioneering use of musical quotations and collage).

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Mahler did not program “all sorts of obscure Italian composers” in NY. Only in his very last program (the second performance of which he did not conduct anymore because he was already too ill) did he program Martucci, Sinigaglia, Busoni and Bossi along with Mendelssohn’s 4th symphony (obviously an Italy-themed program), and that was it.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Probably not true. “They” are not one person with one opinion, and if a conductor wants to program Nielsen, why would “they” object to that? It’s just that even today, very few conductors do program Nielsen, unfortunately. But your prejudices are indeed “jaw-dropping”. They played a highly engaged and very musical performance of the Nielsen 4 a few years ago with Rattle, so your comment about how “horribly unidiomatic” the recent performance was is probably also best chalked up to your prejudices, and ignored.

  • Rich Cinquino says:

    To see the program, right click the red title of the concert (it will be underlined) and click “Open Link in New Tab” (should be the first listed option). Then close the tab when done.
    Agree that this a major flaw of the website, not being able to left click a concert and then use the Back button.

  • ML says:

    Felix Weingartner clocked in about 430+ concerts. However, the last one, dated August 11, 1945 in Salzburg, is incorrect. Weingartner died in 1942.

    Also, it appears they did not include some tours that I know of. For instance, Clemens Krauss died while on tour with Vienna Philharmonic in Mexico City, and none of the programs were there.

    • fer says:

      The Berlin Philharmonic’s website used to have a similar search engine of concerts. It was very interesting to test the orchestral programmes in war times, and just after the war (conducted by Borchard or Celibidache). But in one of the last updates of the web, the archive was cleared, or I’m not able to find it.

      • Don Ciccio says:

        Yes, I kept wondering what happened to the BPO concert archive – which was incomplete to begin with, as most pre-war concerts were not listed.

  • Nigel Harris says:

    Thanks for the technical advice. Am finding it easier now, if of course dangerously addictive.

  • Andrew Condon says:

    And they have visited some pretty exotic locations over the years, probably none more so than an appearance in Honolulu with Karajan on 8/11/59 (in between appearances in Tokyo and LA – presumably in the days before you could cross the Pacific in one hop)