Furtwängler, (Gustav Heinrich Ernst Martin) Wilhelm
- James Ellis
- and David Cairns
(b Berlin, Jan 25, 1886; d Baden-Baden, Nov 30, 1954). German conductor, composer and author. He was the eldest child of the classical archaeologist Adolf Furtwängler and of Adelheid, née Wendt, who was a painter. He was brought up, first in Berlin and then near Munich (where his father was appointed professor in 1894), in the cultivated and liberal atmosphere of German humanism. When he showed signs of exceptional gifts, his parents decided to take him away from school and have him educated privately. His tutors were the archaeologist Ludwig Curtius, the sculptor Adolf Hildebrand and the art historian and musicologist Walter Riezler. Furtwängler spent some time at Hildebrand’s house outside Florence. He also accompanied his father on an excavation on Aegina.
Despite the breadth of his artistic sympathies, however, it was music that absorbed him most; music, for him, began where the other arts left off. He learnt the piano from an early age, and was composing by the time he was seven. Lessons in composition followed, with (successively) Anton Beer-Walbrunn, Joseph Rheinberger and Max von Schillings (and, later, piano lessons with Conrad Ansorge). By the time he was 17 Furtwängler had written a dozen substantial works, including a Symphony in D, a 17-movement setting of Goethe’s ...