El grandísimo Wilhelm Furtwängler

El grandísimo Wilhelm Furtwängler

 

A José Rafael Revenga, quien hoy cumple 20 años por cuarta vez.

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Lo que sigue es una tarea que tenía pendiente desde hace nueve años. El 14 de junio de 2007 se ponía acá Conocimiento y opinión; fue un artículo que salía al paso de opiniones que exigían la execración de Gustavo Dudamel porque su imagen hubiera aparecido, en la que hasta minutos antes hubiera sido la señal de Radio Caracas Televisión, dirigiendo la Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil en una interpretación del Himno Nacional de Venezuela. Por la época, el gran escultor venezolano-holandés que fuera Cornelis Zitman había reaccionado a tan necia pretensión, lo que se registró acá en Zitmangebouw de Caracas:

Hace poco me escribió para solidarizarse con la defensa de José Antonio Abreu y Gustavo Dudamel, asumida por Carolina Jaimes Branger. A pesar de su energía de titán, Cornelis se excusó con la más grande delicadeza por ser un holandés que no tendría derecho de opinar sobre asuntos venezolanos. A este gigante respetuoso le aseguré que él, que había escogido a esta tierra para poner sobre ella su hogar, dándonos pretexto entonces para el mayor orgullo, tenía más derecho y autoridad que muchos nacidos en ella. “Que haya gente o políticos entre nosotros que pueden ser tan radicales, estúpidos y atrevidos de criticar al amigo Maestro Abreu y su discípulo Gustavo Dudamel es una vergüenza nacional”, había escrito.

Conocimiento y opinión concluía de este modo: “Para quien escribe, el peor de los rasgos del presidente Chávez es, precisamente, la soberbia que exhibe en asuntos de moral personal y ciudadana. Él se siente y se proclama mejor que todos nosotros y él sabe lo que es bueno. (…) Lo peor que puede hacer un opositor a Chávez es parecerse a él”. Antes daba cuenta de las condenas que caían sobre Dudamel; por ejemplo, desde un artículo del Dr. Jesús Ramón Quintero:

Las críticas, varias, llegan hasta la pretensión de enseñar a Dudamel los rudimentos del oficio de la dirección orquestal. Pontifica anteayer un articulista, por cierto perito en Derecho Penal, disciplina que exige seriedad y justicia en la atribución de culpas: “La dirección orquestal de hoy no sólo es una técnica para fijar el tiempo y el ritmo de la ejecución, el director pretende comprender la intención del compositor para trasmitirla a la orquesta y por medio de ella a la audiencia”. Y también recurre a la equiparación, absolutamente desproporcionada, entre la persona de Gustavo Dudamel y la de Wilhelm Furtwängler, el director alemán presuntamente pro-nazi: “El director orquestal es responsable tanto de la dirección como de la música como bien de la cultura. Por esta razón Arturo Toscanini se negó a empuñar la batuta para la dirección orquestal en la Alemania y la Italia fascistas. Furtwängler, en cambio, no dudó en dirigir con manifiesta perfección técnica y no menor traición a las ideas del compositor la Novena Sinfonía de Beethoven, que él mismo reservaba para las grandes ocasiones, para la celebración del cumpleaños de Hitler un 20 de abril… En 1946 Furtwängler, quien había sido director de la Filarmónica de Berlín, de la Filarmónica de Viena y de las orquestas del Festival de Bayreuth y de la Ópera de Berlín, fue sometido al comité de desnazificación y formalmente exonerado de las acusaciones de nazismo, pero hubo de renunciar a la dirección de la Filarmónica de Nueva York y el público nunca olvidó su complacencia nazi fascista”.

Bueno, la posición de Quintero y otros críticos se asienta sobre una insinuación de superioridad moral, cuya dinámica se explicara acá en Enfermo típico (26 de enero de 2006):

La ritual execración de la figura presidencial proporciona al opositor adicto un progreso indirecto en la imagen ética que tiene de sí mismo. En efecto, mientras puedo hablar peor del Presidente, mientras más malvado lo encuentro, yo soy por implicación una mejor persona. Como no soy como él—¡Dios me libre!—entonces soy bueno. Mi bondad progresa relativamente, sin que yo haga mérito independiente, porque su maldad crece todos los días. Así obtengo satisfacción moral.

Un ejemplo típico de ese enfermo típico es Gustavo Coronel, quien se atrevió a decir (también citado en Conocimiento y opinión): “El caso de Dudamel es menor pero preocupante. Él dirigió la orquesta que tocó el Himno Nacional de Venezuela en la apertura de la estación televisora gubernamentalmente controlada que reemplazó a la estación independiente RCTV, ilegalmente clausurada por Chávez. Al hacerlo, el joven Dudamel exhibió, en el mejor de los casos, un juicio pobre y, en el peor, carencia de fortaleza moral”. Usualmente nos restriega Coronel, desde la cómoda ubicación en la que vive desde hace mucho tiempo—¡qué fácil es ser héroe en lejanía!—que no tenemos calidad moral; por ejemplo: “La cobardía moral predomina entre los venezolanos sentados en la barrera, asistiendo inexplicablemente al espectáculo de su propia destrucción, exhibiendo una cobardía mezclada con indiferencia y masoquismo”. En la Carta Semanal #329 de doctorpolítico comenté: “Estas declaraciones de Coronel, emitidas desde la segura distancia que desde hace años lo separa de esta atribulada tierra, son injustas y constituyen una falta de respeto hacia quienes permanecemos en ella para dar la batalla cotidiana y la más profunda y penetrante. (…) Si, como parece ser su implicación, es él alguien con la estatura moral que haría falta ¿por qué no deja de vivir en los Estados Unidos y se radica de nuevo en Venezuela a guiarnos con su superioridad?”

Pero en el caso de Quintero se añade una pretendida erudición, que osa explicar a Dudamel cuál es la función del director de orquesta y supone que es una condena inapelable identificarlo con la controvertida figura de Wilhelm Furtwängler. Siempre quise rebatirlo, y lo haré acá por la interpuesta persona de Wikipedia, que nos informa abundantemente (espero ser perdonado por no traducir; creo que Jesús Ramón Quintero puede entender bastante de la lengua inglesa):

Third Reich controversy

Furtwängler’s relationship with and attitudes towards Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were a matter of much controversy.

First confrontations with the Nazis

Furtwängler was very critical of Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor of Germany, and was convinced that Hitler would not stay in power for long. He had said of Hitler in 1932, “This hissing street pedlar will never get anywhere in Germany”.

As the antisemitic policies of the Third Reich took effect, Jewish musicians were forced out of work and began to leave Germany. The Nazis were aware that Furtwängler was opposed to the policies and might also decide to go abroad, so the Berlin Philharmonic, which employed many Jews, was exempted from the policies. In 1933, when Bruno Walter was dismissed from his position as principal conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Nazis asked Furtwängler to replace him for an international tour. Their goal was to show to the world that Germany did not need Jewish musicians. Furtwängler refused, and it was Richard Strauss who replaced Walter.

On April 10, 1933, Furtwängler wrote a public letter to Goebbels to denounce the new rulers’ antisemitism:

Ultimately there is only one dividing line I recognize: that between good and bad art. However, while the dividing line between Jews and non-Jews is being drawn with a downright merciless theoretical precision, that other dividing line, the one which in the long run is so important for our music life, yes, the decisive dividing line between good and bad, seems to have far too little significance attributed to it […] If concerts offer nothing then people will not attend; that is why the QUALITY is not just an idea: it is of vital importance. If the fight against Judaism concentrates on those artists who are themselves rootless and destructive and who seek to succeed in kitsch, sterile virtuosity and the like, then it is quite acceptable; the fight against these people and the attitude they embody (as, unfortunately, do many non-Jews) cannot be pursued thoroughly or systematically enough. If, however, this campaign is also directed at truly great artists, then it ceases to be in the interests of Germany’s cultural life […] It must therefore be stated that men such as Walter, Klemperer, Reinhardt etc. must be allowed to exercise their talents in Germany in the future as well, in exactly the same way as Kreisler, Huberman, Schnabel and other great instrumentalists of the Jewish race. It is only just that we Germans should bear in mind that in the past we had Joseph Joachim one of the greatest violinists and teachers in the German classical tradition, and in Mendelssohn even a great German composer – for Mendelssohn is a part of Germany’s musical history”.

In June 1933, for a text which was to be the basis for a discussion with Goebbels, Furtwängler went further, writing, “The Jewish question in musical spheres: a race of brilliant people!” He threatened that if boycotts against Jews were extended to artistic activities, he would resign all his posts immediately, concluding that “at any rate to continue giving concerts would be quite impossible without [the Jews] – to remove them would be an operation which would result in the death of the patient.”

Because of his high profile, Furtwängler’s public opposition prompted a mixed reaction from the Nazi leadership. Heinrich Himmler wished to send Furtwängler to a concentration camp. Goebbels and Göring ordered their administration to listen to Furtwängler’s requests and to give him the impression that they would do what he asked. This led him to believe that he had some positive influence to stop the racial policy. He subsequently invited several Jewish and anti-fascist artists (such as Yehudi Menuhin, Artur Schnabel, and Pablo Casals) to perform as soloists in his 1933/34 season, but they refused to come to Nazi Germany. Furtwängler subsequently invited Jewish musicians from his orchestra such as Szymon Goldberg to play as soloists.

The Gestapo built a case against Furtwängler, noting that he was providing assistance to Jews. Furtwängler gave all his fees to German emigrants during his concerts outside Germany. The German literary scholar Hans Mayer was one of these emigrants. Mayer later observed that for performances of Wagner operas in Paris prior to the war, Furtwängler cast only German emigrants (Jews or political opponents to the third Reich) to sing. Georg Gerullis, a director at the Ministry of Culture remarked in a letter to Goebbels, “Can you name me a Jew on whose behalf Furtwängler has not intervened?”

Furtwängler never joined the Nazi Party. He refused to give the Nazi salute, to conduct the Horst-Wessel-Lied, or to sign his letters with “Heil Hitler”, even those he wrote to Hitler. However, Furtwängler was appointed as the first vice-president of the Reichsmusikkammer and Staatsrat of Prussia, and accepted these honorary positions to try to bend the racial policy of Nazis in music and to support Jewish musicians. For concerts in London and Paris before the war, Furtwängler refused to conduct the Nazi anthems or to play music in halls adorned with swastikas. During the universal exposition held in Paris in 1937, a picture of the German delegation was taken in front of the Arc de Triomphe. In the picture, Furtwängler is the only German not giving the Nazi salute. This picture was suppressed at the time.

In 1933, Furtwängler met with Hitler to try to stop the new antisemitic policy in the domain of music. He had prepared a list of significant Jewish musicians: these included the composer Arnold Schoenberg, the musicologist Curt Sachs, the violinist Carl Flesch, and Jewish members of the Berlin Philharmonic. Hitler did not listen to Furtwängler, who lost patience, and the meeting became a shouting match. Berta Geissmar wrote, “After the audience, he told me that he knew now what was behind Hitler’s narrow-minded measures. This is not only antisemitism, but the rejection of any form of artistic, philosophical thought, the rejection of any form of free culture…”

Mannheim Concert

On April 26, 1933, Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic performed a joint concert in Mannheim with the local orchestra to mark the 50th anniversary of Wagner’s death and to raise money for the Mannheim orchestra. The concert had been organised before the Nazis came to power. The Nazified Mannheim Orchestra Committee demanded that the Jewish leader of the Berlin orchestra, Szymon Goldberg, give way to the leader of the Mannheim orchestra for the evening. Furtwängler refused, and the concert took place as planned. Before the banquet organized for the evening, members of the Mannheim Orchestra Committee came to remonstrate with Furtwängler, accusing him of “a lack of national sentiment”. Furtwängler furiously left before the banquet to rejoin Berta Geissmar and her mother. The fact that Furtwängler had preferred to spend the evening with his “Jewish friends” rather than with Nazi authorities caused a controversy. He subsequently refused to conduct again in Mannheim, only returning 21 years later in 1954.

“The Hindemith Case”

In 1934, Furtwängler publicly described Hitler as an “enemy of the human race” and the political situation in Germany as a “Schweinerei” (“pigsty”).

On November 25, 1934, he wrote a letter in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, “Der Fall Hindemith” (“The Hindemith Case”), in support of the composer Paul Hindemith. Hindemith had been labelled a degenerate artist by the Nazis. Furtwängler also conducted a piece of Hindemith’s, Mathis der Maler although the work had been banned by the Nazis. The concert received enormous acclaim and unleashed a political storm. The Nazis (especially Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist) formed a violent conspiracy against the conductor, who resigned from his official positions, including his titles as vice-president of the Reichsmusikkammer and of Staatsrat of Prussia. His resignation from the latter position was refused by Göring. He was also forced by Goebbels to give up all his artistic positions.

Furtwängler decided to leave Germany, but the Nazis prevented him. They seized the opportunity to “aryanize” the orchestra and its administrative staff. Most of the Jewish musicians of the orchestra had already left the country and found positions outside Germany, with Furtwängler’s assistance.

The main target of the Nazis was Berta Geissmar. She was so close to the conductor that she wrote in her book about Furtwängler that the Nazis had begun an investigation to know if she was his mistress. After having harassed her for a period of two years, she moved to London when she became Sir Thomas Beecham’s main assistant. In the book she wrote on Furtwängler in England in 1943, she said:

Furtwängler, although he had decided to remain in Germany, was certainly no Nazi […] He had a private telephone line to me which was not connected via the exchange […] Before going to bed, he used to chat with me over telephone. Sometimes I told him amusing stories to cheer him up, sometimes we talked about politics. One of the main threats the Nazis used against Furtwängler and myself later on was the assertion that they had recorded all these conversations. I should not have thought that it was possible! Was there enough shellac? If the Nazis really did this, their ears must certainly have burnt, and it was not surprising that Furtwängler was eventually put on their black list, let alone myself.

Goebbels refused to meet Furtwängler to clarify his situation for several months. During the same period, many members of the orchestra and of his public were begging him not to emigrate and desert them. In addition, Goebbels sent him a clear signal that if he left Germany he would never be allowed back, frightening him with the prospect of permanent separation from his mother (to whom he was very close) and his children. Furtwängler considered himself responsible for the Berlin Philharmonic and for his family, and decided to stay.

The compromise of 1935

On February 28, 1935, Furtwängler met Goebbels, who wanted to keep Furtwängler in Germany, since he considered him, like Richard Strauss and Hans Pfitzner, a “national treasure”. Goebbels asked him to pledge allegiance publicly to the new regime. Furtwängler refused. Goebbels then proposed that Furtwängler acknowledge publicly that Hitler was in charge of cultural policy. Furtwängler accepted: Hitler was a dictator and controlled everything in the country. But he added that it must be clear that he wanted nothing to do with the policy and that he would remain as a non-political artist, without any official position. The agreement was reached. Goebbels made an announcement declaring that Furtwängler’s article on Hindemith was not political: Furtwängler had spoken only from an artistic point of view, and it was Hitler who was in charge of the cultural policy in Germany.

Goebbels did not reveal the second part of the deal. However, the agreement between was largely respected. At his subsequent denazification trial, Furtwängler was charged with conducting only two official concerts for the period 1933–1945. Furtwängler appeared in only two short propaganda films.

Other Nazi leaders were not satisfied with the compromise, since they believed that Furtwängler had not capitulated: Rosenberg demanded in vain that Furtwängler apologise to the regime. Goebbels, who wanted to keep Furtwängler in Germany, wrote in his diary that he was satisfied with the deal and laughed at “the incredible naïvety of artists”.

Hitler now allowed him to have a new passport. When they met again in April, Hitler attacked Furtwängler for his support of modern music, and made him withdraw from regular conducting for the time being, save for his scheduled appearance at Bayreuth. However, Hitler confirmed that Furtwängler would not be given any official titles, and would be treated as a private individual. But Hitler refused Furtwängler’s request to announce this, saying that it would be harmful for the “prestige of the State”.

Furtwängler resumed conducting. On April 25, 1935, he returned to the Berlin Philharmonic with a program dedicated to Beethoven. Many people who had boycotted the orchestra during his absence came to the concert to support him. He was called out seventeen times. On May 3, in his dressing room before conducting the same program, he was informed that Hitler and his entire staff would attend the concert. He was given the order to welcome Hitler with the Nazi salute. Furtwängler was so furious that he ripped the wooden panelling off a radiator. Franz Jastrau, the manager of the orchestra, suggested that he keep his baton in his right hand all the time. When he entered the hall, all the Nazi leaders were present making the Hitler salute, but Furtwängler kept hold of his baton and began the concert immediately. Hitler probably could not have imagined that such an affront was possible but decided to put up a good show: he sat down and the concert went on.

At the end of the concert, Furtwängler continued to keep his baton in his right hand. Hitler understood the situation and jumped up and demonstratively held out his right hand to him. The same situation occurred during another concert later on, when a photographer had been mobilized by the Nazis for the occasion: the photo of the famous handshake between Furtwängler and Hitler was distributed everywhere by Goebbels. Goebbels had obtained what he desired: to keep Furtwängler in Germany and to give the impression to those who were not well informed (especially outside the country) that Furtwängler was now a supporter of the regime.

Furtwängler wrote in his diary in 1935 that there was a complete contradiction between the racial ideology of the Nazis and the true German culture, the one of Schiller, Goethe and Beethoven. He added in 1936: “living today is more than ever a question of courage”.

Fue mucho mejor para Alemania y para el mundo que Wilhelm Furtwängler escogiera sufrir la ignominia nazi con entereza e inteligencia en su propia patria. El Dr. Quintero dejó para cerrar su alegato esta afirmación: [Furtwängler] “hubo de renunciar a la dirección de la Filarmónica de Nueva York y el público nunca olvidó su complacencia nazi fascista”. Su insuficiente y pretenciosa erudición ignoraba lo siguiente:

Furtwängler was offered the principal conductor’s post at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, which was then the most desirable and best paid position in international musical life. He was to have followed Arturo Toscanini, who had declared that Furtwängler was the only man to succeed him. Furtwängler accepted the post, but his telephone conversations were recorded by the Gestapo. While Furtwängler was travelling, the Berlin branch of the Associated Press leaked a news story on Hermann Göring’s orders. It suggested Furtwängler would probably be reappointed as director of the Berlin State Opera and of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. This caused the mood in New York to turn against him: it seemed that Furtwängler was now a supporter of the Nazi Party. On reading the American press reaction, Furtwängler chose not to accept the position in New York. Nor did he accept any position at the Berlin Opera. (Wikipedia).

Tenía que refutar a Quintero y lo he hecho con retraso de nueve años, quizás estimulado porque hoy se cumplen ochenta de las Olímpiadas de Berlín en las que Jesse Owen, un corredor negro estadounidense, batió el récord de los cien metros planos en las narices de los jerarcas nazis. Por fin estoy tranquilo. LEA

………

Johannes por Wilhelm

Johannes por Wilhelm

Pero quien puede todavía, póstumamente, sepultar a sus críticos farisaicos, es el propio Wilhelm Furtwängler. He aquí su arte incomparable al dirigir en 1951 la Orquesta de la Radiodifusión del Norte de Alemania en la Sinfonía #1 en Do menor de Johannes Brahms; nadie supo interpretarla de modo tan poderoso, pues si “la pluma es más poderosa que la espada”, así “una batuta es más poderosa que un tanque de guerra”:

 

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