THE DEVIL'S MUSIC MASTER by Sam H. Shirakawa

THE DEVIL'S MUSIC MASTER

The Controversial Life and Career of Wilhelm FurtwÑngler
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Superb, fully sympathetic life of fiery German conductor Wilhelm FurtwÑngler (1886-1954), who was unfairly blackened as a Nazi convert. Shirakawa, a filmmaker, presents a big, intense picture of FurtwÑngler, who--as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for three decades and of the Vienna Philharmonic for much of that time--was Germany's foremost cultural figure of his day. A musical Wunderkind, he had a phenomenal memory and as a child could play on the piano, from memory, the complete quartets of Beethoven--or anything else that he had heard even once. FurtwÑngler's power over women was equally telepathic. His illegitimate children may well have numbered 13, while he had five by his second wife. His secretary ``scheduled all FurtwÑngler's dalliances with all the alacrity of a master taxi dispatcher.'' Even so, one young mistress complained that he was always composing on the weekends she spent with him. Though FurtwÑngler saw himself as a composer, Shirakawa says, his three symphonies--large brooding works--still await a conductor to bring out their magic. The author makes clear that FurtwÑngler's specialty was a nervous drive that kept audiences on the edges of their seats, a quality that is best captured on his live radio tapes, although his studio Tristan und Isolde does show the conductor at his most sublime. He fought Nazimania, had shouting matches with Hitler, refused to join the Party, and would not conduct in relation to any political activities--but remained in Berlin rather than run off to America, both to protect German music from the Party and to help save Jewish musicians. During the war, FurtwÑngler was bedeviled by the Wagner family and by his rising young rival, Herbert von Karajan, a Party member backed by top Party hacks. Excellent on FurtwÑngler's recording career and worth owning for that alone. For all music lovers. (Thirty halftones--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-19-506508-5
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992




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