Wilhelm Furtwängler is not only the greatest conductor of all time. His insistence on the self-contained form and on the principle of the cadenza makes him the archetype of a vanished age.
The film will therefore be a film of today. It dispenses with the usual interviews with eye-witnesses, who by now are over 90, but with one exception: Elisabeth Furtwängler, Whilhelm's widow, who still personally embodies Furtwängler's principle in her incorruptible nature with all its humour and shrewdness.
Being so ageless, she represents the legitimate bridge from Furtwängler day to our own. The film looks at the past through her eyes, and it is through her ears that we listen to Furtwängler's recordings. In her (Furtwängler's) house one of those gatherings is taking place that would have been typical of the great bourgeois families back in 1950 or even 1895, and Furtwängler's chamber music can be heard here, played on his grand piano, beneath Kokoschka's portrait of him.
Furtwängler himself speaks through the music, in quotations from his many written works and from interviews. There is an occasional flash of a film extract showing Furtwängler's conducting, but these occur so briefly that his magic has a direct effect before the extract turns into a document considered from a distance. An essay text mediates between Furtwängler's words and those of Elisabeth and locates the aesthetic phenomenon. This montage is sound is supported by a free picture level of present-day civilisation and Nature.
Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Barenboim plays Debussy
A film by Jan Schmidt-Garre
Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Russian Orchestra and Capella Choirs, Viktoria Postnikova