A fascinating wartime photo of Wilhelm Furtwangler at St. Florian
Gilles Houle, who located this photo on the Internet writes, The music season of Wilhelm Furtwängler ended in August at the Bayreuth Festival (with “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” and at the Festivals of Salzburg and Lucerne.
After Furtwängler conducted Bruckner's 9th in Berlin (the DGG recording) on October 7, 1944, at the small Beethoven-Saal on Köthenerstraße (beside the ruins of the Alte Philharmonie on Bernburgerstraße - destroyed by bombs on January 30th), he then travelled to Saint-Florian to perform the same Symphony at the monastery church with the Linz Bruckner Orchestra (Georg-Ludwig Jochum, music-director).
Furtwängler later recalled this performance as exceptional (the 1st violins included the young Reinhold Barchet, later a soloist with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and founder of the prestigious Barchet Quartet).
In a letter addressed to Max Auer, dated November 22, 1952, Furtwängler wrote, “The interpretation of this incomparable work that I had the honor to perform at the church of St. Florian remains unforgettable for me. It was given during the last and worst years of this dammed War.”
(We need not, however, assume that it was exceptionally slow, certainly not if Furtwängler’s live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, recorded only 4 days previously, is anything to go by.)
Many newspapers evoked the concert. In particular the “Oberdonau-Zeitung,” the “Schlesische Zeitung,” the “Brünner Tageblatt,” and the “Königsberger Allgemeine Zeitung”.
Herbert Caspers wrote in the “Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung,” “At the request of Doctor Glasmeier, ‘Reichsintendant’, was played by the Radio Orchestra of Linz, in the Baroque church of St. Florian where Bruckner now sleeps for eternity under his beloved organ, the last work of the Master: his 9th Symphony in its original version. The most famous German conductors have appeared at the podium of the Radio Orchestra of ‘Greater Germany’. This year, it is Furtwängler who played Bruckner's ‘Swan Song’ in an interpretation of extra-terrestrial beauty and overwhelming fullness of sound.”
A former member of the Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester reported that this concert was recorded and deposited in what became the Ross/Weiß/Ross (later, ORF) archives, and that the transcription still existed, but in poor condition.
However, Hanns Kreczi's book (“Das Bruckner-Stift St. Florian und das Linzer Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester, 1942-1945”) chronicling the Orchestra's activities, including recordings made by the Orchestra, does not list such a recording. The ORF archive actually holds relatively few War-time recordings, since most extant RRG tapes, in Vienna, were taken away by the Soviets. Only a handful of tapes from the 93 documented recordings by the Bruckner-Orchester still exist. The post-War Vienna radio station was “BTW Rot-Weiß-Rot”.
Furtwängler conducted Bruckner's works no less than 222 times. His favorites were clearly the Symphonies Nos. 7, 8 and 9. (It is the Symphony No. 4 which he conducted most often, with no less than 61 concerts.)