German conductor. Although he clashed with the Nazis on several occasions, he remained in Germany during World War II.
Son of a Berlin professor of archaeology, he studied in Munich with Joseph Rheinberger (1839–1901) and Max von Schillings (1868–1933). He started his conducting career with appointments in Zürich, Strasbourg, Lübeck, and (from 1915 to 1920) Mannheim. Increasingly prestigious engagements followed: Vienna (1919), the Berlin State Opera (1920–22), the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and the Berlin Philharmonic (1922). He visited England in 1924, conducting the Royal Philharmonic Society's concerts and the London Symphony Orchestra. From 1924 his Wagner performances in Berlin and Paris won him great acclaim; he conducted at Bayreuth in 1931, 1936, 1937, 1943, 1944, and 1951. He made his Covent Garden debut in 1935 with Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and conducted the Ring cycle there in 1937 and 1938. Furtwängler's position in Germany under the Nazi regime has been the subject of much controversy; although British audiences eventually accepted him again he was refused permission to conduct in the USA.