Berghof, 30th April 1942, at dinner
German tenors—The horror of Bruno Walter and Knappertsbusch—Furtwängler, the only real conductor.
I am very sorry that Germany at the moment possesses only two really first-class tenors, for these two unfortunates are forced to tear round and round the country singing in town after town with neither rest nor respite. The fault lies with the directors of the Operas and the conductors, who are not at sufficient pains to seek and recruit new talent.
Great conductors are as important as great singers. Had there been a sufficiency of good conductors during the time of the Weimar Republic, we should have been saved the ridiculous spectacle of the rise to eminence of a man like Bruno Walter, who in Vienna was regarded as a complete nonentity. It was the Jewish press of Munich, which was echoed by its Viennese counterpart, that drew attention to the man and suddenly proclaimed him to be the greatest conductor in Germany. But the last laugh was against Vienna; for when he was engaged as conductor of the superb Viennese Orchestra, all he could produce was beer-hall music. He was dismissed, of course, and with his dismissal Vienna began to realise what a dearth there was of good conductors, and sent for Knappertsbusch.
He, with his blond hair and blue eyes, was certainly a German, but unfortunately he believed that, even with no ear, he could, with his temperament, still produce good music. To attend the Opera when he was conducting was a real penance.
The only conductor whose gestures do not appear ridiculous is Furtwängler. His movements are inspired from the depths of his being. In spite of the very meagre financial support he received, he succeeded in turning the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra into an ensemble far superior to that of Vienna, and that is greatly to his credit. Some people attribute this superiority to the fact that Berlin possesses a number of genuine Stradivarius, but this explanation must be accepted with reserve.