Gustav Heinrich Ernst Martin Wilhelm Furtwängler (January 25, 1886 – November 30, 1954) was a German conductor and composer. He is considered to be one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Furtwängler was one of the world's leading conductors. He became the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1923, was principal conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra (1922–26), and was a major guest conductor of other leading orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic. He was the leading conductor to remain in Germany during the Second World War and, although not an adherent to the Nazi regime, this decision caused lasting controversy. The extent to which his presence lent prestige to the Third Reich is still debated. Furtwängler's interpretive art is well documented in commercial and broadcast recordings and has contributed to his lasting reputation.
Furtwängler's conducting style is often contrasted with that of his older contemporary Arturo Toscanini, whose work during this period is also well documented. Like Toscanini, Furtwängler was a major influence on many later conductors, and his name is often mentioned when discussing their interpretive styles. Unlike Toscanini, Furtwängler sought a weighty, less rhythmically strict, more bass-oriented orchestral sound, with a more conspicuous use of tempo changes not indicated in the printed score.