The last concert in Third Reich's Berlin [April 12, 1945]

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johnny_thunder
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The last concert in Third Reich's Berlin [April 12, 1945]

Post by johnny_thunder » 05 Dec 2004 23:44

Does anyone have any knowledge of this particular Berlin Philharmonic performance ?

I understand that the evening was arranged by Albert Speer for leading Nazis and that after the event, members of the Hitler Youth handed out suicide pills to the audience.

Does anyone know - the actual purpose of the event, the playlist, what happened to the orchestra, were suicide pills really given out, the venue.

[Two topics dealing with the same subject have been merged and renamed. Ivan Ž.]

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Post by Heinrich George » 06 Dec 2004 01:56

According to Ryan's "The Last Battle:"

Date - 12 April 1945
Venue - Beethoven Hall
Conductor - Robert Heger
Program - Beethoven's Violin Conceto, die Gotterdammerung

However, Ryan's footnote states that orchestra survivors disagree on the date, the program, and even the performers [soloists?].

Beevor is the only source I know that mentions the distribution of the cyanide pills and frankly I'm skeptical. My impression was that these weren't being mass produced and that they were distributed discreetly, mostly to party members.

I believe Furtwangler's last concert was on 23 January.

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Post by panzertruppe2001 » 06 Dec 2004 02:51

Was it true that in 1933 80 per cent of the orchestra members were jews?
My source is a fictional film about the Holocaust. I do not remember the name. Excuse me

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R.M. Schultz
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Post by R.M. Schultz » 06 Dec 2004 04:12

panzertruppe2001 wrote:Was it true that in 1933 80 per cent of the orchestra members were jews?


An unusual number of musicians were Jews because Furtwängler actively recruited them. Goebbels was said to remark, "Doe that man [Furtwängler] know every Jew in Germany?" My source is a film documentary on Furtwängler that I saw in conjunction with a lecture on Furtwängler by Chicago Symphony chairman, Henry Fogal.

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Post by xcalibur » 06 Dec 2004 17:20

Heinrich George wrote:According to Ryan's "The Last Battle:"

Date - 12 April 1945
Venue - Beethoven Hall
Conductor - Robert Heger
Program - Beethoven's Violin Conceto, die Gotterdammerung

However, Ryan's footnote states that orchestra survivors disagree on the date, the program, and even the performers [soloists?].

Beevor is the only source I know that mentions the distribution of the cyanide pills and frankly I'm skeptical. My impression was that these weren't being mass produced and that they were distributed discreetly, mostly to party members.

I believe Furtwangler's last concert was on 23 January.



From Nicolaus von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant 1937-1945, Mainz: Hase un Koehler, 1980. p. 409:

It was unforgettable. I sat with Speer and Admiral Doenitz and listened to Beethoven's Violin Concerto, the finale from Gotterdammerung and Bruckner's Romantic Symphony.


************

From Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth, pp506-507:

When he [Speer] learned in early April that Goebbels had ordered all the musicians to be drafted at once into the People's Militia for the defense of Berlin, he dispatched Poser to remove the musicians' cards from the files of the Berlin draft board. He also told the orchestra's manager to schedule a series of last concerts. "When I would ask them to play Bruckner's Romantic Symphony, I told him, it meant the end was near and the musicians should get ready to leave Berlin."


*************

As to the issue of the cyanide capsules, Beevor is not the "only" source:

"What those who didn't attend did't see", said Annemarie [Kempf, Speer's secretary], " were the baskets offered to spectators on the way out--cyanide capsules. Speer was just horrified. We never found out who organised it, but doubtlessly the party. The baskets were offered by Hitler Youths in uniform-- children."


-Sereny, p. 507

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Post by panzertruppe2001 » 06 Dec 2004 19:24

R.M. Schultz wrote:An unusual number of musicians were Jews because Furtwängler actively recruited them. Goebbels was said to remark, "Doe that man [Furtwängler] know every Jew in Germany?" My source is a film documentary on Furtwängler that I saw in conjunction with a lecture on Furtwängler by Chicago Symphony chairman, Henry Fogal.

Do you know why Furtwängler recruited jews as musicians? Was Furtwängler jew or part jew?

Thanks

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Post by Heinrich George » 06 Dec 2004 21:23

Furtwangler was not a Jew and I don't believe anyone raised questions about his ancestry during the Third Reich. He probably recruited many Jews because Berlin had a large Jewish community, though I doubt the percentage of Jews in the BPO was anywhere near 80%. I'm sure his first concern was the quality of their playing rather than their ethnic background.

An excerpt from the last Furtwangler concert (Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in c, Op. 68, fourth movement) is available from Music and Arts. This apparently is the only part of the tape that survived.

http://www.musicandarts.com/HistoricalC ... ml#CD-1092

Many other historic recordings are available through this label, including the famous 1942 BPO performance of Beethoven's 9th.

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Post by R.M. Schultz » 06 Dec 2004 21:44

Heinrich George wrote:Furtwangler … probably recruited many Jews because Berlin had a large Jewish community, though I doubt the percentage of Jews in the BPO was anywhere near 80%. I'm sure his first concern was the quality of their playing rather than their ethnic background.


The documentary implied that he often added Jewish performers to the ensemble out of humanitarian reasons.

Heinrich George wrote:Many other historic recordings are available through this label, including the famous 1942 BPO performance of Beethoven's 9th.


That’s probably the best recording of that symphony ever made. It is absolutely superlative!

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Post by walterkaschner » 07 Dec 2004 01:58

According to Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs (Macmillan 1970) at 548-9:

.....[in order to subvert Goebbels' decision to conscript all members of theBerlin Philharmonic] I had Colonel von Poser go to the draft boards and destroy the records of the Philharmonic musicians. In order to give the orchestra financial support as well, my Ministry arranged a few concerts.

"When Bruckner's Romantic Symphony [#4 in E flat Major] is played, it will mean the end is upon us," I told my friends. That final concert took place on the afternoon of April 12, 1945. The Philharmonic Hall [sic, actually, I believe the Philharmonic Hall had been bombed out monthe before. Kaschner] was unheated and everyone who wanted to hear this last concert in the imperiled city sat huddled in overcoats. Electricity was usually cut off at the hour of the concert, but for this one day I ordered the current to be kept on so that the hall could be lighted. The Berliners must have wondered. For the beginning I had ordered Brünnhilde's last aria and the finale from Götterdammerung - a rather bathetic and also melancholy gesture pointing to the ending of the Reich. After Beethoven's Violin Concerto came the Bruckner symphony, dear to me especially for its architectonic final movement. This was the last music I would hear for a long time to come.


[Incidentally, I well understand Speer's point about Bruckner's 4th (Romantic) Symphony. I have heard it performed many times over the past many years, including performances by the Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic and by the Berlin Philharmonic with von Karajan on the podium. But absolutely none can compete with the incredibly marvelous interpretation I heard a few weeks ago by Hans Graf conducting the Houston Symphony. Graf is an Austrian - like Bruckner - and is able to capture the power and sublimity of Bruckner's concept, while maintaining perfect clarity of thew inner voices of the orchestra. Those with a passion for classical music should keep their eye on him - he is just becoming known as a guest conductor with some of the best orchestras in the U.S.]

One small addendum:

There are several CDs which include the Furtwängler's March 22/24, 1942 live recording of the Beethoven 9th, all of those which I have heard being IMHO technically flawed one way or another in the reproduction, although the conductor's fiery, almost defiant interpretation does come through. It's obviously a matter of personal taste, but I find the Furtwängler version far too overdramatized and "Germanic" (in the sense I guess of bombastic). For interpretations of the piece from that same era I vastly prefer Toscannini's 1948 performance with the NBC Symphony - classic, crisp, inspired with a humanity which I find lacking in Furtwängler, and better recorded. De gustibus......

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by R.M. Schultz » 07 Dec 2004 02:33

walterkaschner wrote:… I find the Furtwängler version far too overdramatized and "Germanic" (in the sense I guess of bombastic). For interpretations of the piece from that same era I vastly prefer Toscannini's 1948 performance with the NBC Symphony - classic, crisp, inspired with a humanity which I find lacking in Furtwängler, and better recorded. …


Classical music listeners of that time divided sharply over those who favored a classical tradition (Furtwängler, Walter, Reiner) and a more romantic interpretation (Toscannini, Stokowski).

There was a famous trading of barbs between Toscannini and Furtwängler. While partisans of Furtwängler always lauded his "organic" sense of time, Toscannini though his beat was irregular, commenting: "If Furtwängler's heart was as irregular as his baton, he would be a dead man."

Some time later, when this bon mot was repeated to Furtwängler, he only nodded and commented, "NBC could save a lot of money if they simply replaced Toscannini with a metronome."

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Post by panzertruppe2001 » 07 Dec 2004 18:43

Excuse me if I am writing nonsense. Was Von Karajan member of the Orchestra during this years?

Excuse my clasical music lack of information.

Thanks

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Post by panzertruppe2001 » 07 Dec 2004 18:50

Heinrich George wrote:He probably recruited many Jews because Berlin had a large Jewish community, though I doubt the percentage of Jews in the BPO was anywhere near 80%. I'm sure his first concern was the quality of their playing rather than their ethnic background.

That is strange. And excuse me if I am silly writing this but consider that the Jews were better musicians than non Jews seems to discriminate against non Jew musicians.

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Post by R.M. Schultz » 07 Dec 2004 19:56

panzertruppe2001 wrote:Was Von Karajan member of the Orchestra during this years?


After Hitler came to power, Von Karajan joined the Nazi Party, so that he could continue his professional career in music, conducting various concerts in Germany. He first conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in 1938, to much acclaim. In October 1942 Karajan got himself into trouble with the Nazis by marrying Anita Gutermann, who was Jewish. He was banned from making further performances by the Nazis as he was touring Italy. His musical career suffered a heavy setback during the rest of the war.

panzertruppe2001 wrote:… excuse me if I am silly writing this but consider that the Jews were better musicians than non Jews seems to discriminate against non Jew musicians.…


The impression I got from the documentary was that Furtwângler recruited Jews as a humanitarian measure, to save them from deportation. I don’t think it was a matter of the Jews being better or worse musicians, but rather of his choosing from among a capable and qualified group.

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Post by walterkaschner » 07 Dec 2004 20:15

R.M. Schultz wrote:

Classical music listeners of that time divided sharply over those who favored a classical tradition (Furtwängler, Walter, Reiner) and a more romantic interpretation (Toscannini, Stokowski).

There was a famous trading of barbs between Toscannini and Furtwängler. While partisans of Furtwängler always lauded his "organic" sense of time, Toscannini though his beat was irregular, commenting: "If Furtwängler's heart was as irregular as his baton, he would be a dead man."

Some time later, when this bon mot was repeated to Furtwängler, he only nodded and commented, "NBC could save a lot of money if they simply replaced Toscannini with a metronome."


I personally would consider Toscannini and Reiner as leaning more toward classicism, and Furtwängler, Walter and Stokowski as the Romantics. But be that as it may, there certainly was a profound difference of musical approach between the two, which lasted into the 1950's, as I can personally recall. Nonetheless, when Toscannini's tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic expired in 1936, he maintained that Furtwängler was the only conductor worthy of succeeding him in that post, and Furtwängler was offered and accepted the position. This infuriated Göring on the one hand, as well as certain influential Jewish contributors to the Philharmonic on the other, and the German invasion of the Rhineland later that year put quietus to the deal.

Panzertruppe 2001 wrote:

Excuse me if I am writing nonsense. Was Von Karajan member of the Orchestra during this years?



Not as such. He first guest-conducted that orchestra in 1938, as he did on occasion thereafter, but Hitler was never fond of him as a conductor and he fell totally out of favor in 1942, when he married a woman who was one-quarter Jewish - even though von Karajan had been a member of the Nazi party since 1935 (which Furtwängler never was.) Von Karajan was named Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1955, after he was "de-Nazified".

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by Landser » 08 Dec 2004 02:18

This is how a music critic/historian likes to compare
Furtwaengler and Toscannini..
....a video called "The Art of Conducting" which shows the celebrated conductors of the previous century (that's the 20th, geezers) in action. Some, it must be admitted, are most impressive. Billy Furtwängler stops the orchestra and rehearses a passage over and over. "No! The crescendo begins on the third beat!" They play it again and he stops and scolds, "No, you are still doing it wrong!" Finally they play it to his satisfaction, and he nods in approval. The common wisdom about Furtwängler is that he was vague and imprecise, but in reality he was deliberate and thorough.
But most of the conductors in the documentary have neither the time nor the patience to preside over such detailed and meticulous rehearsals. Toscanini was given free reign and plenty of rehearsal time, but he would conduct a few bars, stop, shout some obscenity in Italian, then sing the phrase as he wanted the musicians to play it. Unfortunately, old Arturo's voice always came out in a hoarse croak which sounded nothing like the music, so how could the poor musicians tell what he wanted? Most often they couldn't tell, and that only resulted in more cursing and croaking. "Basta!"

Another anecdote:
... the modern classical audience harbors a fantasy: if a maestro is a genius, he brings with him some mystical element that transforms the work into high art. In "The Art of Conducting" a tympani player is interviewed, and he tells the story of how some lesser deity was leading the Berlin Philharmonic in rehearsal, and when Furtwängler walked in at the back of the hall, the orchestra automatically and instantly sounded much better. Just by his unobserved presence, Furtwängler improved their sound. Just by touching the hem of his garment, they were healed.


Another one about "genius"Toscannini...
About showmanship..
The best example of this was Arturo Toscanini, a mediocre conductor but one with a personality that made him marketable as USDA-prime genius. In the 1930s, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was threatened by a Congressional inquiry into broadcast standards, so it assembled a symphony orchestra and hired Toscanini to conduct it. Much of the Toscanini legend was the result of NBC's publicity department which, as with all press agents, would concoct nonsense stories and feed them to the newspapers—"World's Largest Drum Rushed to New York for Toscanini Concert."
The public, as usual, bought it all, and I often dealt with customers who demanded Toscanini's recordings because they believed them to be perfect in every way. The idea that Toscanini was faithful to every note in the score is still believed today, even after evidence has surfaced that he rewrote much of the music. Complaints about Toscanini's conducting were voiced by composers such as Ravel and Shostakovich—"Hearing it made me very angry. Everything is wrong.....It's a sloppy hack job"—but the public instead chose to believe the NBC publicity machine. No one attended a concert to hear Brahms; they all went to witness the mercurial genius of Toscanini.


http://www.classicalarchives.com/articl ... ds015.html

The artcle is called - Hang the conductor :D

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