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The Reich's Orchestra: The Berlin Philharmonic 1933-1945 Hardcover – 31 Oct 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd (31 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285638939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285638938
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 617,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

For many decades, the history of the Berlin Philharmonic during the Third Reich was shrouded in mystery -- an ethical taboo. Aster has finally broken the silence, navigating this terrible era with clarity, insight and sensitivity. The Philharmonic's experiences during its early years as a co--operative, followed by the period under Goebbels' control, were fundamental to shaping both the orchestra's musical culture and its organisational development ever since; the historic personalities and struggles are instantly familiar to the musicians today. With this book, Aster has made an important contribution to the conscience of our orchestra. --Sir Simon Rattle

A revelatory new book that chronicles the horribly close relationship between the most famous orchestra on the planet and the most evil regime the world has ever known. --Richard Morrison, The Times

Reveals the extent to which the orchestra sold out to Hitler s Nazi party, paraded itself before giant swastika backdrops at official Nazi rallies, and allowed itself to become the symbolic flagship of Joseph Goebbel s cultural propaganda... Lays out astonishing truths that had somehow remained suppressed. --The Scotsman

About the Author

Born in Canada in 1978, Misha Aster studied at the London School of Economics, McGill University, Harvard University, and the Free University of Berlin. He has written on music and politics for The Independent, Die Zeit and Walrus Magazine, among others, and as a stage director, has mounted opera productions in both North America and in Europe, most recently at the Konzerthaus in Berlin and the Tyrol State Opera.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 100 REVIEWER on 30 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
After hearing the author on Start the Week on Radio 4 I desparately wanted to buy this book and was pleasantly suprised to find it on sale at half price at a well known London Bookstore. Once again Amazon beaten to the punch on publication dates, more I suspect due to said bookstore;s opportunism than any fault of Amazon, although I understand this volume has been available abroad for some years which might also explain its availability, but no matter what about the book?

you'd be forgiven for thinking that there is surely little else that can be said or written about the Third reich, but Misha Aster has done so with a masterful depiction of how the Berlin Philharmonic managed to "survive" Hitler and Co's tyranny.

Nowadays the BP is one of, if not THE, pre-eminent orchestras in the world but in the Thirties and Forties things were much more murky. They were the cultural standard bearers of the Nazi party, performed with giant swastika flags as backdrops and made recordings at the behest of arch propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Aster's account, which can be tad wordy on occasion, although never patronising or assuming an in depth knowledge of classical music, offers a sympathetic balance between the moral ambiguities of a group of musicians that was to all extent and purposes financially bankrupt trying to make a living,and making ethical compromises to survive.

There is lots to digest in this book. The music that was allowed or not allowed to be played, the political persuasions of its conductors, most notoriously Herbert Von Karajan, and how it survived and indeed flourished after the war.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mondoro TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover
An excellent pieces of scholarship that explores the day-to-day mechanics of the relationship bwteen the Berlin Phil and the various organs of the Third Reich, in a nuanced study that moves scholarship beyond the initial debate about the extent of Furtwangler's association with Nazism and anti-semitism. Aster's nitty-gritty examination, based on a wealth of primary materials from Goebbel's ministry and other official sources, as well as the BPO archives reveals a complex relationship, with the orchestra (and indeed Furtwangler) extracting maximum advantage from their Faustian pact, including their members' exemption from military call-up that endured to the fall of Berlin. He provides fascinating information on practical issues such as conductors' fees, rehearsal timetable, repertoire, and travel arrangements, crwating a picture of an orchestra with a punishing wartime schedule of concerts, yet nevertheless maintaining quality throughout - as the famous Furtwangler wartime recording of the 'Ninth' still demonstrates.

However, the text is dense (as the previous reviewer has noted), and is marred by some modernistic jargon and, worse still, some very poor copy editing (several incomplete sentences) and proof reading (lots of typos; and to give one specific, out of many, examples: on one page, a spelling of 'Nuremberg' in the English and German style, both in the text, not in quotations).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BRIAN on 15 July 2013
Format: Hardcover
I FOUND THE BOOK VERY INTERESTING. THE AUTHOR GIVES AN INSIGHT TO WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIC IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR. MY ONLY CRITICISM IS THERE IS TOO MUCH DETAIL ON THE FINANCIAL SIDE OF THE ORCHESTRA. OTHERWISE IT IS EXCELLENT.

BRIAN

MANCHESTER
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G.I.Forbes on 17 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent account of how the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra became in1933 an agent of the Nazi regime and remained in that relationship at t5he end og the war in April 1945 and despite this was able to give a concert one month later.
Detailed in the book are the activities of the orchestra both at home and abroad during its Nazi period and the actions of its main conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. a friend of Goebbels,as he underwent a prolonged denazification trial.
Well written and researched with a good index but apalingly poor pictures
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing book. 11 Nov. 2011
By Todd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone other than a specialist interested in this subject should not his waste his money buying this book. The title promises interest, but there is not much more than a dry compendium of the Berlin Philharmonic's practical arrangements for putting on concerts during the Third Reich period, its budgets, touring arrangements, programs, and organization. There is no in depth information or portrayal of Furtwangler, no biographical sketch, no even attempted insights regarding his character. Furtwangler's relationship with the regime is perfunctorily sketched, his personality uncommented on. He's just a name who happened to hold a baton before that orchestra at that time. There are long lists of players no one has heard of or should. No explanations of events: "After Furtwangler fled to Switzerland..." There is no mention of why he did, or how he spent his time while he was there. "After he passed his de-Nazification..." No description of what the de-Nazification program was, or Furtwangler's experience going through it. This book reads like a PhD dissertation.
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