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The Reichsorchester [DVD] [2008]

Enrique Sanchez Lansch    Exempt   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: £19.85 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Directors: Enrique Sanchez Lansch
  • Format: Anamorphic, Classical, Colour, DVD-Video, PAL, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: 28 Jan 2008
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012K53UO
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,833 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Enrique Sanchez Lansch directs this documentary that examines the history of the Berlin Philharmonic during the years 1933-1945. Using archive material alongside testimony from witnesses present at the time, the film seeks to shine a light on the members of the orchestra itself, charting their destinies, and examining the role they played in Nazi Germany's propaganda machine.

Product Description

Berlin Philharmonic And The Third Reich - The Reichsorchester

Customer Reviews

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Moral Compromise 6 April 2008
This documentary by Enrique Sánchez Lansch focuses on a fascinating and under-examined historical subject--how the Berlin Philharmonic, Germany's preeminent orchestra, adapted itself to the political and cultural realities under the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945. The orchestra, known for its brilliant musicianship under the legendary conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, had to toe the party line under Hitler's rule, purging its Jewish members (four of the musicians were forced to leave) and allowing itself to be used for propaganda purposes in Germany and on foreign tours. Archival footage shows the orchestra playing at Nazi party conferences, before and after speeches by Hitler and Goebbels, and during the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin under the grim, watchful eyes of the military and political elite. In return for its cooperation, the Philharmonic was granted a number of special privileges. Its members were exempt from military service and enjoyed a higher standard of living than the general population, even during the last, desperate days of World War II. The musicians knew the political score, but didn't protest for fear of losing their special status--not to mention their freedom. Running throughout the film is the question of individual and collective moral responsibility, but Lansch wisely lets the viewer decide to what degree the Philharmonic musicians compromised themselves. Lansch was able to interview two surviving members from the orchestra's pre-1945 period, and both address this issue in guarded fashion. According to Hans Bastiaan, the musicians were like "children" when it came to their political thinking, while Erich Hartmann says, "We were only doing our jobs. Read more ›
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing for Germany 24 Feb 2008
"Then all of a sudden the portrait of Mendelssohn vanished". Thus begins the Berlin Philharmonic's 12-year period under Nazi control. The Philharmonic had been owned by the musicians, but in early 1934 Josef Goebbels' propaganda ministry took over and the orchestra became part of the effort to promote the superiority of German culture. But as this fine documentary makes clear, it was never a "Nazi orchestra". There were a handful of committed Nazis who intimidated their colleagues, and the 4 Jewish members soon emigrated. As to the rest, some eventually joined the Nazi party, whether out of careerism or self-preservation, while the rest made sure not to rock the boat. And there were good reasons not to, aside from the political threat - they were, after all, the elite Berlin Philharmonic, with Furtwangler as their conductor; who would want to give that up? When war broke out, the musicians were deemed essential in their propaganda role, and none was obliged to enter military service, even up to the very end.
The story is told through the testimony of the last 2 surviving musicians, violinist Hans Bastiaan and double-bassist Erich Hartmann, and the sons and daughters of various others. Aside from the interviews there is footage of the orchestra in action, which can at times make very uncomfortable viewing - it's hard to enjoy Beethoven's 9th when the concert hall is decorated with swastikas and people such as Himmler are in the audience. What makes the film so good is the clearly focused and essentially dispassionate tone taken by director Enrique Sanchez Lansch. This is solely about the orchestra - the horrors of the war are seen only in the context of what the musicians experienced.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good documentary 8 Jun 2008
We already knew how difficult it remains (after all these years) to what to think from Furtwangler's activities in wartime Germany.
The originality of this documentary is that it focus not on the conductor, but rather on the orchestra (Berliner Philharmoniker) itself.
And the result is that you get confused. Make no mistake: Enrique Sanchez Lansch work is very good throughout and you get a lot to think about (you certainly will want to repeat it at least once). But what you don't get is any help to make a judgement. You have to do so all by yourself and this is one of the biggest merits of this DVD.
So why not five stars? Well... it could never receive five stars, you know. As it is stated on the leaflet, this film should have been produced long ago. At time it was made only two wartime musicians remained alive. Their contribution was certainly revealing (Bastiaan was in his nineties!), but you would expect more.
Nevertheless this is a unique documentary. A must-have for all those interested on the Third Reich and classical music.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting rarity 2 Dec 2012
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I had not come across this before and found it very intersting. Apart from some rare clips of Hitler and Göbbels making speeches it tells us a lot about music during the Third Reich. I watched it after watching two films about Solti and they fitted together very well. It is well constructed and edited and I enjoyed it very much.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bonfire of the Quavers 26 Aug 2013
This 2008 documentary is a masterpiece. You'll forget the world and its petty concerns for its duration. Its beginning will suck the air out of your lungs like a firestorm: accompanied by the transition into the Finale of the Beethoven Fifth (presumably it is the Furtwangler '43 performance Beethoven - Symphonies 5 & 7) cellist Erich Hartman (Berlin Philharmonic, Class of 1943) returns to the site of the Old Philharmonie (now a hideous, bunker-like row of apartments) while Hans Bastiaan (Berlin Philharmonic, Class of 1934) visits the 1936 Olympic Village (still in situ and ghostly at that - the wall-murals bring to mind the Palace of Ashurbanipal). Thereafter, the wider experience of the Berlin Philharmonic under the Third Reich is explored, both through the testimony of survivors and the children of key personnel, be they Jewish or otherwise. One can only hope that Syzmon Goldberg was interviewed before his death in 1991.

There is that Chinese adage: may you live in interesting times. Well, these guys can bear testimony to its power.

The most haunting scene of all is the footage of the cannon-fodder: the teenagers, wounded soldiers (yes, Waffen SS included) and old men in 1945 listening to the slow movement of the Beethoven Fifth. It is a good thing that the scene is not in colour as the mere sight of their eyes in the full panorama would surely turn one to stone like Medusa. Some of them had been blinded. Others have been blasted by shrapnel. Destiny is such a despot; one can sense these poor devils are trying to immerse themselves in this "imperishable music" (Bastiaan's words) in preparation for the Day of Reckoning.
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