The Reich’s Orchestra: The Berlin Philharmonic 1933-45

Misha Aster

The Reich’s Orchestra: The Berlin Philharmonic 1933-45

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The Reich’s Orchestra represents the first comprehensive study of the relationship between Hitler’s regime and its musical crown jewel, the Berlin Philharmonic. The Nazi’s patronage afforded the Berlin Philharmonic innumerable privileges unique among German cultural institutions. The orchestra accepted these benefits with a combination of gratitude, apprehension and vindication. As the musicians attempted to balance their exceptional status with a degree of artistic and organizational autonomy, tensions between ideological principle, legal jurisdiction, personal taste, and pragmatic regulation revealed profound contradictions at the heart of the Nazi State. In terms of institutional development, the transformations of the Berlin Philharmonic between 1933 and 1945 remain the models for the orchestra’s organization to the present day. Drawing together documents from orchestra, State and private archives, this book reflects the experience of a major cultural institution, at once distressingly typical of Germany’s Nazi experience, and astonishingly distinct. Primary documents arranged as the book’s skeletal structure open up original sources, in many cases for the first time, to further scholarly review, while offering casual readers a unique taste of the troubling, at times shocking, at others even humorous, state of ‘normalcy’ in this milieu.

Misha Aster was born in Hamilton, Ontario and studied violin at the Royal Conservatory of Canada, history and politics at McGill University, Harvard, and the London School of Economics. Aside from writing for numerous publications, Misha has directed numerous theatre and opera productions on both sides of the Atlantic. He currently resides in Berlin.