The Reichsorchester

Arthaus Musik: 101453

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The Reichsorchester


Gramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month - May 2008

Catalogue No:

(101 453)



Release date:

28th Jan 2008




DVD Video




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The Reichsorchester

The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich. A Film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch.

Recording Date: 2007
Running Time: 100 min
Picture Format: 16:9
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital (Stereo)

Language: D, GB
Menu Languages NTSC: D, F, GB, JP, SP
Subtitle Languages NTSC: D, F, JP, SP

DVD Video


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In 2007 the Berlin Philharmonic celebrated its 125th anniversary. It has chosen to mark this anniversary year by highlighting a previously unknown chapter in its history – the years from 1933 to 1945. Financed by the German Reich and answerable directly to the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, the Berlin Philharmonic was not only Germany’s flagship orchestra; it also became an ambassador for the National Socialist regime, particularly on foreign tours.

In this new documentary by Enrique Sánchez Lansch the spotlight is on the orchestra itself – the musicians, the people, their individual destinies. Although its members were much less exposed than their principal conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, they, like him, moved in circles close to the powers that bestowed privilege and thereby encouraged people to shirk individual responsibility. The unique and microcosmic world of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra proves a fascinating subject for examination.

First-hand accounts of life in and around the orchestra, delivered by contemporary witnesses still alive today, as well as a wealth of previously unevaluated archive material, provide a highly authentic glimpse into the period under the swastika. The film brings to life, in a manner as fascinating as it is sensitive, this chapter in the history of Germany and its capital Berlin, and explores the question:

How does one tread the fine line between independence and individual responsibility?

Gramophone Magazine

May 2008

“Contributions from the sons and daughters of players from the period tell their own stories - mainly of fear, but also of complacency… self-preservation and dedication to music.”

BBC Music Magazine

April 2008


“…the Berlin Philharmonic was viewed so important for the war effort that its members were exempted from military service. In such circumstances, it's hardly surprising that orchestral players chose to keep their heads down and retreat into the music for the sake of survival. Nowhere is this situation more chillingly realised than in the inclusion of excerpts from Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' performed by Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic for Hitler's birthday in 1942. Watching Goebbels and other Nazi functionaries listening intently to Beethoven's inspiring plea for tolerance and brotherhood amongst all men with the knowledge that music-making was taking place against a background of German soldiers fighting on the Eastern front and the massed slaughter of Jews is particularly telling.”

Die Welt

“... clever and wise …”

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