Saturday, 7 November 2009

Berlin Furtwängler and the Philharmonie

Another photo from the series of Berlin 1959-1964 mentioned below. This was when the Philharmonie site was on the edge, literally, just in the west but visible from the east. We forget the symbolic importance.

The Berlin Philharmonic was an icon in the Third Reich, too, not quite for the reasons the regime would have wanted. Wilhelm Furtwängler was the subject of de-nazification proceedings because he didn't escape into exile and played concerts in Poland just before it was invaded. I've read some of the original archives, see HERE. Yet Furtwängler also fought Goebbels and won (sort of) which few others dared or could get away with. He went "on strike" for several years, returning to the podium because he realized that the human soul can be more powerful than regimes.

This is the famous clip where he's seen conducting Beethoven 9 for Hitler's Birthday, 1942. It's sometimes cited as evidence that he collaborated. Of course it was propaganda, but in totalitarian states such things happen. It doesn't follow that what's on the surface matches what's in the heart. Anyone who knows Beethoven 9 knows the words, and knows what Beethoven - and Schiller - thought of tyrants. Party goons probably didn't know or care, but for Goebbels, who did know (and knew how Furtwängler felt about him) it wasn't quite so comfortable.

Incidentally, watch the Berlin photo sequence full screen. There's a shot which shows a small, insignificant piece of graffiti, which says "Berlin muss eins sein". Several shots of graffiti with "KZ" scrawled on the wall, in case anyone still doesn't know why people feel so strongly about the fall of the wall. When the wall fell, it was covered in graffiti. It was a political statement. Earlier, graffiti could get you killed.

1 comment:

Mark Berry said...

And if ever anyone has heard more fury, greater anger directed against barbarism, than in this performance, I should like - though doubtless also fear - to hear from him...