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Military government weekly information bulletin
Number 100 (July 1947)

Bitter, John
Berlin philharmonic,   pp. 9-11 PDF (2.1 MB)

Page [10]

formed once early in February and
again in April. It was hard going
then. Many of the members had left
Berlin, others were incommunicado
in isolated spots of the city. When
that cultured military leader, Colonel
General Berzarin entered the city at
the head   of the  first Ukrainian
Army, one of his first acts was to
see to it that the musical life of
Berlin did not cease. He immediately
placed the Philharmonic under the
leadership  of  Leo  Borchard,  a
musician whose tact and keen under-
standing as well as abilitiy, made
him ideal for organizing this tired
and somewhat disillusioned group.
The first concert after VE day took
place in the middle of June at the
Titania Palast and the German public
was once more privileged to hear
music by Mendelssohn and Tschai-
kowsky something they had been
denied by German law for many
years For this occasion the mem-
bers had cleanesed themselves by
dismissing five died-in-the-wool Nazis
from their ranks.
Early in July the city was divided
into three sectors., (The French were
given a sector for themselves a bit
later.) Whether a musical division
was intended when the boundaries
were drawn is unknown to the
author but a fairly equitable distri-
bution  resulted  nevertheless.  The
Russians had in their sector the
State Opera (Deutsche Staatsoper),
the British the Municipal Opera
(Staedtische Opera formerly Deut-
sches Opernhaus) and the Americans
the Philharmonic. Since the Special
Services of the 2nd ArmoredDivision
had taken over a gaudy cinema
palace, the Titania Palast, the only
building resembling a concert hall
that was equipped with such lux-
uries as a roof and walls in the US
Sector, the orchestra found itself
virtually homeless.
AT that time the Theatre and Music
ASubsection of the Information
Services Control Section of Berlin
District Headquarters-also known as
the First Airborne Army-establish-
ed itself in the middle of Zehlen-
dorf, a relatively unbombed portion
of Berlin. According to Information
Control directives it was the job of
these 'specialists "to guide and con-
trol the reconstitution of German
During the last two seasons the Berlin Philharmonic has given over 200 concerts.
Almost all of them were conducted by Sergiu Celibidache, a 34-year-old
Roumanian who has earned an outstanding reputation for himself and the
orchestra.                                             (photo by PRINZ)
music." It was therefore the mission
of this section among others, firstly
to keep the Berlin Philharmonic
going, and secondly to make it a
vital factor in the rebuilding of a
Germany, democratic in the Ameri-
can sense of the word.
T HE orchestra was thoroughly
1screened. Through the cooper-
ation of Special Services fortnightly
concerts were arranged at the Titania
Palast and, with the help of British
authorities, performances were sched-
uled in their sector on alternating
To state it simply, the concerts
were a smash hit. Not only those for
the German public were packed but
also those for GI's and Tommies at
which all Allies were welcome. Leo
Borchard chose programs stressing
previously banned composers and in
general proved himself an able, and
at the same time diplomatic leader
during those troubled times,
The Philharmonic had had quite a
bit of bad luck. Before the war had
gotten well underway, the manage-
ment had   sent two   sets of in-
struments out into the country for
safekeeping in case Berlin was ever
bombed. Also the greater portion of
its precious music library was stored
in odd places in and outside of the
city. All the instruments, however,
were destroyed and most of the
music was ruined. Looters, flood, fire
and shelling, all did their bit in
bringing about this unhappy situa-
tion. It took a great deal of digging
in among the ruins of the city to
rebuild even a small library of well
known classics. It was a strange
assortment that carried on this search.
-The  orchestra  manager,  a  little
gnome of a man who was also a
member of the viola section; the
second trombonist, a German la-
borer, a GI driver, and the Berlin
District music officer, who was an
Armored Force Captain, set out in a
6X6 army truck. The GI was puzzled
but interested: "The band down at
my battalion don't need no more
than a down beat to get 'em started,
how come this Fil'monic needs all
this stuff?"
The trombone player spoke a little
English. "We need the notes, all
right, to keep one hundred of us
7 JULY 1947

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