Vienna Philharmonic archives showing Nazi ties to get new home

Wed Oct 8, 2014 4:39am EDT
 
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which acknowledged decades after the fact that many of its players had been Nazi party members, will use a $1 million grant to digitalize and find a new home for its archives, it was announced on Wednesday.

The announcement by the orchestra's management was made in Stockholm where the orchestra was to officially receive the grant from the Birgit Nilsson Foundation. The foundation is endowed by the late Swedish dramatic soprano and is said to be the "most generous prize in the world of classical music".

The selection of the VPO for the prize was announced in April, but the use to which the money would be put was decided by unanimous vote of the orchestra members, Clemens Hellsberg, who has stepped down as the orchestra's first archivist, said.

"I am happy that the orchestra decided in this way because it means there is an awareness of the importance of history," Hellsberg said in a telephone interview from Stockholm.

Hellsberg said the orchestra's history encompassed everything it had done since its founding in 1842, including giving the premieres of symphonies by Bruckner and Brahms, as well as falling under the influence of Hitler from 1938 to 1945.

The orchestra's New Year's concerts, which are broadcast around the world every year, are said to have been founded in 1939 with the enthusiastic support of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. By 1942, the year of the orchestra's centennial, almost half its players were Nazi party members.

For years, though, access to the archives was tightly controlled and Hellsberg was one of the first to be able to properly research the materials it contains.

"For us it is a moral issue to present our own past," he said.   Continued...