Berky, John: Pinpointing the Date of Knappertsbusch's 1944 Bruckner 4th

click to expand
The original Melodiya LP cover
For years, Hans Knappertsbusch's wartime recording of the Bruckner Symphony No. 4 has held legendary status. It is one of a handful of recordings using the first published (Gutmann) edition of the score, it fascinates because of the time and place of its recording and Knappertsbusch had a unique way with Bruckner that few other conductors have ever matched.

The performance was recorded in 1944 by the Reich Radio Gesellschaft (RRG) for later broadcast. In 1945, during the collapse of Berlin, the invading Soviet Army discovered the tape recording (along with 1,500 other recordings) and transported it back to the U.S.S.R. The recording made its first post-war appearance on a Melodiya LP that also contained Knappertsbusch's performance of the Brahms Symphony No. 3. This release, along with others by Furtwangler, gave the West its first indication that these recordings had survived the war. When the Soviet Union began to unravel in the 1990s, these tapes were returned to Berlin and are now stored there. When the Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv (DRA) in Frankfurt received their copy, the documentation indicated that the date of the performance was September 8, 1944. As several different record companies began to release this recording over the years, most used the DRA's date of September 8th.

Then on May 5th of 2016 an essay appeared in the Arts and Leisure Section of the New York Times. It was entitled, "Love and Loss, Set to Music, During the Holocaust," by Corinna da Fonsecca-Wollheim. It is yet another poignant story from the Holocaust and one with a few references to the music of Bruckner, who through no actions of his own, was intrinsically and culturally linked to the barbarism of the National Socialist regime in Germany.

The specific reference in the essay involved some April, 1944 radio broadcasts. It stated, Did Kaethe receive [the letter] in time for the following Sunday's broadcast of the Bruckner Fourth, with its wistful opening horn solo?

That statement alone was enough for one Bruckner enthusiast to look into the actual RRG broadcast schedule for April of 1944. Indeed, there was a broadcast of the Bruckner Fourth on April 9th that year. It featured Hans Knappertsbusch conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. But this now raised the question that if the broadcast took place on April 9th, how could the recording take place in September?

Digging further into the archives of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, it was determined that the Bruckner Fourth was recorded in Berlin on March 9th or 10th of 1944, one month before the broadcast. Further, the Berlin Philharmonic database showed that Knappertsbush was not engaged by the orchestra in September.

Given this information, the Deutsche Rundfunkarchive officially changed the date of the Knappertsbush Berlin Philharmonic recording of the Bruckner Symphony No. 4 to March 10, 1944. It has now been changed in this discography as well.

To read the full New York Times essay, click here.

The link below will show you the actual RRG broadcast schedule from April of 1944.

Download: Reichsrundfunk_Program_Page.pdf