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Thursday, June 10, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The record label from the movie Valkyrie.
Photo by the author.
So this morning, I'm watching Valkyrie, Brian Singer's film about the plot to bump off Adolf Hitler in 1943. About 20 minutes in there's an instrumental performance of the Ride of the Valkyries, and a clear shot of the record label of the LP that is playing the music.

The record label translates as:
Die Walküre, Wagner
Ride of the Valkyries
Berlin Philharmonic
conducted by Music Director Hans Knappertsbusch.
Catalogue No. 21004. Edition No. 66705

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the greatest music directors of Germany, both before and after the war. However, his politics and maverick leanings made him a target for Joseph Goebbels. In fact, although he held the life-time position of the Bavarian State Orchestra, and the directorship of the Munich Opera, he was stripped of those positions in a bit of political maneuvering, either under Goebbels' orders or at the personal order of Hitler.

"Kna", as he was known, spent most the war working in Vienna, with the Vienna Philharmonic. His jovial nature, sense of humor, and almost psychic rapport with the orchestra (not to mention his dislike of rehearsals!) can be heard on recordings made in the 1950s: a Vienna Die Meistersinger and of course, the 1951 and 1962 recordings of Parsifal, made at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus and released commercially on LP and later on CD.

However, while Knappertsbusch was the director of the Munich and Vienna orchestras, he never worked as general music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. That was Wilhelm Furtwängler's job.

From the dog on the label, it's RCA Victor, except that it says "Grammophon." All Berlin Philharmonic recordings would have been on Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft--they had an exclusive contract with the orchestra until Claudio Abbado became music director in the 1990s. Currently, the Berliners record for EMI under the baton of their music director, Sir Simon Rattle.

According to IMDB, the recording used in the film (which is in full stereo, and with none of the hiss that marked mono recordings from the 1940s and before) is as follows:

"Die Walküre: Ride Of The Valkyries"
Written by Richard Wagner
Performed by The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Uwe Mund, conductor (uncredited)
Courtesy of Naxos

Finally, the real Colonel von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise's character) apparently hated Wagner's music.

OK. Time to go pick holes in Inglourious Basterds!
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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.