Orches­tra of Exiles

Josh Aron­son and Denise George
  • Review
By – March 31, 2016

Pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er Josh Aron­son and writer Denise George deliv­er a beau­ti­ful­ly researched work of non­fic­tion about the tragedy of Europe in the nine­teenth and twen­ti­eth cen­turies through the biog­ra­phy of Bro­nis­law Huber­man, a world-famous violinist.

His sto­ry begins in Poland, where he was born to poor Jew­ish peas­ants. Once the child exhib­it­ed musi­cal tal­ent, his father drove him to become an acclaimed prodi­gy. The book fol­lows Broni’s career as he achieved great suc­cess in the world of music — includ­ing the bestow­al of a Stradi­var­ius vio­lin by the emper­or — as well as his love affairs and the painful his­to­ry of Europe dur­ing the First World War and its after­math. As anger in dis­tress mount­ed in Ger­many, Broni began to real­ize the poten­tial appli­ca­tion of his tal­ent, wealth, and con­tacts to try to relieve some of the suf­fer­ing that sur­round­ed him.

In the 1930s Hitler came to pow­er in Ger­many, promis­ing a bright future to the despon­dent peo­ple. This promised feat would be accom­plished, in part, by rid­ding Ger­many of its Jews and tak­ing their often valu­able property.

And here the book takes off. Huber­man, hear­ing that over 8,000 Jew­ish musi­cians have been fired from their jobs, is deeply dis­turbed. He takes a trip to British Man­date Pales­tine and is impressed by the rig­or and love of music he finds in the set­tle­ments. Deeply moved, he lights upon the idea of cre­at­ing a world-class orches­tra of Jew­ish musi­cians in the Holy Land. He begins to audi­tion play­ers, rais­es mon­ey, recon­structs a con­cert hall, and secures per­mis­sion for his group to enter Palestine.

Though a large num­ber of gift­ed Jew­ish musi­cians refused to leave Ger­many with their fam­i­lies to go to Pales­tine, cer­tain that the ter­ri­fy­ing anti-Semi­tism of the Nazis would soon blow over, Huber­man did even­tu­al­ly tri­umph with a grand open­ing con­cert — con­duct­ed by the great Toscani­ni — of what would become the Israel Phil­har­mon­ic, one of the great­est ensem­bles of the world.

Relat­ed Content:

Jane Waller­stein worked in pub­lic rela­tions for many years. She is the author of Voic­es from the Pater­son Silk Mills and co-author of a nation­al crim­i­nal jus­tice study of parole for Rut­gers University.

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