Military Music of the Bundeswehr…

Continuing the theme of widening out Tomahawk‘s WW-II German Archive to just before the First World War, then coming forwards to the German Democratic Republic up until the Fall of the Berlin to complete our story of that county’s military music, along with our post-war East German  CD ‘Behind the Iron Curtain’, we also released an exciting a CD containing military music from the West German Bundeswehr’s first Musikkorps and its maiden studio recording from 1957 to keep the balance:

The new German Federal Republic was created 8 years earlier on September 7th 1949 with the formation of the Bundestag under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer but it wasn’t until 6 years later that this new West German state was permitted by its former enemies to raise its own independent Armed Forces. However the first West German military in-take did not take place until November 12th 1955 and that primarily comprised volunteers from the Federal Border Guard, with all candidates pre-screened to prevent former Third Reich-era Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS members from re-enlisting in the new post-war military.

Nevertheless, I know from my various discussions with senior Bundeswehr military musicians that despite this tight screening, at least four former musicians from Hitler’s bodyguard division, the Musikkorps SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ and a number of younger Wehrmacht musicians were known to have ‘slipped though the net’ and it was these experienced WW-II veterans that would help continue Germany’s famous military musical traditions into the early days of the fledgling Bundeswehr in the late 1950s and so keep the ‘Janissary’ feel of their pre-1945 counterparts, at least for a few more years.

However it would, sadly, eventually be the Germany’s Greens and their allies who would, in later years, almost single handily destroy the whole historic might & pomp of West Germany’s Prussian military music by watering everything down to an almost unrecognisable image of its former self.. and indeed it was those self-same politicians that were behind the decision to remove the most obvious German Military musical uniform accoutrement, the Schwallbennesten (bandsmen’s swallowsnests), as well as also initially banning the other great totem of the German Musikkorps: the Schellenbaum (’Jingling Johnny’) and of course the ‘goose-step’ with all its Third Reich connotations

So it was odd that their East German counterparts, (who had a pathological hatred of the Nazi era), retained not only the Schwallbennesten & Schellenbaum but also the ‘goose-step’.. in fact  NVA Musikkorps even retained the distinct-sounding musical instrument, the Schalmei that was a favourite of early Sturm-Abteilung & Hitler Youth bands of the 1930s… but whenever this was raised, the brusque answer was always: “these are Prussian Traditions, not National Socialist!” )

However back to 1957 and that early, brief window when the newly formed West German musical arm could still perform in its proud, pre-1945 janissary style and the creation of the Stabsmusikkorps der Bundeswehr (Staff Band of the Army) on February 16th 1957 under a training designation, or Lehrmusikkorps, at Rheinbach near Bonn, initially with 16 musicians.

Some 4 months later, on June 16th 1957, Hauptmann Friedrich Deisenroth took over musical command and just a month after that increased this new musical strength to 50 bandsmen, with their first duties being to play alongside the Bundeswehr’s Wachbataillon Honour Guard in the new capital city of Bonn. In September the Stabsmusikkorps gave its first  performance in public and then in November 1957 it undertook its maiden studio recording session…

Tomahawk’s stirring CD Mit Trommeln und Pfeifen..! is that very recording, played in the true, pre-war Janissary style that harked back to the musical glory days of the Third Reich and includes the wonderful Der Badenweiler and a differing rendtion of the newly de-nazified German National Anthem or Nationalhymn as it was known then.. and as I say a rare and very short-lived window in time before the Germany’s Green Party got their hands on the Bundeswehr’s re-built musical arm and, (according to those former West German musicians I have spoken with), totally neutered and effectively wrecked what was always a very proud tradition within the German’s military psyche…

Indeed when the ‘dust had finally settled’ after the massive upheaval surrounding the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a number of former East German NVA musicians enlisted in the Bundeswehr, but were absolutely horrified at how far their janissary style of music had slipped and were appalled at the ‘lightweight’ music they were now expected to perform in the musikkorps of the newly reunified Germany… and so it is that this 1957 West German recording lives on as a well-preserved example of how military music would still have been played in todays’ Bundeswehr, but for political interference…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

German Military Music of the DDR…

Although our professional German Archive is predominantly Third Reich/Nazi-era based, we do also try to balance the whole picture of German military music as much as possible and so try encompass the whole story on either side of the 12 years of the Third Reich, right back in fact to just before the First World War and right up until the Fall of The Berlin Wall 1989 that led to the subsequent reunification of the two Germanys.

Indeed my book, The Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-1945, takes the genesis of German military music right back to its inception in Turkey in the Middle Ages, so steeped in history is this wonderful music; however for the audio side of German Archive our CDs run the musical gamut from  around 1910 up to1989 and the end of Communist East Germany.

In fact the DDR was created on October 11th 1949 with a new Parliament sited in East Berlin and a new Nationale Volksarmee, whose musical requirements were provided by Staff (Stabsmusikkorps) & Line bands (Musikkorps). 21 Musikkorps were eventually established: from Berlin’s Zentrales Orchester and Stabsmusikkorps und Spielmannszug der Stadtkommandantur Berlin down to 19 Musikkorps across 4 branches of East Germany’s military service.

Stabsmusikkorps Kommandantur Berlin was the designated army band for the Wachregiment ‘Friedrich Engels’, undertaking all military functions at Schönefeld Airport and in the City of Berlin, whilst ‘officially non-military’ ceremonies involving Western dignitaries were undertaken by the orchestra of the ‘non-NVA’ Ministry of State Security’s crack unit tasked with defence of the Communist Party, the Wachregiment ‘Feliks Dzierzynski’.

The Army (Landstreitkräfte) had a Stabsmusikkorps and 8 Musikkorps, the Air Force & Air Defence Arm (Luftstreitkräfte und Luftverteidigung), a Stabsmusikkorps and a Musikkorps, the Navy (Volksmarine) 1 Stabsmusikkorps & 2 Musikkorps and the Border Troops (Grenztruppen) 1 Stabsmusikkorps & 3 Musikkorps and, to fulfil the state’s political demands, the ‘Erich-Weinert Ensemble’ was established in 1950 as an ‘artistic institution of the NVA’.

Many former-Wehrmacht ‘founding fathers’ of East German military music had served under Air Force Head of Music Prof. Husadel and that exciting Luftwaffe feel could still be heard in the superb post-war performances of Berlin’s elite Volkspolizei band, the Zentrales Orchester des MdI, (Ministerium des Innern), notable for its pre-‘45 strident janissary beat with distinctive high-pitched twirls and embellishments of the woodwind section’s clarinets & piccolos!

DDR Musikkorps details were a state secret and a band would often appear, record an album and disappear into the mists, leaving East German military music as something of an enigma during the days of the Cold War; but Tomahawk Films are pleased to release this exciting and definitive mix of new & old marches in the true German military tradition, including the unique sound of the Kamfpgruppen, (Communist Territorial Army), playing the Schalmei, distinctive multi horn instruments evoking memories of the Nazi & Communist street fighting days of the 1930s.

Thanks to our friends at Imperial & post-war German military music specialists, Eagle & Lyre, Tomahawk was able to acquire the rights to 18 incredibly stirring and rare military musical tracks which are featured on our CD: The Marches & Korpslieder of East Germany’s Elite Musikkorps 1949 – 1989.

Included is the very moving East German National Anthem, (at which no pre-1989 Olympic Ceremony was ever complete), and a secret and slightly eerie live recording of the Wachregiment ‘Friedrich Engels’ changing the guard at Strausberg Barracks…!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013