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