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Orchestra of Exiles 2012

Highly Recommended

Distributed by First Run Features, 630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036; 212-243-0600
Produced by Josh Aronson
Directed by Josh Aronson
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - General Adult
Music, Nazism, Holocaust & Genocide Studies

Date Entered: 06/17/2013

Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

One has to build a fist against Anti-Semitism—a first class orchestra will be this fist. --Bronislaw Huberman
Bringing to light a Holocaust story virtually unknown outside Israel, Orchestra of Exiles recounts the efforts of gifted musical artist, Bronislaw Huberman, to build a fist against anti-Semitism, and in the process rescue nearly a thousand Jews from Nazi persecution and found a world-class orchestra.

Director Josh Aronson draws on archival footage and photographs, plus recreations of pivotal events in Huberman’s life to flesh out his subject: child prodigy on the violin; teen sensation who toured the world and performed for royalty; young man shaken by the tragedy of World War I, then politicized and humanized through his studies at the Sorbonne; outstanding artist at the height of his career who sees in the crisis of 1930s anti-Semitism both danger and opportunity.

Interviews with musical greats Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zuckerman, and Joshua Bell, as well as with descendants of original members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra drive home the impact of Huberman’s decision to stand up to Nazi intolerance. Rightly perceiving the trajectory of Hitler’s policies, Huberman worked tirelessly from 1933 through 1936 to obtain certificates of entry into Palestine for Jewish musicians (and their families) fired from their positions in Europe’s best orchestras. His own performances became fundraising events for the fledgling organization, and in Tel-Aviv on December 26, 1936, the Palestine Orchestra—later renamed Israel Philharmonic—was born. Its first conductor was the legendary Arturo Toscanini, an outspoken critic of Hitler who had himself escaped the rise of Fascism in his home country Italy.

Orchestra of Exiles is a fine resource for academic collections supporting programs in music and history; public library users, especially those who enjoy the History Channel, will find here a remarkable story well-told in a familiar format. Special features include an interview with the director, and shorts The Power of Music, Music Education: The Legacy of the IPO, Huberman’s Dream, and Why Jews Stayed in Europe.