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Radio as a Music Producer and Contemporary Witness

Preserved in Unique Snapshots



The “Radio Magician”, Dessau 1925
“The radio set begins to grow and glow. It grows into a fantastic magician who reveals a fairy story,” is a 1928 description by the Saxon State Opera of Dresden for the staging of the ballet “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
Figurine drawing by the Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer for the performance in the Semperoper.

This must have had an electrifying effect on listeners, sitting at home in the parlour in front of a gramophone-like trumpet or wearing ear-phones, and able, thanks to the modern medium of radio, to listen to an opera premiere or a concert broadcast. Anyone who was anyone was keen to be seen to be keeping up with modern trends.
And of course it was the pioneering spirit of inventive technicians that championed such futuristic developments in the 1920s.
No matter that the sound quality of the first loud speakers left something to be desired and that the music sounded decidedly tinny, scratchy, crackly or hissy. The world was listening to the radio! Literally.

Poets and composers all joined in praise of the radio in their own way. In 1930, the composer Pavel Haas wrote a true declaration of love to the radio microphone, the loudspeaker and radio waves in his anthem in honour of the radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi.
To Bauhaus artists like Oskar Schlemmer the radio set in its mystical wireless state, with its glowing red tubes was a highly welcome zeitgeist topic in their modern philosophy of art.

With the exception of the few so-called “gramophone record concerts”, in which shellac discs were played at short notice over the radio, everything back then was live!
The very early radio programmes were not kept for posterity, but the advance in recording techniques at the end of the 1930s meant that broadcasts and radio programmes could be recorded and re-transmitted. That also meant that a special service had to be created to administer and carefully preserve the radio recordings: the radio archives.

This seems to be a suitable point at which to invite you to take a journey in time through central German music and radio history. To this end, we will embark on a search for recordings handed down to us and some high-calibre contemporary ones made with the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the ensemble of the Dresden State Opera, the MDR Symphony Orchestra, the MDR Choir, the singers of the Dresden State Operetta and the Leipzig Opera House, and the St Thomas’s Boys Choir.

Public radio stations in Germany see themselves to this day as important regional music producers. And with a sense of pride we are pleased to note that the radio archives are not simply a dusty reminder of our own musical memories; the more recent surround/sound recordings with central German orchestras and at their opera houses will be a solid legacy for generations to come. After all, this is ninety years’ worth of radio treasure steeped in history …

Thanks to an enduring partnership with the German Radio Archives based in Frankfurt am Main and Potsdam, and with Kulturradio MDR Figaro, these unique archive gems can now be mined and made accessible to the public worldwide in five series released on such renowned labels as Profil Edition, Querstand, CPO and MDR KLASSIK.

With this in mind, we welcome your curiosity in our search for photos, radio recordings and documentary films!

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