“Attention, attention! This is Dresden calling!”



The MIRAG broadcasting studio in the Dresden MIRAG House at Beuststrasse 13
© Photo from: Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft RRG – DRA


“… and now we are going over to …”

“The Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk A.G. (central German radio company) had established a wider network of external radio stations than most German broadcasting companies. Their key motivation in this was making use of the highest quality performances and events in the various areas within their remit for the benefit of radio broadcasting.”
We can read about this in the July 1925 issue of the radio programme magazine “Die Mirag”, which reports that plans are afoot to establish an extensive studio network in the entire central German region in a short space of time.

We need first and foremost to keep in mind that at the birth of radio there was no highly developed sound studio technology nor any perception of scientifically-based acoustics. Even the term “studio” in today’s sense of the word was unknown; people spoke instead of a “transmission room” and of a “spoken-word room” or at most of a “recording room”. The technical equipment situated between the microphone and the transmitter did not occupy much space in those early days: indeed, in a retrospective dated 1929 they are referred to as “primitive”!

The pioneers were sure of one thing, however: the “spoken-word room” had to be fitted with some sort of sound proofing:
“Specially equipped rooms are used for radio recordings. The walls, ceiling and floor are all fitted with special panels. The walls are generously upholstered and there are thick curtains, while the feet of those providing entertainment for the listeners are positioned on a soft floor covering that is provided with practical numbering so that the musicians can find their appropriate places quickly,” according to a 1924 programme newspaper.

Today it is almost inconceivable that there are no sound recordings from those first five years of radio – everything was live (!) or else commercial records were played.
It is astounding how forward-looking those early radio pioneers were in the 1920s; the broadcasting model of a “three-state-wide transmission area” (that is, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia) is still in place to this day at Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk.


The MIRAG ancillary broadcasting station in Dresden
by Tobias Knauf

“Of the broadcasting stations outside Leipzig, the one in Dresden deserves special mention. Even before the Dresden station was properly established, there was a sort of studio operating from the Hotel Reichspost …” according to the “Sächsische Funk” magazine in the October issue of 1924.
Only elderly Dresdeners who knew the Saxon capital before the fire storm of February 13, 1945 will now remember the Hotel Reichspost, the aerial spanned between the Kreuzkirche and the tower of the Rathaus, or the villa in Beuststrasse, where programmes were produced that brought MIRAG the reputation of a much acclaimed “concert broadcaster” among other German broadcasters in the days of the Weimar Republic.
Compared with MIRAG’s other regional studios, the Dresden station was to some extent an independent operation that for a while broadcast its own regional transmissions featuring all manner of programmes, employed its own personnel and had access to a wide circle of freelance staff .



The MIRAG broadcasting studio in Dresden located in the Hotel Reichspost, 1924


Dresden goes on air

The first time that spoken-word or musical contributions recorded in Dresden were broadcast via the Leipzig transmitter was on October 26, 1924.
Two string quartets by Beethoven and Mozart played by the Dresden String Quartet comprising Gustav Fritzsche, Fritz Schneider, Hans Riphahn and Alexander Kropholler were performed “live” in an office of the central postal authority and transmitted via open lines to Leipzig.


Hotel Reichspost was the location of MIRAG’s first sound studio in Dresden
© Photo from TRIANGEL magazine, issue 9/1998

In view of the provisional nature of the arrangements, MIRAG and the central postal authority in Dresden came to an agreement whereby the broadcasting facilities would be relocated to the former Hotel Reichspost at Grosse Zwingerstrasse 18.

To this end, a studio was set up in the lobby and foyer while amplifiers and control rooms were located on the ground floor along with a cloakroom and a waiting room. The management was accommodated on the first floor.

That was the prerequisite that provided Dresden artists with the opportunity to be heard in their home city on the radio.
In addition we have permanent studio facilities in the opera house and the Gewerbehaus venue,” writes Delvendahl.

By employing the architect Eugen Emil Horath, MIRAG won the talents of a man who would in future be wholly responsible for programme planning, announcements and management of the Dresden station as well as for all structural and artistic decoration for the entire broadcasting company. As a result, Horath was able to use his experience of Leipzig when fitting out the Dresden broadcasting house.



The management team at the Dresden station:
Director E. E. Horath – Head of Culture Dr. Ernst Latzko – Announcer Horst von Tschirschnitz – Literary Director Kurt Arnold Findeisen


The Dresden broadcasting company

By the beginning of 1925 a technical infrastructure was in place in Dresden which enabled independent programme transmission, though not to the same extent as in Leipzig.
The commencement of transmission on February 22, 1925 marked the end of the first development phase of popular radio in Dresden. At that time, a total of 10,781 fee-paying listeners were registered in the postal district of Dresden, while just four weeks later the number had risen to 23,872.

In the ensuing months the staff of the broadcasting company management was expanded. In addition to Horath as Head of Broadcasting the author Kurt Arnold Findeisen was engaged as Literary Director, Theodor Blumer as Head of Music and Carl Blumau as Head of Drama.

Every week at least one member of the Dresden staff travelled to Leipzig in order to discuss programme planning with the management team there.
In the first two years the secondary station in Dresden transmitted its own programmes once or twice a week.
Usually on Tuesday afternoons the broadcaster would transmit one concert from Leipzig and one from Dresden throughout the Central German region.
The two half-hourly evening talks were transmitted on the same day from Dresden to the Leipzig station.

The most popular programmes from Dresden included opera and operetta, chamber music and Singspiele.
In the sphere of spoken word, Dresden made a name for itself first and foremost with contributions about traditions in the neighbouring regions, such as the Lausitz, eastern Saxony, Bohemia and the Vogtland, as well as through lectures about hygiene and legal knowledge. The scope sounds remarkable, though over the entire period spanning 1924 to 1932, it was Leipzig that contributed the lion’s share of programming.

With the expansion of the regional studio and the increased use of mobile transmission technology, and following a change of management in Leipzig (Ludwig Neubeck was appointed in 1929, followed by a restructuring of departments), Dresden’s share of programme input was diminished by degrees. Some of the first permanent freelance staff included the Dresden String Quartet, music director Schmidtgen, the tenor Robert Bröll, the baritone Karl Zinnert and the sopranos Wanda Schnitzing and Helga Petri as well as as the authors Ottomar Enking and Heinrich Zerkaulen.


The Dresden Radio in-house orchestra after a rehearsal in front of the entrance to the studio at Grosse Zwingerstrasse 18.
Gustav Agunte (seated right) was the orchestral director
© Photo from TRIANGEL magazine, issue 9/1998

In the late spring of 1925 the management in Dresden decided, along the lines of the Leipzig model, to build up a permanent small orchestra under the direction of the violinist Gustav Agunte.
According to statistics most of their performances were of popular music for the midday and afternoon concerts. When chamber operas, operettas and Singspiele were on the programme, the orchestra was augmented by members of the Dresden String Quartet and freelance musicians.


Revolting singers

At the outset, the Dresden broadcasters had problems in engaging well known artists to be involved in the radio programmes:
There was a clear reluctance to engage with new technology and then there was the question of fees. The “stars” initially refused to have anything to do with the new venture – for artistic reasons.
The artistic director applied for a budget allocation so as not to endanger the planned programme schedule. And so it was agreed that fees would not be below the rate of 150 Reichsmark, the minimum fee for a State Opera soloist. That said, the problem was soon solved once the second-rank soloists started offering their services at much lower rates.



The new MIRAG radio building at Beuststrasse 13 in Dresden © Foto in TRIANGEL 9/1998 – DRA


The new Dresden MIRAG-Building

MIRAG_Sendesaal_Dresden for web

Studio in the Dresden MIRAG House
Supplement from the Dresdner Anzeiger newspaper of July 28, 1929
© Photo from TRIANGEL magazine, issue 9/1998 – Archiv Schütze, Dresden

Im Januar 1926 meldete die Reichspost Eigenbedarf an den Geschäftsräumen im früheren Hotel „Reichspost“ an, so dass eine Ausweichlösung zunächst für die Büros gefunden werden musste.
Anfangs erwog die Gesellschaft den Kauf eines Grundstücks in ruhiger Lage, da sich die Innenstadtmieten als zu hoch erwiesen.

Nach längerer Suche fand sich ein Anwesen in der Beuststraße, der heutigen Mary-Wigman-Straße.
Die Lage war optimal: Eine Villengegend, nur wenige Wegminuten vom Hauptbahnhof entfernt, dazu drei Straßenbahnlinien fast vor der Tür, die einen schnellen Zugang für die Künstler boten.
So wurden zunächst in der 1869 erbauten Villa des Grafen Beust fünf Büros in der ersten Etage gemietet und das Vorkaufsrecht gesichert.

Im Mai 1926 einigte sich die MIRAG-Leitung mit dem Besitzer, so dass Horath in den Erdgeschossräumen wohnen konnte.
Im Dezember 1927 erteilte der MIRAG-Aufsichtsrat die Genehmigung zum Kauf der Immobilie.


Künstlerzimmer im Dresdner MIRAG-Haus
Beilage aus dem „Dresdner Anzeiger“ vom 28. Juli 1929
© Foto aus TRIANGEL 9/1998 – Archiv Schütze, Dresden

Der Umzug bedeutete zunächst eine Dezentralisierung des Funkbetriebes: Verwaltung und Sendeleitung saßen in der Beuststraße, Studios und Regieräume in der Oberpostdirektion unweit des Postplatzes, und die Antennenanlage spannte sich von der Kreuzkirche zum Turm des Neuen Rathauses.

1927 wurden dann Überlegungen angestellt, das zweiteilige Gebäude in der Beuststraße zur Sendestelle auszubauen. Der Umbauplan musste allerdings zunächst wegen eines Streits mit den Nachbarn und den städtischen Behörden zurückgestellt werden.

Offenbar widerwillig kam Horath den Auflagen der Baupolizei nach und passte das Äußere dem Renaissance-Stil der Nachbarschaft durch Rustika und Lisenen im Putz an.
Kernstück des Vorhabens wurde das frühere Nebengebäude: Im Parterre entstanden Büros, ein Orchester-Aufenthaltsraum und ein Probenraum, eine Garage und technische Maschinenräume.
Im Obergeschoss, den früheren Ateliers, wurden der Große Sendesaal, das Vortragszimmer, ein Regieraum sowie ein Künstlerzimmer und der Verstärkerraum untergebracht.
Prunkstück war der Sendesaal. Bei einer Grundfläche von knapp 130 m‘ wurden die Seitenverhältnisse so gewählt, dass der 6 m hohe Raum ein als Optimum geltendes Längen-Breiten-Verhältnis von 16:8 Metern aufwies. Acht hohe Fenster sorgten für Helligkeit bis in die Abendstunden. Für eine bestmögliche Akustik wurden nach mehreren Versuchen die Verkleidung des Fußbodens in Boucle sowie der Kopfwand vor dem Aufnahmeplatz und einer Längswand mit veränderlichem, schallabsorbierendem Stoff gefunden. Um die Bedingungen perfekt zu machen, griff Horath zum „Sschäfferschen Zelt“.

Dem Großen Sendesaal schloss sich ein Künstlerzimmer an. Der benachbarte Vortrags-Senderaum war nur 10 m2 groß.
Aus allen Aufnahmeräumen einschließlich des großen Probenraumes, der zeitweise auch als Sendesaal II firmierte, konnte das Programm auf den Leipziger Sender übertragen werden. Dazu waren Anschlüsse für insgesamt zwölf Mikrofone vorhanden, allein acht im Großen Sendesaal.



Der große Sendesaal im Dresdner Funkhaus
© Foto: aus TRIANGEL 9/1998 – DRA


Das Ende des Nebensenders Dresden

MIRAG-Dresden_Sprecher_und_Regieplatz-for-webDer Programmabbau am Sender Dresden begann 1929 mit der Trennung von der Kapelle Agunte.
Schon Monate vorher, am 17 September 1928, kündigte Dr. Erwin Jaeger auf einer Sitzung des Kulturellen Beirats an, dass die Kapelle im Verlauf des Winterhalbjahres aufgelöst werden solle.
Im gleichen Atemzug versicherte Jaeger, dass dies kein Wegfall von derartiger Musik aus Dresden bedeute, sondern nur weniger und Besseres dem Hörer geboten werden solle. In der gleichen Sitzung warnte der Vorsitzende des Arbeiter-Radio-Bundes Dresden, Alfred Althus, vor der Auflösung, musste jedoch vom Kaufmännischen Leiter der MIRAG, Fritz Kohl, die Einschätzung erfahren, dass die Dresdner Leistung „Kaffehausmusik“ sei.

Im Jahr darauf reduzierte man aus Sparsamkeitsgründen die Besetzung der Dresdner Sendestelle und betraute dortige Mitarbeiter mit anderen Aufgaben. So musste sich der Literarische Leiter Kurt Arnold Findeisen verstärkt um den Schulfunk kümmern. Damit war die Auflösung der Literarischen Abteilung besiegelt. Letzten Ausschlag für das Ende des Nebensenders Dresden gab der Wechsel des musikalischen Leiters Theodor Blumer, der nach dem politisch motiviertem Rauswurf Alfred Szendreis 1933 in die Führung der musikalischen Leitung der MIRAG in Leipzig aufstieg. weiter

Tobias Knauf
© Beitrag für TRIANGEL 9/1998

Weiterführende Themen

Das Musikangebot des MIRAG-Nebensenders Dresden · 1924 bis 1933
Recherchen des MDR-Chefproduzenten Steffen Lieberwirth

Originaldokumente und weitere zeitgenössische Fotografien zum MIRAG-Nebensender 1924/25

Die Sendergeschichte nach 1945

Der Landessender Dresden wird wiederbegründet · 1945
Erinnerungen des damaligen MDR-Kulturchefs Ulli Böhme
und des MDR-Toningenieurs Gerhard Steinke

Das neue Funkhaus im Hygienemuseum · 1946
Erinnerungen des damaligen MDR-Reporters Johannes Lieberwirth
und des damaligen MDR-Toningenieurs Gerhard Steinke