The 2012 documentary film Orchestra of Exiles chronicles how Polish-born violin virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman helped save Europe’s premiere Jewish musicians and their families from obliteration by the Nazis. With the help of such famed allies as conductor Arturo Toscanini and Albert Einstein, Huberman was able to move these musicians to Palestine and form what years later would become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, in the process saving the lives of close to one thousand people and with them a vital part of Europe’s musical heritage.
Orchestra of Exiles will be shown in the Rosenwald Screening Room of the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film on Thursday, April 18, at 6:00pm, immediately followed by a question-and-answer session with the film’s director Josh Aronson. This event is free and open to the public, sponsored by the History, Film, and Music departments and the Jewish Studies program.
When Adolf Hitler began forcing Jewish musicians out of orchestras, first in Germany and then across central Europe, Huberman began auditioning them in Warsaw, Berlin, and Vienna for his dream of a new ensemble. “One has to build a fist against anti-Semitism. A first-class orchestra will be this fist,” Huberman was quoted saying. Arturo Toscanini came to be the first conductor of the Palestine Symphony (later re-named the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra).
“Orchestra of Exiles demonstrates the very concrete way in which culture is preserved and maintained, with transmission and human survival becoming intertwined realities,” said the New York Times. Allen Ellenzweig wrote in The Forward newspaper that, “A nearly forgotten figure has been resurrected, his humanitarian and professional achievements given the proper due. I defy you to leave with a dry eye." Illustrious musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zukerman, and Joshua Bell are interviewed in the film, which includes a rich musical soundtrack as well as extensive period newsreel footage and photography.
About the director
After starting his career as a still photographer for Time-Life, Josh Aronson began directing television films and commercials. From 1985-1993 Aronson was president of Gilson/Aronson Films, a commercial and MTV production company based in New York through which he directed MTV videos, television pilots and specials, and over 500 commercials. Aronson turned to making documentaries in 1999 and has won awards for exploring a fascinating variety of topics, including the Academy Award-nominated Sound and Fury, which goes inside the world of the deaf to witness a painful family struggle over a controversial medical technology called the cochlear implant. His other documentaries include The Opposite Sex, Beautiful Daughters. Aronson is also a concert pianist and regularly performs chamber music in New York and at the Telluride Musicfest, the chamber music festival he founded in 2002 with the violinist Maria Bachmann (his wife).
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