An Artist's flight to freedom
Bruno Droste: An Artist's Flight to Freedom is a one-hour documentary about the well-known Erfurt-based composer, pianist and leader of his own 28-piece Bruno Droste Dance String Orchestra, for which he composed and arranged music in his individualized and highly recognizable style. As a figurehead in Erfurt, the bustling university city and capital of Thuringia, Droste envisioned the transforming of his entertainment ensemble, with hit tunes and amusing pieces, to a "concert-type" programming that could play for festive orchestra concerts. The orchestra, with its excellent soloist musicians, recorded in Erfurt's elegant Imperial Hall for broadcasts from Radio Weimar, and toured throughout Eastern bloc countries, enjoying a stable and thriving career for the musicians. Droste, however, resented bitterly the Soviet restraints upon all creative artists' works, and found it increasingly impossible to accept the Soviet restraints that he felt strangled his creativity. The film shows the tragedy of many creative artists who lived in the divided post-World War II Germany, many who felt it necessary to flee to the West.
News & Updates
Jan 20, 2015
Bruno Droste: An Artist's Flight to Freedom has been nominated for 4 categories in
the 7th International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema,
the nominations are:
Best Editor of a Documentary Film | Cheryl Lee
Best Feature Documentary | Cheryl Lee
Best Editing of a Documentary | Cheryl Lee
Best Producer of a Documentary Film | Doris Carlino
visit the festival site at http://www.filmmakerfestival.com
CD released by German Singer Christine Reber
The young, beautiful and versatile German soprano Christine Reber became acquainted with the music of Bruno Droste through a chance meeting with Droste’s widow, Doris Marion.
Marion was present at a classical concert given by Ms. Reber at the Goethe Institute in Boston. Impressed by her performance, Marion introduced herself and praised the young singer’s talents.
In discussing their similar interests and careers, the story of Bruno Droste, his flight from Germany’s East Zone and his attempt to rebuild his career in the West came forth.
Later, listening to some examples of his work, Reber recognized the composer’s gift for melody and rhythm. She became fascinated by the timelessness of these songs
that had been composed so many decades before and decided to record some of them.
The result is her CD:
Wiederentdeckt-Lieder von Bruno Droste – Christine Reber & Friends
[Rediscovered – Songs by Bruno Droste – Christine Reber & friends] with lyrics in German and English.
Click on her website and learn more, then hear some excerpts of the CD.
BRUNO DROSTE: AN ARTIST’S FLIGHT TO FREEDOM
The cultural and political barriers that isolated artists in the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic following World War II are hard to imagine today.
Those restraints drastically obliterated the legacy of Erfurt pianist/composer Bruno Droste, leader of his own 28-piece DANCE STRING ORCHESTRA. Bruno Droste: An Artist’s Flight to Freedom, a documentary produced by his widow, Doris Carlino, restores Droste’s rightful place in music history.
An admirer of George Gershwin, Droste also composed witty hit tunes, elegant ballads, and unique orchestral pieces that reverberated over the German airwaves. In 1958 at an engagement in East Berlin, music controllers reprimanded him for playing “western” boogie-woogie to the encouragement of his young audience. Droste complained bitterly; then fearing possible consequences, left the next morning for Berlin’s American sector, where he registered as a refugee. The GDR retaliated by destroying his musical scores and recordings.
Droste’s odyssey to re-establish his life and career was cut short by his untimely death in Brussels in 1969.
The film pieces together Droste’s story through interviews, photographs, period publications and archival footage. His brilliant compositions are resurrected from audiotapes, radio and shellac recordings and fresh performances by musicians intimate with his work.
A DIVIDED GERMANY
In 1945, at the close of World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones. Each zone was under the control of one of the occupying allied powers (France, United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union). Likewise, the city of Berlin was divided into four sectors even though the city of Berlin was located well within the eastern zone controlled by the Soviet Union.
In October 1949, the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including its portion of Berlin, became a socialist state called the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The combined zones controlled by the US, France and Great Britain became the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). One impact of the new socialist state on the city of Berlin was that it effectively became an Island in the soviet zone isolated from the sections of the city controlled by the non-Soviet forces.
As each part of Germany developed during the 50’s, the West German economy did much better than East Germany. Many East Germans began to emigrate to the western sector by crossing from East into West Berlin. These people were housed in old factories and were airlifted out of Berlin to cities in West Germany. Over time, more than two million citizens had emigrated from East to West Germany.
In an effort to stop the flow and loss of citizens, the East German government passed a law prohibiting emigration to West Germany. In August 1961 a barbed-wire fence was constructed that was eventually replaced with a wall (The Berlin Wall). Before the construction of the wall, there had been only a painted line demarcating the eastern and western sectors of Berlin, and many wishing to flee were able to cross with little difficulty. After the construction of the wall, East German citizens faced individual freedoms that were severely compromised by the repressive soviet regime. People who tried to cross the borders to West Germany were ordered to be shot on sight. It was not until the fall of the Wall in November of 1989 and the reunification of Germany that once again citizens were able to travel freely within their own country.
With regard to the musical profession, it must be said that many East German artists received benefits from the socialist system. Musical interpreters were always sure of engagements and a good income. Creative artists did well, as long as they abided by the constraints of their métier. Song lyrics had to be positive and uplifting; “western” music was not only not allowed, but punishable. To a renegade like Bruno Droste, an auto didact, spontaneous song-hit writer, believer that melancholy was apart of all joyous compositions, this went against his creative soul. In some ways, Droste was the Gershwin of East Germany, with innate source of melody and unique instrumental arrangements, always with a rhythmical base, so that Unterhaltungsmusik was also jazzy, bluesy and fascinating to hear.
View Maps for better understanding:
BRUNO DROSTE: AN ARTIST'S FLIGHT TO FREEDOM
Throughout history, art has been eclipsed or permanently lost due to economic deprivation, political upheaval, and war. Certainly during war, there is great loss: loss of life, historical and artistic treasures, culture, and more. Such losses can never be calibrated; it is impossible to catalog and assign value to all that has vanished. One cannot evaluate nascent art that never came into its own during turbulent times when paintbrushes and pens were set aside for the hard work of survival. In these times artists became soldiers, prisoners, or expatriates.
Doris Marion Carlino
Bruno Droste: An Artist's Flight to Freedom is a one-hour documentary about the well-known Erfurt-based composer, pianist and leader of his own 28-piece Bruno Droste Dance String Orchestra, for which he composed and arranged music in his individualized and highly recognizable style. As a figurehead in Erfurt, the bustling university city and capital of Thuringia, Droste envisioned the transforming of his entertainment ensemble, with hit tunes and amusing pieces, to a "concert-type" programming that could play for festive orchestra concerts. The orchestra, with its excellent soloist musicians, recorded in Erfurt's elegant Imperial Hall for broadcasts from Radio Weimar, and toured throughout Eastern bloc countries, enjoying a stable and thriving career for the musicians. Droste, however, resented bitterly the Soviet restraints upon all creative artists' works, and found it increasingly impossible to accept the Soviet restraints that he felt strangled his creativity. The film shows the tragedy of many creative artists who lived in the divided post-World War II Germany, many who felt it necessary to flee to the West. With his rebellious nature and innate sense of freedom, Droste realized more and more that by virtue of residence, he was once again under a totalitarian regime; before, it had been the Third Reich under Hitler, whom he despised, and now the Stalin-influenced Soviet regime of East Germany. The film is produced by Droste's widow, Doris Marion Carlino, and pieces together Droste’s life story: his extreme popularity and acceptance in the East, and his struggle to gain foothold in the West, where he arrived without invitation and without preparation. Interviews, musical recordings, and scenes from modern-day Erfurt, with historical footage and photographs from the 1940s and 50s, comprise the film. Droste’s two children, his first wife, and some of the original musicians from the 28-piece Bruno Droste Dance String Orchestra of almost 50 years prior, reminisce on their experiences: about having a famous father, managing the money, and playing “that beautiful music,” touring in wood-burning buses, and living through the cultural politics of those times. An historical view is represented by Dr. Ute Brandes of Amherst College. Narrations and live performances examine Droste’s unique compositions and arrangements, and archival footage of American jazz artists Duke Ellington and Meade Lux Lewis complement the film. Both English and German versions of the documentary are available.
Droste adored American Jazz artists, and enjoyed playing “boogie-woogie,” a new Western sound that was anathema to Party “controllers.” On tour in East Berlin in 1958 he played his boogie-woogie and the young crowd went wild. Music controllers at the performance warned him to stop, but Droste, inflamed with joy of the music and the the adulation of the crowd, lost his temper and expressed some heated remarks about their musical “expertise.” The next morning, reflecting the effect of his words, he immediately dressed and went over to the American sector of Berlin, where he registered as a refugee. His wife felt that he should be able to return and regain his position, but he knew in his heart that this could never come to pass. He stayed in the West; his wife and two children remained in Erfurt. The wall separating East and West Germany was built three years later. During that time the marriage deteriorated and ended in divorce.
So began a dreary life as Droste searched for orchestras to play his compositions or looked for opportunities to arrange for orchestras. He played in dance bands, traveling to one city and another, but that never gave him the pleasure of playing his own compositions. In Nuremberg, playing for a GI floorshow, he met a young American opera singer, Doris Marion, and fell in love. They formed a partnership, collaborated on performances in the Nuremberg area, and were married in 1963. They decided to move to a more urban city to advance their professional careers, and chose the fascinating bi-lingual capital city of Brussels, where Droste said the confluence of the Flemish and French languages made him feel as if he were living in a symphony! Beginnings of success inspired them to plan a move to New York, but in March 1969 at the age of 51, Bruno Droste died of a heart attack on one of the busiest streets in Brussels.
Several musicians who played in the BRUNO DROSTE DANCE STRING ORCHESTRA reminisced some forty years later about their experiences while playing in the orchestra. They talk about traveling in wood-burning busses to reach cities all over the East bloc to perform, about the camaraderie of the group, and about their joy of playing “that beautiful music.” Dr. Ute Brandes of Amherst College, Massachusetts, gives a historical portrait of the difficulties faced by creative artists in East Germany. Droste’s combined works – scores, manuscripts, and all recordings of his own compositions – were erased by orders of the German Democratic Republic, normal procedure for any artist fleeing the Zone, who was summarily treated as a ”traitor.” A few recordings were located and are represented in the documentary; others recorded by West German, Dutch and Belgian orchestras are featured in the film.
Bruno Droste was East Germany’s equivalent of Irving Berlin or Cole Porter in the ten years from 1948 to 1958. So, why is his name not as recognizable as Gershwin, Berlin or Porter? These latter artists had the coup de chance that Droste did not; their parents emigrated to America.
Droste was born in the town of Schwiebus, now part of Poland. His family moved to Erfurt, Germany, when Bruno was fourteen. Even though this move took them closer to the West, Bruno always said it was not close enough. By fact of residence, he lived under the rule of two totalitarian governments: the Nazi Third Reich under the dictatorship of Hitler, whom he denigrated, and now the Soviet regime of East Germany.
It was a tragedy for Bruno Droste to leave Erfurt so unceremoniously with all he had going for him. Yet, after living under the cloud and tyranny of two totalitarian governments, he was willing to turn his mind and ideas toward the West, where his dream was to emigrate to the United States. Part of that tragedy for his heirs, though, is the fact that his entire artistic works in the East – radio recordings, records, manuscripts, scores, everything – were erased and destroyed. Publications, performances, broadcasts of his compositions were frozen, based on the Soviet mandate that any refugee to the West was “a traitor.” Royalty payments to Droste for his performed music, which had previously amounted to thousands of East German marks, were also frozen, and because he fled during the month of September, his large end-of-the-year payment was never received.