The Young Hitler I Knew – August Kubizek
Chapter 19 –
The "Mobile Reichs Orchestra".

My friend's interest in music was gratifyingly broadened in Vienna. Having previously been interested in opera only, he now turned increasingly to concerts. To be sure, even in Linz he had frequented the symphony concerts organised by the Music Society, and must have heard in those years altogether, say, six or seven concerts. But he came less for the sake of the music than for my sake, as I was playing in the orchestra, a fact that was important to him. With my quiet, compliant nature he did not think me capable of playing in public, and each time he was eager to see the result. At any rate, I remember that after the performances, be used to speak much more about me than about the concert.

Vienna changed all this, helped by the fact that at the Conservatory I was given two or sometimes three concert tickets every week. Adolf always got one of these, sometimes even two or all three, when I was prevented from going by my evening practice. As these free tickets were usually for good seats, this was not such a strain as going to the Hof Opera.

In discussing these concerts with him, I noticed to my surprise that Adolf was developing a taste for symphonic music. This pleased me because it created for us a new common interest.

The head of the Conductors' School of the Conservatory, Gustav Gutheil, was also the conductor of the Vienna Concert Society. But our special favourite was Ferdinand Loewe, the director of the Conservatory, who occasionally conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; he was a great admirer of Bruckner. The musical life of Vienna at that time was still dominated by the Brahms-Bruckner controversy, although both masters had been dead for over ten years. Eduard Hanslick, the formidable music critic, whom we always called "Beckmesser," was also dead, but his pernicious influence was still noticeable. Hanslick who was our declared enemy, if only because he had attacked Richard Wagner violently and not always fairly, had firmly supported Brahms and fought furiously against Anton Bruckner. In Ferdinand Loewe, on the other hand, Bruckner had an inspired partisan; and also Franz Schalk, later director of the Vienna Opera, was a Bruckner supporter.

For our part, we had no difficulty in making up our minds in this controversy. I loved Bruckner and Adolf, too, was thrilled and moved by his symphonies. Besides, Bruckner came from our part of the country, and in exalting his work, we were exalting our homeland. Yet this was no reason for us to reject Brahms. In this dispute, we regarded ourselves as representatives of the younger generation, paid our tribute to both masters and smiled at the zeal of the older people, which seemed to us utterly superfluous. As for Adolf, he went even further. Just as Bayreuth had become the centre of Richard Wagner's most impressive work, he said, so Linz should become the shrine of Anton Bruckner's works. The Linz Concert Hall, plans for which he had just finished, should be consecrated to Bruckner's memory.

Apart from the great symphonies by the classical masters, Adolf liked especially the music of the Romanticists, Carl Maria von Weber, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Robert Schumann. He was sorry that Richard Wagner had written only for the stage and not for the concert hall, so that usually only the overtures or some of his operas were performed.

I must not forget Edward Grieg, of whom Adolf was particularly fond and whose Piano Concerto in A Minor always delighted him.

In general Adolf was not very partial to virtuoso performances by soloists. But certain concertos he never missed, such as Mozart and Beethoven's piano and violin concertos, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor and, above all, Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor.

But there was something about his frequent visits to concerts, which made Adolf restless. For a long time I could not understand what it was. Any other young man would have been more than content with these performances; not so my friend.

There he sat in his free seat in the Concert Hall blissfully enjoying Beethoven's brilliant Violin Concerto in D Major and was happy and contented. Yet, on looking round the hall, he could count only four or five hundred people who had come to hear the concert. How puny was this number in comparison with the thousands who could not hear it. No doubt there were many, not only among the students, but also among the artisans and workers who would have been as happy as he was to be able to hear this immortal music either without payment, or at a price they could afford. And it was not Vienna alone one had to consider, for in Vienna it was comparatively easy for music lovers to go to concerts. But outside Vienna, the small places, the provincial towns. Oh! he had seen it himself in Linz, how little was done to satisfy the cultural needs of these places. This must be changed. The enjoyment of concerts should no longer be the privilege of the lucky few. The system of free tickets was no cure, however much he benefited from it personally; a radical remedy was called for.

This kind of thinking was typical of Adolf. Nothing could happen around him from which he would not draw some general conclusions. Even purely artistic experiences, like listening to a concert, which others accepted passively, roused his active interest and became problems of universal concern, for nothing was allowed to remain unimportant in the "Ideal State" of his dreams. The "Storm of the Revolution" must fling wide open the gates of Art, which hitherto had been locked to so many – "social reform" even in the field of artistic enjoyment.

No doubt, many young people thought as he did in those years. His protest against the privileged position of certain classes with regard to art was by no means isolated. On the contrary. Not only were there fanatical pioneers of the idea of bringing art to the people, but also societies, organisations and institutions which worked towards that aim, and not without success. What was unique, however, was the manner in which my friend was trying to remedy this sorry state of affairs. While others were content to apply modest measures and to approach their goal step by step, Adolf disdained half measures and strove for a total solution regardless of when and where it could be realised. As far as he was concerned, it was reality from the very moment when he first pronounced the basic idea.

And another characteristic of his: he was not content with simply stating this idea, but started immediately to elaborate it in all detail exactly as though he had received orders from "higher quarters." This detailed planning was for him, so to speak, as good as the actual realisation. Once an idea had been thoroughly thought out and elaborated in detail, it would only need a command to carry it out. However, this command was never given during the course of our friendship and that is why I, in my heart of hearts, regarded Adolf as a visionary, however much I was convinced of the "reasonableness" of his words. He himself was even then absolutely certain that one day he, personally, would give this command, whereby the hundreds and thousands of plans and projects which he had at his fingertips would be carried out. To be sure, he mentioned them only rarely and then only to me, because he knew that I believed in him. I have often heard him, when an idea took possession of him, developing it to such an extent that the listener would be compelled to ask, "All well and good, but who is going to pay for it?" When we were still in Linz, I was indeed often careless enough to utter this question because it seemed to me so obvious and all-important. In Vienna I had learned to be more cautious and refrained from discussing finance too frankly. Adolf's replies to these questions, which appeared to him superfluous, changed. In Linz, his standard reply was, "The Reich," which I thought was no answer at all. In Vienna he was a little more explicit: "That's a matter for the financial experts." But it also happened that he would shut me up rudely with, "You will be the last person to be consulted on this matter, for you don't know anything about it." Or even more briefly, "Please let this be my worry."

The first indication that he was working on a particular idea was always some peculiar phrase that would crop up in his diatribes, or in our discussions, some special expression which he had never used before. So long as he had not firmly decided what was the purpose of his idea, his phrase would keep changing. Thus, during the weeks of his frequent concert-going, he would speak at first only of "that orchestra which tours the provinces." I thought that there really did exist such an orchestra in Vienna, and that Adolf was speaking of an actual fact. Later, however, I discovered that this "mobile orchestra," as he came to call it (because the word "touring" reminded him too much of second-rate theatrical companies), existed only in his imagination. As he was never satisfied with half measures, he soon made of it a "mobile Reichs orchestra." I still remember that Adolf, after we had laid down the plans for this organisation, was so enthusiastic about his creation that he planned to set up and send out ten such orchestras, so that even the remotest corner of the Reich could enjoy Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major.

One evening when he was speaking for the first time at greater length of this orchestra, I asked him why on earth it was just musical matters to which he devoted his attention. I thought he was intending to become an architect? His reply was short and to the point, "Because, for the time being, I have you around." By which he meant that as long as I was at hand, he could always take advantage of my advice and of my special knowledge as a future conductor. This, of course, flattered me. But when I took my courage into both hands and hopefully asked him to whom he would entrust the direction of his orchestra, he immediately saw through me, laughed sarcastically and exclaimed, "Certainly not you!" But, serious once again, he added that perhaps he might actually contemplate making me the conductor of the mobile Reichs orchestra. However, I was offended and replied that I could do without this honour, for I was interested in becoming the conductor of an orchestra which actually existed, not a nebulous dream orchestra. That was enough to bring on an outburst of fury, for he could not bear it if one doubted that his plans would be realised. "You will be only too glad if I appoint you to such a post," he screamed at me.

I recall all the details concerning the mobile Reichs orchestra better than many other projects of Adolf's, because it was essentially my own sphere. Naturally, I was allowed to have a much bigger say than usual, even more than on the occasion of his attempt to supplement Richard Wagner's music dramas by a new opera, Wieland, the Smith. How thoroughly we tackled this task can be gathered from the fact that one evening we had a quarrel about the double-action harp. Certainly, the "mobile Reich's orchestra" needed a double-action harp. But Adolf insisted on three of these very expensive instruments, which moreover were frightfully difficult to transport. "To what purpose?" I said. "An experienced conductor can manage with only one double-action harp." "Ridiculous," Adolf exclaimed angrily. "How can you play the Fire Music with only one double-action harp in the orchestra?" "Then the Fire Music won't be included in the repertoire," I replied. "You bet it will," Adolf insisted. I made a last effort. "Don't forget that a double-action harp costs eighteen thousand florins." That would make him change his mind, I thought. But I was wrong. "Oh, to hell with money," he exclaimed. That settled the matter. The mobile Reichs Orchestra was equipped with three double-action harps.

Today I cannot help smiling when I think of the heat with which we argued about matters that only existed in our own imagination, and yet those were wonderful times when we got more excited over nebulous dreams than over the reality of everyday life. I marvelled at my friend's uncanny imagination, which enabled him to find his way in his dream world better than in the real world. Yet, what was for me only idle fantasy was much more important for him.

The basic idea of this mobile Reichs orchestra was very plausible, and I had often thought about the problem myself. Adolf's solution was both brilliant and simple: an orchestra under a gifted conductor would be organised, capable of performing classic, romantic and modern symphonic music and sent out to the country according to a pre-established plan. Adolf asked me what size, in my view, this orchestra should be. The mere fact that he asked my advice, instead of looking it up in his books, filled me with pride. I can still see us building up this orchestra, the strings, the woodwinds, the brass and the percussion and remember how Adolf wanted to be informed about every trivial detail, how he questioned me about the peculiar orchestration of symphonic works, so that he would not overlook anything and would make the orchestra perfect in every respect. This was the strange, enigmatic trait in his character, a contradiction that I could not explain: he would build projects on a foundation of thin air, but at the same time make them quite unassailable in themselves. The more the whole plan was only a matter of wishful taking, the more elaborate had to be its details.

The night was half over before we had finished our work, The orchestra which we had built up consisted of a hundred players, a respectable body of sound, which would be able to compete with any one of the big orchestras. Equipment was the next problem. Adolf was rather startled when I enumerated the requirements. Not only first-class instruments, whose careful transport had to be safeguarded, but an ample music library, and moreover desks, chairs and so forth. He agreed that a first-class cellist could not sit every night on a different chair. Finally he asked me to approach the Secretary of the Orchestra Society for further information about these purchases, and to make enquiries at the Musicians' Union about the engagement of musicians, and then work out a budget. Adolf was satisfied with the result of my inquiries. He dismissed the high amount of the budget with a disdainful gesture; but we had a heated argument about a uniform dress for the orchestra. Naturally the orchestra had to be pleasing to the eye. I suggested a suitable uniform, but Adolf was against it. We agreed in the end on a dark outfit, distinguished but unobtrusive.

A grave problem was the transport of the orchestra, for there were parts of the country that were inaccessible by railway. And these were the regions that mattered. But there were running in the streets those newfangled motorcars. In those days people still stopped and stared at these vehicles which raced up and down the Ring, noisy and smelly, at the "murderous" speed of ten miles per hour. What about loading our Reich's orchestra on such vehicles? No doubt these would increase the mobility of the orchestra and, consequently, its range. I forget to what point we developed this idea, which I personally disliked; for I could not imagine that an orchestra which arrived with such a devilish din could make people more receptive to harmonious sounds.

Well! The orchestra arrives, is ceremoniously greeted by the Mayor and makes its way through the festively decorated streets. First question: Where should it perform? Only a few towns possess a hall which can accommodate an orchestra of one hundred players and an audience of several hundred. "We shall play in the open," said Adolf. "Concerts under the starlit sky are certainly very impressive," I interjected, "provided, however, that the starlit sky will last throughout the duration of the concert." Besides, these concerts would be more for the benefit of the stars than of the audience because of the acoustical conditions. The whole plan almost foundered on this hard fact. Adolf pondered a while and then said, "There are churches everywhere. Why don't we play in the churches?" From the musical point of view there could be no objection. Adolf suggested I should ask the ecclesiastical authorities whether they would put the churches at the disposal of the mobile Reichs orchestra for concerts. This, in my opinion, was going a bit too far. But I kept silent, and Adolf forgot to ask me what the results of my inquiries had been.

We differed strongly over the planning of the program. Adolf wanted to know how much rehearsal time an orchestra would need for a symphony, and was annoyed that no fixed rules could be applied. He categorically refused to accept my view that there were no earlier German composers – and on German composers solely he positively insisted – than Bach, Gluck and Handel, and perhaps Heinrich Schütz. "And what was before that?" he inquired. "Nothing suitable for an orchestra," I replied. "Who says so?" he shouted. I told him, calmly, that in this instance he could safely rely on my answer, unless he wanted to study the history of music himself. "And so I will," he said, angrily. And that brought our discussion to an end.

I had not taken his words seriously, for the study of the history of music is not a simple matter, apart from being outside the
range of his professional interests. Moreover, he knew that I was really well versed in this field, as I was attending lectures at the University. I was the more surprised when on the next day I found him immersed in a heavy volume, The Development of Music in the Course of Time. He was quite unapproachable for a few days, but the book did not quite satisfy him. He asked me for other writings on the history of music and ploughed steadily through them.

"The Chinese had good music as early as two thousand years ago," he remarked; "why should we not have had the same? After all, one instrument certainly existed already – the human voice. Because those learned gentlemen are fumbling in the dark about the origins of music, that is to say, know nothing about it, that does not mean to say that nothing existed."

I had great respect for my friend's thoroughness. But sometimes I was driven to despair by his mania to get to the roots of everything. He did not give up until he had reached complete deadlock, and even then he would not accept defeat, and remained sceptical. I could well imagine how this attitude of his would have driven all the Professors of the Academy crazy.

At any rate, it was now established that we should start the program of the Mobile Reich's Orchestra with Johann Sebastian Bach and follow up with Gluck and Handel, to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Then should come the Romanticists, with all the symphonies of Anton Bruckner as the culminating point. As far as the Moderns were concerned-the young, still unknown composers – Adolf himself wished to be sole arbiter of these. He had no intention of being guided by the judgments of the Viennese music critics, whom he lost no opportunity of assailing, calling them "mere experts" and "specialists."

From the time when we first set up the mobile Reichs orchestra, Adolf prepared himself a special notebook, which I quite well remember. It was a small book, easy to slip in the pocket, in which, after every concert he attended, he wrote the titles of the works, the name of the composers and the name of the conductor, as well as his own opinion of them. It was the highest praise a work could earn if he said, "This will be included in our program."

For a long time to come I thought about the "mobile Reichs orchestra." It is true the gramophone already existed. To be sure it was a pitiable, scratchy monster of a thing but, with it, the path to "mechanical" music was already opened, Wireless telegraphy was still in its infancy. Meanwhile, in spite of the fact that records and radio have since triumphed to such an extent that it looks as though "performed" music only exists to supply the needs of "mechanical" music, the basic question which my friend tried to solve with the help of the mobile Reichs orchestra still remains for all intelligent, genuine art lovers: How to bring to the people who appreciate it fine music, perfectly performed, directly – that is to say without any mechanical aids – wherever they may live.