The view from both sides at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans
PUBLISHED: 12:17 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:50 06 May 2010
A RIVETING exchange between two men on different sides of a moral fence is at the heart of the next production by the St Albans drama group, the Company of Ten. Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood looks at the case of Wilhelm Furtwangler, arguably the greatest
A RIVETING exchange between two men on different sides of a moral fence is at the heart of the next production by the St Albans drama group, the Company of Ten.
Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood looks at the case of Wilhelm Furtwangler, arguably the greatest conductor of his generation, who was at the very height of his powers in 1933 when the National Socialist Party gained control in Germany.
Many musicians left the country, given no choice if Jewish or choosing exile as a form of protest against the regime in the case of many non-Jews.
Among those who chose to stay was Furtwangler who continued to make great music throughout the period of the Third Reich, even conducting an infamous performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in celebration of Hitler's birthday.
When the war ended, Furtwangler was accused of being a Nazi collaborator and appeared before a Denazification Tribunal in 1946. Although pronounced "clean" many felt that the findings of the tribunal were based on insufficient evidence and doubts about Furtwangler's innocence have remained in the minds of some ever since.
In Taking Sides, which is being performed in the Abbey Theatre Studio, Furtwangler faces preliminary interrogation by an American army major, Steve Arnold, a man with little or no cultural sympathy or understanding.
A self-confessed philistine, from the start of the play he is intent on nailing the man he dismissively refers to as the "bandleader".
He is totally unable to accept Furtwangler's assertion that his decision to remain in Germany while others left was because of love for his country and a belief that he had responsibility to ensure that the cultural heritage of the fatherland should be maintained.
Major Arnold has witnessed something that will, he says, remain to haunt him for the rest of his life; he had been present when the concentration camp at Belsen was liberated.
He feels nothing could justify the atrocities carried out in the death camps and to attempt to set culture, art and music against the millions of Jews exterminated by the Nazis is obscene.
The exchange between the two men makes for compelling and intense drama which leaves the audience to judge who is right.
Taking Sides is being performed from Friday, January 22, until Saturday, January 30, and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk