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'Orchestra of Exiles' shines a light on little-known history

The documentary about violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who saved Jewish musicians during the Holocaust by recruiting them for his orchestra, has too many reenactments but some great footage of conductor Arturo Toscanini.

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Arturo Toscanini (third from left) and the Palestine Symphony.

Courtesy of the Felicja Blumental Music Center Library/Huberman Archive

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The great Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, on the run from the Holocaust, created a symphony orchestra in Palestine in 1937 made up of many of Europe’s finest Jewish musicians. His extraordinary Oskar Schindler-like maneuvers to save not just their artistry but their very lives is chronicled in Josh Aronson’s documentary “Orchestra of Exiles.”

Though marred by too many reenactments, it contains marvelous footage, including sequences with passionate anti-Fascist Arturo Toscanini, who conducted the first public performance in Palestine of the new orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra).

We also learn that Albert Einstein, an amateur violinist who played with Huberman, lent his name to the mission. It’s a great, too-little-known piece of history. Grade: B+ (Unrated.)


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