Includes favorites like: Deutschlandlied, Mein Schlesier-Land, and Erika
Although “Landser Marches” were recorded during the Third Reich, most of them are less National Socialist than traditional German military music. In addition to their unique historical significance, they are distinguished by the incomparably high level of their performances. Why? Because the men who played these venerable compositions were intensely proud of an armed forces’ heritage steeped in the accomplishments of Frederick the Great and Bismarck. After World War Two, German musicians abhorred this heritage as a shameful embarrassment. Hence, their vapid interpretations. To understand how the Old Army tunes were meant to be heard, we must go back to an era when the spirit in which they were conceived was still alive. In other words, to the recordings featured on “Landser Marches”, when national self-consciousness reached its height.
Something of this spirit appears on the reproduced album cover, the 1936 painting of a youthful German Third Reich infantryman. Behind him are the images of farmers and factory workers, mothers and children, signifying the folk he was sworn to protect with his life. While other peoples may find it difficult to comprehend, becoming a soldier in pre-1945 Germany was not unlike joining the priesthood. Both offices were universally respected as sacred. Those who wore the Landser field-grey uniform were the epitome of personal decency, blind obedience, and self-sacrifice. Anyone who failed these requirements was so disgraced, exile or suicide were the only alternatives. Even minor infractions of discipline demanded a long, difficult effort to get back, if ever, into the good graces of one’s comrades and superiors. During World War Two, for example, drunkenness while on duty was punishable by firing squad, and even high-ranking officers who lost such items as binoculars or magazine clips were sentenced to punishment battalions. Standards were ruthlessly high, but resulted in the finest military since Rome. It is important to understand at least something of this former ethic to better appreciate the nazi music that grew out of such a hard tradition.
A representative example is “Schoen ist es, Soldat zu sein”, or “It’s beautiful to be a soldier”, the fifteenth selection on “Landser Marches”. While the “Niedersachen Marsch” (“Lower Saxony March”), and “Alte Kameraden” (“Old Comrades”) are part of the Army’s pre-20th Century tradition, “Das Lied der Männer vom Westwallbau” (“Song of the Men from the West Wall”) belongs to the years immediately preceding the 1940 invasion of France, but was revived when Allied forces threatened the western territories of the Reich four years later. It refers to a series of fortifications known alternately as the “Siegfried Line” or “West Wall” facing first the Maginot Line, then the on-coming Anglo-American invaders. Its final verse reads, “We stand as soldiers in these hard, great times. We shook hands with the men of the spade, and were ready every hour to demonstrate our love of the Fuehrer by building this fortress for Germany. We want to protect it, we men in grey. We win and die at the West Wall.”
A song from the trenches of World War One is “Wildgänse rauschen durch die Nacht”, or “Wild geese rush through the night”, composed in 1917 by Walter Flex. Its concluding stanza runs, “Like you, we are a gray-uniformed bunch, the Kaiser’s fighting soldiers. If battle must end with our disappearance, then fly south, and sing our Amen”.
Although some “Landser Nazi Marches” may be familiar to listeners acquainted with Third Reich compositions, this collection features at least several numbers which are probably new to them, such as the seldom-heard “Isarwinkler Schuetzenmarsch”, about protecting the River Isar, or the “Altdeutscher Fanfaren-Marsch” (“Old German Fanfare March”). In any case, they will never find more authentically spirited versions of venerable standards like the “Koeniggrätzer Marsch” (“The King of Gräz [Austria] March”), or “Von der Tann” (“From the woods”). As such, “Landser Marches” is sure to become a perennial staple in the collection of all German military music aficionados.
TITLES ON THIS CD:
Die Fahne hoch (Horst Wessel Lied – choral)
Das Lied der Maenner vom Westwalibau (choral)
Frischer Mut – Leichts Blut / Potpourri (choral)
Mein Schlesier-Land (choral)
Von der Tann
Vom Berge rauscht ein Wasser (choral)
Lippe Detmold, eine wunderschoene Stadt
Gruss an Kiel
Schoen ist es Soldat zu sein (choral)
Wildgaense rauschen durch die Nacht (choral)
Ich hatt; einen Kameraden (choral)
TOTAL PLAYING TIME 61:9