Reading through some letters from members of the Hallé Orchestra during the period of the First World War I became interested in the story of Adolph Brodsky, a Russian Violinist who found himself trapped in Austria on the outbreak of war. Before the war Adolph Brodsky had lived in Manchester since 1894 and was teaching at the Royal Manchester College of Music and led the Hallé Orchestra. He has also established a second Brodsky Quartet whilst in Manchester.Using these letters I traced Brodsky’s journey back to Britain. The letters are largely correspondences between Adolph Brodsky and Gustav Behrens and clearly shows how desperate he was to get back to England and his work.

WWI Letters from Halle Orchestra Musicians stranded in Europe WWI Letters from Halle Orchestra Musicians stranded in Europe

I first heard of Brodsky in this letter dated 31st August 1914. In the letter it is discovered that he and his wife had been in Marienbad, then part of the Austrian Empire at the Outbreak of war in 1914, and as Russians they were classified as enemy aliens and so became trapped.It is also discovered that a group of British citizens, who were also in Marienbad, travelling towards Switzerland in order to make it back to Britain. Brodsky and his wife, however, were unable to travel at that particular moment. I later found out that the group successfully managed to enter Switzerland.

 

WWI Letters from Halle Orchestra Musicians stranded in Europe

In this letter, dated 4th October 1914, Brodsky had attempted to go to the American ambassador to find a way back to England as he was in charge of protecting British subjects. However he is told that because he is Russian there was nothing the American Embassy could do for him and that he had to go to the Spanish ambassador, who could get them to Russia but not to England.

 

In the Following  letters I found out that Adolph Brodsky had been interned in Raabs, an Austrian concentration camp on 23rd November 1914 and was released on Good Friday 1915. After his release, Brodsky and his wife, Anna, resided in Lausanne, Switzerland, whilst waiting to hear from the British and French consuls.

 

WWI Letters from Halle Orchestra Musicians stranded in Europe
WWI Letters from Halle Orchestra Musicians stranded in Europe

WWI Letters from Halle Orchestra Musicians stranded in Europe

This letter showed me just how difficult it was for those trapped abroad to get back to Britain, particularly if they’re not of a British nationality. Brodsky had to get new Russian passports in order to be seen by the French and British consuls and even then it is a dangerous journey across the channel. Finally I found a postcard which told me that Brodsky and his wife had managed to get back to England on the 6th April 1915 at 10 o’clock nearly two weeks later after journeying across France.

WWI Letters from Halle Orchestra Musicians stranded in Europe

Brodsky’s legacy still continues as in 1972 the Brodsky Quartet was founded in his honour.

This blog post was written for Archives+ by one of our volunteers as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project.
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