The oldest Berliner Philharmoniker to date has died: the orchestra is mourning the death of its former double bass player Erich Hartmann, who passed away on 6 July 2020 at the age of 100. “Erich Hartmann’s death is a turning point,” says Knut Weber, cellist and member of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s orchestra board. “With him, we lose the last Philharmoniker of the Furtwängler era and an important contemporary witness of the war and post-war years. As a member of the double bass section of the Karajan period, he helped shape its unique sound. He also passed on his knowledge with great dedication as a teacher. We mourn the death of a great musician.”
Born the son of a piano maker in Leipzig in 1920, he studied double bass and composition at the conservatory of his home town. When the Second World War broke out, he was called up for military service. After an injury, he was considered unfit for military service and was able to continue his studies. He gained his first professional experience with the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig. In November 1943 he became a member of the Berliner Philharmoniker – the youngest musician at the time.
Only three months later, in his function with the air-raid protection service, he witnessed the burning down of the old Philharmonie in Bernburger Straße after a heavy air raid. He published his memoirs of this period in 1996 under the title Die Berliner Philharmoniker in der Stunde Null. Erich Hartmann played under Wilhelm Furtwängler and experienced almost the entire Herbert von Karajan era. In 1967 he founded the Double Bass Quartet of the Berliner Philharmoniker. In January 1985, the musician, who composed works for various instrumental line-ups, including double bass quartet, retired after 41 years of service. The special bond with his orchestra continued until his death.