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From Beyond The Grave, Bismarck Sings 'La Marseillaise'


Otto von Bismarck is credited with founding the modern German state. He served as the first German chancellor from 1871 to 1890.

Otto von Bismarck is credited with founding the modern German state. He served as the first German chancellor from 1871 to 1890.

Experts have authenticated what is believed to be the only existing recordings of the voice of 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

More than a century after Bismarck's death in 1898, a recording of his voice has been digitally restored by the American Thomas Edison National Park museum in New Jersey.

The AFP news agency quoted Stephan Puille of the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin as saying that wax cylinder phonograph recordings of Bismarck were made in 1889 by Adelbert Wangemann, an associate of Thomas Edison.

Puille and other experts have examined the recordings and concluded that they are "genuine."



The cylinders were found in Edison's laboratory in 1957 but research did not start on them until 2005.

In the recordings, Bismarck's barely audible voice can be heard reciting parts of songs and poetry in English, Latin, French, and German.

He is also heard advising his son Herbert to "live life in moderation."

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the recording is that the "Iron Chancellor," as Bismarck was known, at one point can be heard singing France's national anthem, "La Marseillaise."

It was an unusual choice of song given Bismarck's notoriously frosty relations with the French, not least because he had annexed the Alsace-Lorraine region in 1871.

Besides the late German chancellor's voice, Wangemann's recording cylinders also contain a number of musical pieces played by German and Hungarian musicians, including what is thought to be the first-ever recording of a piece by pioneering Polish pianist Frederic Chopin.

-- RFE/RL Central Newsroom with agency reports

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