Author Topic: Composers in Germany 1933-1945  (Read 17703 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« on: September 03, 2007, 03:32:47 PM »
I can well understand the dangers that a thread with this title could become a vehicle for a 'political' discussion so let me explain what I am interested in and, equally, what i am not trying to discuss!

We know that many composers of genius were driven out of Germany by the Nazis, left of their own accord, deliberately fell silent(like Karl Amadeus Hartmann) or-tragically-lost their lives between 1933 and 1945. Other German composers stayed in Germany, continued to compose and, in many but obviously not all cases, had their music performed by, for example, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Furtwangler.

I am not attempting to open a discussion on the morality or otherwise of supporting-openly or tacitly-or even simply co-operating with the Nazi regime. Such a discussion may or may not be for another place. What interests me is the music itself, the music composed by people whose names are, in many cases, now almost completely forgotten. The end of the war in 1945, the de-nazification process which followed and then the rise of the Darmstadt school condemned a generation of conservative German composers to near oblivion.
There has been some interest recently in earlier German romantics like Richard Wetz, CPO recorded most of Hans Pfitzner's orchestral works and  the symphonies of Ernst Pepping. There have been recordings of music by Heinz Tiessen, Eduard Erdmann and Karl Rathaus but many others are almost totally unfamiliar to us today. Names like Kurt Hessenberg, Walter Trapp(who wrote seven symphonies), Karl Holler, Johann Nepomuk David(eight symphonies), Philipp Jarnach, Theodor Berger, Heinz Schubert, Paul Hoffer and many others barely get a mention nowadays. We don't even here much Boris Blacher or Werner Egk. (And yes I know we do hear Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana"!)

Now much(perhaps even most?) of the music of these composers may be second-rate. Few would claim, for example, that Pfitzner was a musical genius although the opera "Palestrina" is, I think, a fine work. It would be rather better though to be able to make such an assessment after listening to some of it surely? Furtwangler may well have programmed many pieces in Berlin in the 30s and 40s because he had no choice and had a very restricted repertoire to select from but he does appear to have believed in some at least of the music he premiered.  I wonder how much is indeed worthy of being revived? Not that I have any expectations that it will be though!!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2007, 03:53:03 AM by Dundonnell »

uffeviking

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Re: Composers in Nazi Germany
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2007, 06:17:30 PM »
A very fascinating new subject indeed, and I thank you for phrasing it in such a way as to - hopefully! - avoid a deterioration into a tiresome political fracas.

I have only one suggestion, if I may, change the word 'Nazi' in the title to either 'National Socialist', or 'Third Reich', or even 'Hitler Regime'. The word you have chosen is not welcome in the ears of present or former citizens of Germany.

Thank you for your consideration - and good luck!  :)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Composers in Nazi Germany
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2007, 02:07:07 AM »
I love the story about Karl Amadeus Hartmann (found in Richard Grunberger's "A Social History of the Third Reich" ....info for any CD collecting history teachers here :))  that he banned the Nazis from performing any of his music APART from his string quartet based on Jewish themes; a great act of defiance. At the time of Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Hartmann deliberately quoted Czech themes in his fine Concerto Funebre for Violin and Orch.

Unsurprisingly, Hartmann's music went into something of an eclipse during the Third Reich!

My favourite work by a victim of the Nazis is Schulhoff's defiant 5th Symphony (thanks to Andre for introducing me to this great work).

The music of the Swedish composer Atterberg was apparently popular in Nazi Germany and I am very fond of his 3rd 7th and 8th symphonies, but as I'm of Jewish origins, I am uncomfortable about composers who were sympathetic to the Nazi regime (and I don't know that that was the case with Atterberg anyway); but that is my own problem.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2007, 07:11:44 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2007, 04:18:52 AM »
Title of thread changed, as requested.

Thanks for the reference to Richard Grunberger's "A Social History of the Third Reich"! I have the book(too many books as well as too many CDs!!). The relevant chapter on Music in the Third Reich is indeed fascinating. (I particularly like the references to that irascible old codger Hans Pfitzner!).

It is also interesting to reflect on those composers from other countries who lived and worked in Germany in ther period 1933-45 and to consider the effect that had on their post-war reputations. Atterberg has been mentioned. I would also instance the Dane Paul von Klenau, the Icelandic composer Jon Leifs and-although he stayed in Holland-the damage done to the reputation of Henk Badings through perceived co-operation with the occupying forces in the Netherlands.

My point really was to try to say that if we dismiss art because we disapprove of the political stance of the creator of that art then we may get ourselves tangled up in a moral maze. Most of us, probably, do not dismiss a composer's work because the particular composer had a personal morality or lack of it to which we have objections. If we did then we would have difficulties with quite a lot of famous composers! (I will leave others to think of names!!)

I have no difficulty deciding that a particular piece of music is mediocre or worse based on an appreciation of that piece but such an assessment is properly conducted after studying the score or(for those of us less well equipped to do so) actually listening to a performance. If-and I simply do not know the answer to the question-there are examples of worthwhile music written by German composers and performed in Germany between 1933 and 1945 I would like to hear such music. It is as simple as that!

I have managed to hear Kurt Hessenberg's 2nd symphony (on a Cassandra CD) and some Karl Holler on a DGG mono recording conducted by Eugen Jochum. I would like to heasr more!

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Composers in Nazi Germany
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2007, 04:24:18 AM »
I have only one suggestion, if I may, change the word 'Nazi' in the title to either 'National Socialist', or 'Third Reich', or even 'Hitler Regime'. The word you have chosen is not welcome in the ears of present or former citizens of Germany.

I think the present or former citizens of Germany might want to grow a pair of testicles if they can't even handle a single word. I can't believe just how weak and inane western society has become.

uffeviking

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2007, 05:53:05 AM »
Thank you sincerely for being considerate, dondunnel!  :-*

There is no end to the learning experience as a member of this forum! When I heard Vladimir Spivakov with the Moscow Virtuosi play Hartmann's Concerto funebre I liked it so much I purchased more recordings by this composer. I had no idea where and when he lived, I simply was attracted to his works.

Same with Jón Leifs. As my on-line name hints at, I love Scandinavian music and especially the works coming out of Iceland. Listening to his Baldr has to wake up any brooding soul!  And with him also, the only item I knew about him was his nationality.

Thanks for the education!  :)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2007, 07:08:19 AM »
Thank you sincerely for being considerate, dondunnel!  :-*

There is no end to the learning experience as a member of this forum! When I heard Vladimir Spivakov with the Moscow Virtuosi play Hartmann's Concerto funebre I liked it so much I purchased more recordings by this composer. I had no idea where and when he lived, I simply was attracted to his works.

Same with Jón Leifs. As my on-line name hints at, I love Scandinavian music and especially the works coming out of Iceland. Listening to his Baldr has to wake up any brooding soul!  And with him also, the only item I knew about him was his nationality.

Thanks for the education!  :)


I also think highly of the music of Leifs, especially "Geysir" and the orchestral selection on Chandos. I read somewhere that he had been unfairly branded as a sympathiser of the Nazi regime (his wife was of Jewish descent). I have a CD of the soundrack made for a film about Leifs "Tears of Stone" which is actually an excellent introduction to his music (I mean the soundtrack as I have not seen the film itself). I was pleased to read that he had a daughter called Snot.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tears-Stone-Soundtrack-J%C3%B3n-Leifs/dp/B000004A4M/ref=sr_1_32/203-8357764-4422343?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1188922983&sr=1-32
« Last Edit: September 04, 2007, 07:24:13 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline MishaK

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2007, 08:22:02 AM »
Furtwangler may well have programmed many pieces in Berlin in the 30s and 40s because he had no choice and had a very restricted repertoire to select from but he does appear to have believed in some at least of the music he premiered.

He does seem to have had a bit more choice than one would think. I do have a recording of some Pepping with him. I will have to check the story behind that. What an interesting topic! Beyond, the aforementioned Pepping, some Pfitzner, Hartmann and Blacher, I am rather unfamiliar with most of  these composers.

uffeviking

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2007, 09:02:27 AM »
Indeed an interesting topic and I am surprised at the many replies. I have an excellent recording of Boris Blacher's oratorium Der Großinquisitor, Herbert Kegel conducting the Dresdner Philharmoniker and with Siegmund Nimsgern, baritone. Blacher - 1903-1975 - wrote the first part of the oratorium in 1942 in Germany and only finished it after 1945 with the encouragement of Leo Borchard, then of the Berlin Philharmoniker.


P.S. To refresh your memory: Leo Borchard is the great musician who was accidentally shot by an American soldier in 1945.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2007, 09:07:20 AM by uffeviking »

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2007, 09:14:15 AM »
P.S. To refresh your memory: Leo Borchard is the great musician who was accidentally shot by an American soldier in 1945.

Same fate as Webern. Damn trigger happy Americunz...

Offline MishaK

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2007, 09:25:57 AM »
One should perhaps also add Furtwängler as composer in this thread, with his three symphonies and the symphonic piano concerto. I recently downloaded a recording of the latter with Mehta and Barenboim from Operashare but have not listened to it yet (I have Furtwängler's own with Fischer, I think, though it might be incomplete- will have to check). There is also an outstanding live recording on Teldec of the Symphony No.2 with Barenboim/CSO (a performance I was lucky enough to attend in person) which is far more compelling than Furtwängler's own very tentative reading with the BPO.

Offline Cato

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2007, 09:31:24 AM »
Is it possible to say that, with the very great exceptions of Karl Amadeus Hartmann and Webern, the greatst composers from Germany/Austria/Central Europe were living in exile in America or elsewhere?

Schoenberg, Toch, Hindemith, Korngold (?), etc.

Or are there still other "Hartmann's" and "Webern's" waiting to be rescued from an archive?
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Offline Maciek

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2007, 10:10:15 AM »
I was pleased to read that he had a daughter called Snot.

Now that's what I call subversive pleasure.

Offline Valentino

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2007, 11:22:47 AM »
Is Richard Strauss too obvious for this thread?
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Online The new erato

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2007, 11:24:44 AM »
Is it possible to say that, with the very great exceptions of Karl Amadeus Hartmann and Webern, the greatst composers from Germany/Austria/Central Europe were living in exile in America or elsewhere?

Schoenberg, Toch, Hindemith, Korngold (?), etc.

Or are there still other "Hartmann's" and "Webern's" waiting to be rescued from an archive?
You missed the greatest of all - Bartok. And we could perhaps incluude Stravinsky as a naturalized westerner here. And Martinu.

uffeviking

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2007, 11:57:14 AM »
An easy introduction to Hans Pfitzner is on a DG CD with Christian Thielemann conducting the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin in five short selections. Three from the opera Palestrina, one from Das Herz and the overture to Das Käthchen von Heilbronn.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2007, 01:13:39 PM »
An easy introduction to Hans Pfitzner is on a DG CD with Christian Thielemann conducting the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin in five short selections. Three from the opera Palestrina, one from Das Herz and the overture to Das Käthchen von Heilbronn.

OOP

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2007, 05:06:34 PM »
Is it possible to say that, with the very great exceptions of Karl Amadeus Hartmann and Webern, the greatst composers from Germany/Austria/Central Europe were living in exile in America or elsewhere?

Schoenberg, Toch, Hindemith, Korngold (?), etc.

Or are there still other "Hartmann's" and "Webern's" waiting to be rescued from an archive?

Yes, it probably is fair to say that most of the great composers from Central Europe had fled from their native countries during this period, mostly to America(although a few, like Egon Wellesz, settled in Britain). I doubt whether there are many undiscovered masterpieces hiding anywhere now but I don't actually know. Giving a greater degree of exposure to the work of those composers who remained active in Germany between 1933 and 1945 would/will give us a broader picture than I think we have at present. I know that as a paid-up member of the Society for the Rediscovery of Justifiably Neglected Composers I am probably encouraging a good deal of second-rate music to be brought to light but there have been so many worthy but previously neglected composers who have successfully been revived in the last couple of decades through the enterprise of a number of CD companies.
I think that enterprise might focus on a few of the German composers named.

Boris Blacher has been mentioned. Blacher did not have an easy relationship with the Regime but was a composer of real substance who certainly deserves more attention. I love his delightful and catchy Concertante Musik for orchestra. Werner Egk wrote a number of fine ballet scores and operas.

Oh, and yes, I have to admit that I failed to mention Richard Strauss for exactly the reason suggested! He was just too obvious. There has been a great deal written about his relationship with the Regime but that would be straying away from the point of starting the thread.....!

Offline MishaK

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2007, 05:24:52 PM »
Boris Blacher has been mentioned. Blacher did not have an easy relationship with the Regime but was a composer of real substance who certainly deserves more attention. I love his delightful and catchy Concertante Musik for orchestra. Werner Egk wrote a number of fine ballet scores and operas.

Solti and the VPO recorded a fine performance of his orchestral Paganini Variations (coupled with Kodaly Peacock and Elgar Enigma).

Oh, and yes, I have to admit that I failed to mention Richard Strauss for exactly the reason suggested! He was just too obvious. There has been a great deal written about his relationship with the Regime but that would be straying away from the point of starting the thread.....!

Also, Strauss didn't really write anything of substance during or after WWII. So, for the era in question, he is irrelevant.

Offline not edward

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Re: Composers in Germany 1933-1945
« Reply #19 on: September 05, 2007, 05:33:55 PM »
Solti and the VPO recorded a fine performance of his orchestral Paganini Variations (coupled with Kodaly Peacock and Elgar Enigma).
Or you can kill two birds with one stone and get Fricsay conducting the Paganini Variations and Hartmann's 6th symphony in good DG mono sound.

Also, Strauss didn't really write anything of substance during or after WWII. So, for the era in question, he is irrelevant.
I'm no great Strauss lover, but surely Metamorphosen and the Four Last Songs count as works of substance?
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