The exil.arte Centre in Vienna: the First Ten Months
I’ve just given a talk on the first ten months of the exil.arte Centre at the Jewish Music Institute’s “Jewish Music Fair” held at Alyth Synagogue in London. This posting is a modified version of the presentation.
(extract from Liebeslied by Robert Fürstenthal: Toccata Classics; “Songs and Ballads of Life and Passing” Rafael Fingerlos Baritone, Sascha El Mouissi, piano)
The extract above was from a song by the Viennese composer Robert Fürstenthal. He was born in June 1920 and only died in November 2016. It may surprise you that he would have written something quite so old-fashioned and melancholic around the year 1980. When I asked him why he had composed only in the style of Hugo Wolf or Gustav Mahler, he answered, “When I compose, I return to Vienna”. This quote derives from a conversation that took place in San Diego where he’d spent nearly his entire life since being thrown out of Austria.
Only a chance meeting with his first girlfriend who subsequently became his second wife in 1974, led to him returning to the piano. He had abandoned all hope of becoming a composer when he left Austria and instead became a certified accountant, eventually heading up the accounts of the American Navy based in San Diego. Franziska, the girl he had fallen in love with and abandoned in 1938, escaped to Geneva where she became Françoise. Robert and Franziska/Françoise eventually reunited 45 years after losing touch with one another. When Robert managed to find her, she was working as a highly regarded, much published bio-chemist at Harvard University. He never managed to study music and only after being reunited with Françoise did he take the scores of his favourite composers as study material. As he decided that he would only compose for himself and Françoise, with no prospect of performance, he wrote music that transported him back to the city they would have known as young people. His compositions are numerous, cover many genre and are digitally preserved at exil.arte, with the physical estate arriving as part of Françoise’s legacy.
Walter Arlen, was born Aptowitzer a month after Robert Fürstenthal in July 1920, also in Vienna. He is still with us at the age of 97 and living in Santa Monica. Like Fürstenthal, he was denied entry into the Music Academy – indeed, like Fürstenthal, not even allowed to complete university entry exams. He too composed without any expectation of performance and used music as a means of coming to terms of losing his home and his family. He too went on to become successful in modern American life, as music critic for the Los Angeles Times, organising music festivals, hanging out with friends Stravinsky, Milhaud and Castelnuovo-Tedesco who dedicated a work to him. He founded and headed the music department at Los Angeles’s Jesuit Loyola University; in its way, stressful enough to inspire more music to flow every evening upon returning home to his devoted partner Howard Myers. Unlike Fürstenthal, Arlen was well-trained having been Roy Harris’s amanuensis for a number of years after composition studies with Leo Sowerby. In spite of this, few knew he composed and as a critic, it was a pastime he preferred to keep secret when reviewing the new works of others.
(Island (first verse) from “Poet in Exile” by Czesław Miłosz set as a cycle of songs by Walter Arlen: Christian Immler, baritone; Danny Driver piano from Gramola’s “Es geht Wohl anders” Songs of Walter Arlen)
It was an unexpected paradox that both of these men should be the same age, from the same city and live in Southern California without ever meeting. Yet their music expresses something in common despite the divergent styles. It represents an attempt to re-connect with a culture they were taken out of. If Arlen’s voice sounds typically “American”, his choice of texts and ideas could not be more European. The extract above is from a setting of songs he entitled “Poet in Exile” based on poems by the Polish Nobel Prize winning, Czesław Miłosz. Though his was an estate I was able to place with Vienna’s Municipal Music Collection before the exil.arte Center existed, he has insisted that digital facsimiles of everything be lodged at exil.arte with us as principal contacts.
For the British, it may be difficult to imagine the trauma of “exile” in the United States, but for youngsters arriving from Vienna, the culture could not have been more different. They arrived with a terrible sense of ambivalence. On the one hand, it was clear that their homelands were now the enemy and the language they had spoken was that of the barbarians. Initial reactions were to reject the culture of their childhood, speaking English without an accent being the highest possible goal, with success in any profession not just a matter of survival, but a matter of shoring up a minimum of self-respect. Only much later, as mature adults, did they realise that it was neither the Germans nor the Austrians who were the barbarians, but the Nazis in their midst who had managed to seize power at an opportunistic moment and subvert the entire culture to their own narrow definition. What they could not have known, was that through re-connecting with the musical legacy of their youth, they had created a satellite that represented cultural continuity. The final verse of Arlen’s setting of Island is an exquisite reflection of this synthesis of pain and salvation: loss and gain.
(Island (final verse) from “Poet in Exile” by Czesław Miłosz set as a cycle of songs by Walter Arlen: Christian Immler, baritone; Danny Driver piano from Gramola’s “Es geht Wohl anders” Songs of Walter Arlen)
Following publication of my book Forbidden Music, I was surprised to receive a number of enquiries from families whose parents had fled Europe in the wake of Nazism. What united all of them was the belief that their musical estates were of little relevance or value to the countries that had given them refuge and despite everything, they belonged back in Austria or Germany. They asked if I could I make a suggestion. I managed to place a number of estates with Vienna’s Municipal Library, one of several impressive music collections in Vienna. Another couple went to Salzburg whereas Austria’s National Library regretted that they had neither budget nor personnel to take on further acquisitions. Eventually, the Municipal Collection was also unable to take on additional orphaned musical estates. I turned to Prof. Gerold Gruber, head of the exil.arte Society based at Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts and together we prepared a concept that transformed a “society” into a “Research Centre”. We presented it to the University’s president, Ulrike Sych. Her reaction was to observe that given the number of pupils and faculty thrown out of the Music Academy in 1938, (the Academy being the forerunner institution of the present University), it was not only appropriate that such a centre be housed at the university, but mandatory that it should form part of its activities. By placing these musical estates at the University, it provided students access to un-excavated material, making the centre not just an archive that housed the past, but a platform for the future. Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts ranks as the top performing arts institution in Europe, making it “Europe’s Juilliard”. It attracts 3000 students who make up the next generation of professional musicians, teachers, musicologists, composers and even music and movement-therapists. As it also houses the Max Reinhardt Seminar, the German language equivalent of RADA, it was appropriate to incorporate all aspects of the performing arts within our future exil.arte Centre.
In addition to which, the University having been re-located to a dedicated campus still held the lease to its historic original building, the location where Schreker, Korngold and others taught and studied. It was a venue that was under-utilised but offering lecture halls, exhibition and performance space along with two large vaults previously used by the University’s library.
The principal vault has been up-dated to the same standards as the National Archive: light, temperature and humidity controlled with maximum security and fire-proofing. The second vault will be offered the same treatment when the principal vault is full. At present the principal vault houses original manuscripts while the secondary vault houses printed and published material. A budget was put forward and the Austrian Foreign Office was called in as partner. Wherever material was found, we could rely on Austria’s local consulates to collect and ship via diplomatic post entire estates. 2017 was also the bicentenary of the Music University which had started as a Singing Academy founded by Antonio Salieri in 1817. It was subsequently housed in the Musikverein before transferring to its dedicated wing of the Konzerthaus (Concert House) in 1913. Over the centuries it had been the Imperial Conservatory, the Academy and by the time I entered in 1972, it was a Hochschule, or College. In the 1990s, it was up-graded to university status with expanded post-graduate degrees in every discipline of the performing arts, from recording science to pedagogy to theatre, to set and costume design to acting and musical performance, to musicology and theory while including composition for every medium. It even has a division for pop music.
The centrepiece for the 200th anniversary would be an exhibition on the purges that took place in 1938 of both students and faculty. The title of the exhibition would be “When I compose, I return to Vienna” – the quote taken from conversation with Robert Fürstenthal. The first question to address was what criteria should be used. My view was that we take the exile estates of every aspect of the performing arts. I would hesitate drawing qualitative criteria, but take whatever material had been left by former professional performers, musicologists, publishers, agents, producers, directors or journalists. We should think of this material as artefacts recovered from a sunken galleon. There was no room for distinction between gold coins and brass shoe buckles – everything represented a tiny pebble in the greater mosaic of musical life and it was not for us to decide what was more or less worthy of rescue. In this regard, we widened the remit to well beyond standard music collections.
One of the first approaches I had was from the daughter of Hans Heinsheimer, head of opera at UE until 1938, the publisher of Arnold Schoenberg, Leoš Janáček, Kurt Weill, Béla Bartók, Ernst Krenek, Berthold Goldschmidt, Alban Berg, Anton Webern and most of Franz Schreker’s composition class. Heinsheimer had begun a history of the publisher Universal Editions, but had only managed to cover the period up to 1938 before his own death in 1993. His daughter suggested I might find the unedited manuscript interesting. Indeed, it was so interesting that I passed it on to Universal Editions who published it.
It was following my contact with Heinsheimer’s daughter, that it became clear to me, it was not enough to preserve the musical estates of composers; we needed performers and people in the music or performing arts’ business as well.
The other question to address, was what could we offer these various families. Most had been eager to find a safe place for storage, but we had no reputation as a museum, archive or library. The Performing Arts University already has an outstanding library that holds most of the musical estate of Bruno Walter, among others. But we were not part of the library: we were setting ourselves up to be a dedicated centre. We decided that we would offer options to the families of former musical refugees: one that presented the estate to exil.arte as a renewable loan and one that offered the estate as a bequest. In both instances, we would digitise the estate keeping digital copies in perpetuity. The renewable loan could be turned into a bequest once families were comfortable with our remit and work, and if they so desired. The renewable loan could also simply be continued. Even if families requested the return of material because a collector had offered them an enormous sum of money, we at least would be able to keep and exploit our digital facsimiles. These would be uploaded to open-source platforms where copyright law permitted. The digital copies were important for another reason: we would never, or only very rarely have to take originals out of the vaults. Scholars and musicians could always work from our high-resolution facsimiles.
(Extract from Hans Gál’s Serenade for Strings, Naxos; Symphony Nova Scotia, Conductor: Georg Tintner)
One of the first estates we took on under a loan agreement was that of Hans Gál. It had previously been housed with Eva Fox-Gál, the composer’s daughter in her private home in York. It was a difficult decision to make as a Gál revival was taking place and important ensembles and musicians were beginning to take note. Circumstances meant there was no single publisher or centre where material could be supplied. Anyone wishing to perform Gál was best advised to request photocopies of material from Eva Fox-Gál. It was not a situation she wished to see compromised during a hand-over period of manuscripts to exil.arte in Vienna. As a result, we paid for the digitisation of material in York so that both she and exil.arte had digital copies of everything while originals were placed in storage, away from harm, fire and paper consuming insects such as silver fish. The estate is now safely in our vault in Vienna.
A bequest would come from Ronald Pohl of the musical estate of Julius Bürger, a pupil of Franz Schreker. He was already an established figure before 1933 where he had been working as an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York following a recommendation by Bruno Walter. He returned to Berlin in 1926 to work with Otto Klemperer at the Kroll Opera until its closure in 1931. He remained in Berlin until 1933 and like most Austrians based in Germany, returned to Vienna where he worked as arranger and conductor until 1938. With a reputation for competence already established at the Metropolitan, he was able to return, but this time only as rehearsal conductor and prompter. He was unable to continue composing as before but managed a respectable output, including the completion of his remarkable cello concerto, the middle movement of which is dedicated to his mother, murdered in Auschwitz.
(coda of Second Movement of Bürger’s Cello concerto: live performance with Taipei’s Evergreen Orchestra, Gary Hoffman cello and Israel Yinon Conductor)
The exil.arte centre is not restricted to composers from Austria since the very definition of what constitutes Austria has changed since 1919 and most of the estates we’re taking on, date from individuals born well before. Austria, even in its post-1919 borders produced a disproportionate number of Nazis, not least Adolf Hitler himself. It’s only right that the centre takes on all those who were victims. Only over the past decade have the effects of the Nazi occupation become apparent. With the opening up of former Czechoslovakia, the Theresienstadt composers were first off the mark in the early 1990s, only to be followed by lingering silence in other, formerly occupied countries. Slowly, and after the passing of generations compromised by collusion, individuals and institutions have started to dig deeper. We’re grateful to Agnes Kory for making us aware of the many Hungarian composers and musicians lost in the Shoah. The Leo Smit Foundation in Holland has uncovered another dozen composers murdered during the occupation. If Holland and Hungary can count two dozen murdered composers between them, how is it possible that as yet, we’ve had little research in countries such as Poland, France, Italy, the Balkans, Finland and Norway and so on? We know of individual composers who were victims, or went into exile, but it seems incredible that Hungary and Holland come up with numbers that are not matched by larger countries. In addition to which, exil.arte does not solely focus on composers but takes in everyone involved in the performing arts, so we hope that as this message makes the rounds, we receive further documentation of pre-Hitler musical life.
But pre-Hitler musical life represents only part of the historic trajectory. The effects have lasted well into all of our lifetimes. Two estates demonstrate this vividly. The first is of a composer named Jan Urban, born in Prague when Prague was an Austrian city in 1875. In 1897 he took up an offer as conductor of Belgrade’s only orchestra which was part of the Serbian army. To conduct the ensemble, he was made an officer. This was of course fine until Austria declared war on Serbia in 1914. Urban had married a Serbian and converted to the Serbian Orthodox church. It doesn’t alter the fact that coming from Prague, he was then thought of as an Austrian. Following the war, Urban took over the theatre in Osijek in Croatia where he was music director and a highly regarded, though perhaps from today’s perspective, rather conventional composer. In fact, his music represents the pan-Slavic ideals of the late 19th century in Habsburg Europe. It was a musical identity he maintained until his death in 1952. In any case, he was published and performed throughout the Balkans. With the start of the Second World War, his apparent identity as a Serbian led to persecution by the Croatian Ustaš, Croatia’s answer to the Nazi Party. He fled with wife and family back to Serbia for the duration of the war. With Yugoslavia under Tito, Urban was re-united with his job and home in Osijek where he lived as a highly regarded, nationalist musician and composer: anti-fascist and a dedicated Yugoslavian patriot for the rest of his life. Only with the outbreak of the Civil War in Yugoslavia in the 1990s would Urban come under fire again. For Croatians, he remained a Serbian and they destroyed what they could, while his musical estate at the National Archive in Belgrade was “removed for safe keeping”. It was never recovered. His son rescued what was still possible from Osijek’s archives before escaping to France. Today, we have what was still not thrown to the flames: scores without parts and parts without scores. The condition of material is very poor, demanding extensive paper restoration. His operas and operettas are lost, though there are researchers on the ground, who hope more can be found.
(Orchestral Work performed by a Yugoslavian Broadcast Orchestra – Zvuči Ispod Medvednika – Sounds below the Medvednika Mountain)Another example of the long arm of Hitler’s legacy is found in the estate of Hanuš Winterberg, another Czech composer born in 1901. Winterberg came from a long established Jewish family that could be traced over 300 years in Prague. He studied with Alexander Zemlinsky and Alois Hába. His father and uncle owned a factory in the North of the country in what after the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, would become known as the region of the Sudetenland. In 1930, given the ethnic diversity of Czechoslovakia, the government undertook a census in which each citizen had to state their cultural allegiance. Slavic-Czechs and Slovaks formed the largest groups within the new country, with the largest minority being made up by German-Czechs, followed by Hungarian-Slovaks, Polish and Ukrainian Czechs. This census would be used later to expel all German-Czechs in 1945 under the so-called Beneš decree. Winterberg was Czech and registered himself as such. In 1933, he married a non-Jewish German-Czech and in 1935, they had a daughter named Ruth. In 1944, “mix-race” marriages were made illegal in the so-called Nazi “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” and the Winterbergs divorced with Hanuš being deported to Theresienstadt after entrusting his manuscripts to his wife. The daughter, a “half-Jew” according to Nazi race laws, was placed in a children’s home. The war ended in May 1945, meaning Winterberg escaped the deadly transport that cost the lives of Ullmann, Haas, Klein and Krasa and he returned to the family flat in Prague to discover both wife and daughter deported as German-Czechs under the Beneš decree. In 1946 he applied for a Czech passport which he received in 1947. He was reunited with his family in Bavaria later the same year where he ostensibly arrived in order to collect his manuscripts before returning to Prague. The Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948 left Winterberg in an awkward position. Either he returned to his home in now Stalinist Czechoslovakia or remained in the community of displaced German- Czechs, most of whom did not welcome the Nazis, along with the very large community of Sudeten Germans, many of whom did. In addition to which, the Sudeten Germans among whom he now found himself, would have included those who Aryanised the Winterberg factory and murdered his uncle in Dachau.
(End of Winterberg’s 3rd Piano Concerto: Bavarian Radio recording: Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Pianist Gitti Pirnir; conductor: Jan Koetsier)
We can’t understand the complexities that define human nature, but the original marriage that the Nazis had ended could not be continued and Winterberg married a further 3 times with his fourth wife being from the Sudetenland, forced to march from her home in the Sudetenland to Bavaria while carrying the child of an SS man. Her condition to marriage in 1965 was that Winterberg adopt her now 20-year-old son as his own. With the death of Winterberg and his fourth wife, the son sold the musical estate to the Sudeten German Music Archive for 6000 DM with an absolute embargo placed on the estate until 2031 along with a condition to be held in perpetuity, stating that Winterberg’s Jewishness never be revealed and that he only be performed as a “Sudeten German”.Randy Schoenberg sent me a copy of the contract that he managed to procure from Peter Kreitmeir, the son of Ruth Winterberg. I published it on my blog and within days the embargo had been lifted, the contract had been rescinded and Kreitmeir was made executor of the estate. Embargoing a musical estate that could boast 20 hours of recorded concerts and broadcasts made by Bavarian Radio with the leading musicians of the day was bordering on the criminal given the popularity of his music at the time of his death and the length of time the music remained in copyright.
It is Kreitmeir’s wish that the estate come to exil.arte and with major publishers and recording labels interested, it is a situation that we are following with great anticipation and hope to have resolved in the coming year. We are now in possession of high-resolution scans of all the material held by the Sudeten German Music Institute.
(Harbour Lights by Wilhelm Grosz – orchestral intro only: Robert Ziegler and the Matrix Ensemble for Decca’s “Entartete Musik” Wilhelm Grosz CD)
Perhaps some of you saw Barry Humphries’s documentary “Passions” on Sky-Arts in December. You would have noticed Barry speaking to me about the musical estate of Wilhelm Grosz who died in 1939, yet was composer of any number of extremely famous hit songs from the 1930s as well as having once been touted as a possible successor to Gustav Mahler in Vienna by none other than Julius Korngold, the father of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Before turning to popular music following his move from Vienna to Berlin, his opera Sganerell had been performed at the State Opera and numerous instrumental and vocal works performed by the leading orchestras and soloists of the day. Like the aforementioned Bürger and Hába, Grosz was a pupil of Franz Schreker. We have been able to acquire Grosz’s estate under the condition that it be kept together. Recordings, photos, documents and manuscripts will all be maintained in a dedicated Wilhelm Grosz collection. Returning this material to Vienna not only returns Grosz to his home city, it returns Grosz’s work to the very school, indeed, the very building in which he studied with Franz Schreker.
I could go on and speak about Gustav Lewi, a successful composer of largely salon works, but published and highly rated in his day. He died in 1941 in Berlin’s Jewish hospital. He was luckier than his sisters who took their own lives rather than face deportation. The estate is meagre and we have scant biographical information about him. We shall be performing a selection of his works in May of this year. Equally, we have little information on the conductor Theo Buchwald who landed in Lima and conducted an orchestra made up of European émigrés. His son offers us his father’s correspondence with Erich Kleiber, a fellow Viennese in South America. There’s also the extraordinary estate of Richard Fuchs in New Zealand, equally accomplished as architect and composer whose large oratorio “On Jewish Destiny” was composed for the Jewish Cultural League and prohibited by the Nazis – possibly because a work that positively represented Judaism was audacious enough to sound totally German in the style of Schumann and Brahms. You can hear it by following this link to my webpage forbiddenmusic.org. Estates that are still in negotiation and subject to a successful outcome are the composer Egon Lustgarten and the theatre director Erwin Piscator, a popular associate of Berolt Brecht. Already agreed are the opera singing movie stars, Jan Kiepura and Martha Eggerth.
Hopefully, we are on track to obtain the substantial musical estate of the now scandalously forgotten composer Walter Bricht, Franz Schmidt’s most promising pupil whose symphony was to be performed by the Vienna philharmonic yet thwarted by the Anschluss, as were performances planned in Berlin and Dresden. His family was prominent and even an offer of “honorary Aryan”, which he declined, could not persuade him to remain in Nazi dominated Austria. He Immigrated to America where his compositional output and performance possibilities were greatly reduced. His output from his years in Vienna, however, was substantial including important works commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein – works he performed more often than the better known Wittgenstein commission, Ravel’s concerto for the left hand. A tantalising selection of compositions of this highly significant composer of Vienna’s younger generation can be heard on his website.
But we’re not just an archive, but a centre and the difference is we’re not simply a repository for the past but a platform for the future. We have 3000 of Europe’s best and brightest “next-generation” artists, scholars and educators at our disposal. This means we not only keep and preserve musical estates, but disseminate them as well with the help of our next generation of professionals. To this end, we’re applying for funding so that we may create modules that we hope can be used by other institutions as well as our own. Such modules include research and study on the socio-economic historic period along with its stylistic developments. It compares the banned with the permitted so that references and objective conclusions can be drawn. The modules involve performance, analysis and deep engagement with one of the most creative periods of the 20th century in one of the most musically adventurous corners of the world.
But as a centre, we’re also releasing a series of publications, until now most have been in German. These include everything from the German translation of Brendan Carroll’s definitive biography on Erich Wolfgang Korngold to biographies of Max Steiner, a publication on Musicians in British Exile, another publication, in English is on Music and the effects of Nazism on music, and soon to be released, a biography of the composer and teacher Hugo Kauder. We are also in the process of setting up music publishing partnerships so that many of the works that are presently without publisher can in future be accessed in properly edited editions.
With the expertise of Viennese musicology, we have been approached by the Korngold family and Schott Music Publishers to take on the critical edition of the complete works of Korngold. For the first time, a critical edition will also include the complete film music which will be treated with the same seriousness of purpose as his concert works and operas. At present we’re compiling a source index so that all versions of every work at every stage can be located and used for comparison when creating the final performance editions.
We are extremely lucky that the Austrian Federal government is supporting us via its university system, but our work goes beyond what normal Austrian tertiary education support demands. Research and estate acquisitions don’t form a fundamental part of Austrian universities in the manner that they do in the United States or even in Great Britain. Universities in Austria are still seen as places for advanced learning and not as out-sourced R&D labs. exil.arte in some ways has to deal with the least advantageous aspects of both worlds. It is heavily research based, but not commercial, yet it demands financial support as if it were a research unit in any American or British university. And it’s not just the acquisition of musical estates that requires additional funding: the production of professional performance editions is perhaps even more expensive along with the costs of producing high-resolution facsimiles.
Publishers with even the best will in the world cannot accept performance editions prepared by students, no matter how talented. Their job is to provide performance material to professional orchestras and ensembles, and cannot afford to risk being at the mercy of student editors. It’s a largely unfamiliar environment in Austrian tertiary performing arts education. For this reason, we are looking to EU grants as well as private funding and donors. One prominent philanthropist told me several years ago that he felt it was inappropriate to support the repatriation of estates that had suffered state-sponsored expulsion. He was right. In the meantime, the Austrian government has recognised the reality that much of their own musical legacy lies in disarray. At the same time, families who once declared that parents and grandparents formerly expelled from beloved homelands would turn in their graves at the thought of their musical legacies being returned, have confronted the reality that few émigrés are considered central to the musical developments of their adopted homelands. Their estates lie in libraries under-utilised, insufficiently researched, and largely ignored. Their music forms no part of the broader cultural narrative of adopted homelands. This is the reality that is constantly mentioned by the families who have approached us since our opening in May. Families worry that documentation and correspondence in a foreign language will simply be thrown out by their children or grandchildren.
Other estates lie unclaimed in European libraries with no near relatives alive to give permission for access, study or even performance. We searched for and found distant relatives of the Schoenberg pupil Otto Jokl, and are still looking for relatives prepared to grant permission to allow access to the estate of Wolfgang Fraenkel, a pupil of Alban Berg, held at the Bavarian State Library, but barred until a family member can allow musicians and scholars access. Yet the very nature of the Shoah has meant that these composers have no living relatives in a position to allow access. It is in order to address these many culturally destructive situations that exil.arte was opened. We hope that it can make a last attempt to save what can still be salvaged while at the same time, providing access to future generations of inquisitive and adventurous musicians, scholars and educators.
Questions and Answers:
There were a number of questions following my talk and even more emails from interested audience members who wished to contact me on more specific issues. One contacted me and made the point that scientists and an array of other academics had indeed made valuable and highly recognised contributions to the countries which offered them refuge. He suggested that perhaps the reason the estates I had presented were “homeless” was because they were fairly traditional composers whom time had passed by. It was a very interesting point that I have often had to address. My answer to him follows:
Thank you for your kind email. The issues regarding the difficulties of composers in countries of refuge are multi-faceted and complex. They are not easily addressed with simple binary representations of post-war developments.
One of the notable characteristics of pre-Hitler musical life was the plurality of modernism. Schoenberg, who had decided to leave tonality in 1908 and began teaching the twelve-tone technique in 1923 was merely one example. As he was the most extreme of his generation, he was inevitably the most controversial and though his works were not as frequently performed as say those of Franz Schreker, when he was performed, there was always a critical response.
Other composers sought renewing music through other avenues: more traditional composers such as Hans Gál believed that their personal style sufficed and there was no need to leave conventional musical syntax. Others, such as Busoni or Schreker tried experiments with harmony or melody or dense counterpoint to weave multi-layered complexity that took Wagner’s “Tristan” as a starting point. Others, such as Ernst Toch believed that “unresolved dissonance” was the way forward while both he and Paul Hindemith believed that “Musical Objectivity” (Neusachlichkeit) was what was needed to cure the disease of Romanticism. Others, such as Wladimir Vogel tried synthesising spoken word with melody in a not dissimilar fashion to today’s “rap” – Rapid rhythmic text interwoven with lyricism. Others felt music was didactic and could be employed for political instruction. The possibilities of music renewal pre-1933 were seemingly infinite and the concept of atonality or twelve-tone composition as being THE voice of “modern music” was a post-war misrepresentation.
In some ways, this “misrepresentation” was innocent and well-intentioned: there was the view that pre-war, the “wrong” kind of modern music had been composed. This was an idea that did a good deal of harm to composers such as Ernst Toch, Paul Hindemith and also Kurt Weill. There was the view that music should present an “anti-fascist aesthetic”, with the view of what was perceived as “anti-fascist” pretty much left up to the imagination of whoever was in charge. Atonality was certainly seen as “anti-fascist” despite the fact that many European fascist regimes were quite happy to promote atonal music. The Austro-fascist regime (1933-1938) was one of them with Egon Wellesz and Ernst Krenek stalwart supporters. Mussolini’s regime in Italy was also happy to support avant-garde ideas in music and even Hitler’s regime allowed for experimentations with atonality and indeed, twelve-tone composition (Paul von Klenau’s opera Michael Kohlhaas). Common post-war agreement decided “anti-fascism” in music was whatever caused the audience the greatest discomfort. This was historically mendacious for more reasons than the ones I’ve briefly outlined above.
Scientists are clearly dealing with objective, transferable research that is empirically tested and tolerates nothing as subjective as local culture, language or religion. Music is very different, and in central Europe, an enormous amount of energy went into trying to force music into new directions. This was because music was of all art-forms, perhaps the newest to reach a wider public. Until about 1850, to hear music as a normal person living under normal circumstances, one went to places of worship or heard whatever local marching bands or ballade singers had to offer. Music at home (Hausmusik) was also an option open mostly to the emerging middle-classes. Otherwise, music was a matter for aristocratic courts, with musical theatre slightly more widely available. This was the situation until the after the rise of the middle classes in the second half of the 19th century. By the start of the 20th century, musicians and composers were still grappling with the interaction between serious l’art pour l’art music and the wider public: the visual arts, literature and theatre had reached the middle and lower classes long before serious music. This is one reason why music’s development in the early 20th century was disruptive and often explosive.
Post-war ideas of re-educating the public by giving it a “new culture” as proposed by Theodor Adorno, led to a dominance of a post-war avant-garde that had little public support. Its sole support would come from public bodies, and if composers from pre-war Modernism were revived, it was inevitably those who represented, or anticipated specific post-war developments such as Bartók, Krenek, Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith and above all, Anton Webern; an unwitting continuation of Hitler’s banning of Jewish composers was the result. The sobering truth is that for whatever reasons, and with the sole exception of Arnold Schoenberg, the most prominent Jewish composers held to convention and did not represent the “anti-fascist” aesthetic promoted by post-war institutions. Of course, many minor Jewish composers did, but none with the stature of Arnold Schoenberg.
exil.arte is indeed trying to accommodate those composers who were banned and were also exponents of Vienna’s Second School. Paradoxically, because of their post-war acceptability, the musical estates of these composers were more easily accommodated. The “conventional” composers who were largely Jewish were the ones who appear to have been excluded. The head of exil.arte, Prof. Gerold Gruber is a Schoenberg scholar and it is impossible to operate in Vienna independently of Schoenberg’s influence. Yet only recently have the true non-Schoenbergian developments, pre 1933 and subsequently lost to Hitler’s regime, started to be treated seriously.