The Music They Didn’t Want You to Hear (2/2)

Fate of the banned 1: A composer who emigrated
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Arnold Schoenberg was arguably the most significant composer to leave Germany as a result of Nazi persecution. His initial destination was Paris, but by the end of 1933 he had emigrated to the United States teaching composition first in Boston, and then moving to California.

Throughout his career, Schoenberg’s music aroused great controversy, although works like the early string sextet Verklärte Nacht soon established a place in the repertoire. Not surprisingly, many of the pieces Schoenberg composed during his exile met with total incomprehension from American audiences whose musical tastes were far more conservative than those of their European counterparts.

Nonetheless, Schoenberg’s style seems to have mellowed at this time, and in such works as the Piano Concerto of 1942, he seems to have achieved a powerful rapprochement with the nineteenth-century romantic tradition. Among other works, one must single out the emotionally charged String Trio, written in the aftermath of an almost fatal heart attack; and in the Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte and the unbearably moving A Survivor from Warsaw, Schoenberg created some of the century’s most powerful anti-fascist music.

Other exiled composers
[Soviet Union] Sergei Rachmaninov, Alexander Glazunov, Nikolai Medtner, Sergei Prokofiev (temporarily), Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, Rodion Shchedrin, Elena Firsova
[Nazi Germany] Kurt Weill, Paul Dessau, Hanns Eisler, Berthold Goldschmidt, Paul Hindemith, Ernst Toch, Ernst Krenek, Erich Korngold, Stefan Wolpe, Alexander Zemlinsky
[Mussolini’s Italy] Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Vittorio Rieti
[Franco’s Spain] Manuel de Falla, Roberto Gerhard
[Wartime France] Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, Bohuslav Martinu
[Communist Poland] Andrzej Panufnik
[Fascist Hungary] Béla Bartók
[Communist Hungary] György Ligeti

Fate of the banned 2: Death
Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)
Erwin Schulhoff, a German-speaker of Jewish descent, was born in Prague. A talented pianist, he studied in Leipzig before the First World War. After the war he worked as a concert pianist and teacher, settling briefly in Germany. His music was peformed at festivals and his First Symphony had a successful premiere in Berlin. With the rising tide of fascism, he returned to Prague, embraced communism and set Marx’s Communist Manifesto to music. Following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Schulhoff fled to the Soviet Union. However, he was captured and deported to a Bavarian camp. A composer who embraced musical fashions from neoclassicism and expressionism to jazz, Schulhoff has enjoyed a recent revival – surely justified when one hears the emotionally intense String Sextet, or the sardonic wit of the Second Symphony.

Other composers who were killed
Viktor Ullmann, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása, Gideon Klein

Fate of the banned 3: Those who had to change
Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994)
The Polish composer Witold Lutosławski suffered two major setbacks early on in his career. Only a few months after his first major orchestral work, the Symphonic Variations, enjoyed a successful premiere, the Nazis invaded Poland, and Lutosławski was forced to abandon serious composition, ekeing out a meagre living as a cafe pianist in Warsaw. The liberation of Poland by the Russians was greeted with relief by Lutosławski’s long-suffering countrymen. But Stalinism gripped the country’s artistic institutions and Lutosławski soon became the victim of a smear campaign after the authorities denounced his next orchestral work, the First Symphony, as formalist and tinged with decadent modernism. From now on, all Polish composers were expected to compose optimistic music exclusively based upon folk-song. Lutosławski had little alternative but to comply with such demands, but in the process succeeded in creating something of lasting value, when his brilliant and accessible Concerto for Orchestra received a triumphant first performance in 1954.

Other composers who had to change
Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian, Nikolai Miaskovsky

Fate of the banned 4: Posthumous censorship
Probably the most extreme manifestation of musical censorship took place in Nazi Germany where anti-Semitism drove officials to remove all music by Jewish composers from the repertoire. After 1933 it was no longer possible to perform the works of Mahler, Offenbach and Mendelssohn, though Wilhelm Furtwängler courageously programmed a 125th birthday concert for Mendelssohn in 1934, and the violinist Georg Kulenkampff even made a commercial recording of the composer’s Violin Concerto for Telefunken in 1935 that was ironically unavailable in Germany at that time! The aryanisation of musical repertoire, however, went beyond the mere proscription of such composers, and included attempts to recast Handel’s Old Testament oratorios as Nordic legends, and retranslate Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretti for Mozart’s operas The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte. Numerous composers gratefully accepted commissions to write incidental music to replace that by Mendelssohn for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while violinists performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto in Germany were expected to excise the cadenzas written by Joachim and Kreisler.

Other posthumous bannings
Richard Wagner in Israel

Classic CD magazine, 1997


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