Michael Haas tells the tragic tale of a lost musical generation
Friday 26 April 2013
In his new book, Forbidden Music: the Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis,
Michael Haas, formerly music curator for the Jewish Museum in Vienna and an
award-winning record producer, has set out to tell the full, devastating story
of a lost generation.
From its pages shine Franz Schreker, an opera composer of genius who was hounded into an early grave in 1934; Schoenberg's experiments in 12-tone serialism; Hanns Eisler's communist agitprop cabaret; Hans Gál's Brahmsian symphonies; Erich Wolfgang Korngold's exile to Hollywood; Kurt Weill's transition to Broadway; and many more. Covering more than a century, the tale traces a complex web of cause and effect from the emancipation of Austria's Jewish community in 1867 to the lingering anger among the families of the displaced or deceased in the postwar years.
The Nazi regime banned music for a variety of reasons: not only Jewish composers, but also jazz – viewed as the music of African-Americans; politically disapproved music by non-Jews; and atonal and Serialist music, considered inherently subversive. The muddled result was a widespread view that Jewish composers were primarily writing avant-garde music. Yet that was far from true.
Instead, many – but for the visionary Mahler and, later, the influential Schoenberg – were on the other side of a virulent split between innovation and tradition originating with Wagner and Brahms and their respective attitudes towards both music and the Jews. Wagner, the experimental creator of "music of the future", emerges as anti-Semitic villain-in-chief. Brahms, by contrast, often befriended young Jewish musicians. After that, numerous Jewish composers turned towards his musically conservative approach; and it is often their output that has been overlooked. One fine example is the excellent Gál, a Viennese composer who escaped to the UK.
Much has been written on the Nazis' suppression of avant-garde music, whatever the ethnicity of its composers. This strand of composition in the 1950s became a musical rebellion against fascism and dominated the world of new music, despite often alienating listeners. Meanwhile, much tonal music by Jewish composers was simply forgotten.
Had they not been suppressed, exiled or murdered, the full picture of 20th-century music might have looked very different.
'Forbidden Music: the Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis', by Michael Haas, is published by Yale University Press
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What if 35 Palestinians had died, and 800 Israelis?
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45 after suffering from cancer
Led Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
50 best running songs: From Avicii and Pharrell Williams to the classic 'Eye of the Tiger'
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies trailer unveiled at Comic-Con
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >