OBITUARY: Peter Stadlen

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The Independent Online
Bayan Northcott [obituaries, 23 January] does not mention Peter Stadlen's enforced wartime sojourn in Australia. Like thousands of other German and Austrian refugees, Stadlen was interned in the summer of 1940 and shipped under atrocious conditions to Australia. The Home Office, reacting to an application signed by Thomas Mann, Yehudi Menuhin and Eleanor Roosevelt, amongst others, had actually ordered his release, but, by the time it did so, Stadlen was already on the high seas.

On board ship he was a constant source of cheer to his fellow prisoners, encouraging them to sing. Among the few possessions he managed to bring was a piano transcript of Handel's Israel in Egypt. One internee had brought his violin, and on precious lavatory paper Stadlen transcribed the score for the violin and voices.

Once the internees were settled in a camp in the New South Wales bush, Stadlen formed a choir of 75 male voices and arranged a concert performance of Handel's work in front of the camp officers and local dignitaries. Later on there were performances of Mozart's C Major Mass, of a Palestrina Mass and of the Prisoner Chorus of Fidelio.

It took over a year before Stadlen was returned to England. When he finally disembarked at Liverpool, he heard on the tannoy that Dr Vaughan Williams wanted him to get in touch urgently. He told me some years ago that this pleased him greatly.