Thursday, November 19, 2015

Music banned by the Nazis
An interesting and challenging concert will be broadcast next Tuesday, November 24, at 8 pm on the RNZ Concert Programme. It was recorded at last years NZ School of Music Conference on Suppressed Music. The programme will feature the Cello Concerto of Myeczyslaw Weinberg, a Jewish composer, born in Warsaw, who fled to Russia, became a close friend of Shostakovich, who saved him from Stalin's terror. It will also include the Introduction and Final scene from The Emperor of Atlantis, by Victor Ullmann, a chamber opera that he wrote while in Theresienstadt. Ullmann was one of the group of composers along with Gideon Klein and Hans Kràsa who were taken from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz and were killed there. But for a New Zealand audience, the most interesting work will be the world premier of Vom Jüdischen Schiksal (The Jewish Fate) by German-Jewish composer, Richard Fuchs, a successful architect and composer in Karlsruhe, who settled in New Zealand in 1939, after he was freed from Dachau. This setting of four poems by the great German Jewish poet, Karl Wolfskehl won a prestigious prize awarded by the German Kulturbund. It is written for choir, soloists and a large orchestra, Nazi authorities refused permission for its performance and its score, copied, ready for rehearsal, languished in the Turnbull Library all these years. The Nazis did not have to give reasons for their decisions, but the comments of Michael Haas, scholar of music banned by the Nazis might shed light on it. He wrote after hearing the work performed that 'Fuchs's large-scale work for chorus and orchestra entitled Vom jüdischen Schicksal – of Jewish Destiny, presented listeners with an unsettling challenge. If composers such as Zeisl, Rettich, Schoenberg, Toch and even Korngold dipped a compositional toe into the waters of ‘Jewish’ music, Fuchs offered a more disturbing dialectic. He took a Jewish setting by Karl Wolfskehl and set it to music that was defiantly German. As Prof. Tim Jackson observed in an accompanying documentary, Fuchs wrote music using the language ‘of the perpetrator’. … He wrote the most ‘German’ music he could, which he set to the most Jewish German text he could find. The result was its banning by the Nazi authorities from performance at the Jüdischer Kulturbund. No official explanation was offered, but hearing Vom jüdischen Schicksal it becomes quite clear that Fuchs’s sound-world of Schumann through a Wagnerian prism, was simply too shamelessly German and not sufficiently ‘Jewish’. Incidentally, Karl Wolfskehl also lived the last years of his life in New Zealand. His book Die Stimme spricht, which included the four poems Richard Fuchs set to music, was his response in poetry of a German Jew to the events of 1933, a document of the mood of a cultural stratum of German Jewry in the midst of its final catastrophe. [ KARL WOLFSKEHL, 1933 A Poem Sequence, New York, 1947, Introduction]