will find a way to flower, despite official government efforts to distort,
denigrate or destroy it. Lonny Shavelson brings us the story of music that was
banned by the Nazis 60 years ago but enjoys a resurgence of interest
summer evenings are perfect for taking in a concert under the stars, and
communities all across the United States host summer music series. Music in the Vineyards takes place in an idyllic setting, a
luxurious winery in California's Napa Valley. But the focus of this evening's
concert is less than idyllic. The
musicians are performing music banned by the Nazis.
first piece is String Quartet no. 1 by Erwin Schulhoff. The Czech
composer began his career in the period between the First and Second World
Adams, artistic director of the Music in the Vineyards Festival, says Schulhoff
is not a familiar name today, but he was then. "Dvorak discovered him as a
boy wonder in Prague and he got first-rate musical education with the best
loved jazz and the avant garde, and even set the Communist Manifesto to
music. "Now in hindsight,"
Adams observes, "as a Jew living in Nazi Germany, declaring you were a
communist was probably not a good idea.
But up to then Schulhoff had been a really big deal all over Germany as
a composer and pianist. And he was
officially labeled a degenerate musician."
art banned in Nazi Germany
title of this evening's concert is Degenerates. That's what the Nazis called
art they deemed decadent or subversive – especially works by Jewish artists.
Albrecht Deumling, a Berlin-based expert on degenerate music, says the Nazis
had very narrow musical tastes. They favored Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.
"They said it's good enough to perform these excellent composers, and not
to introduce the more controversial." Controversial included anything new
and non-German. And of course, anything composed by Jews.
says many Jewish musicians fled Nazi Germany, though not all. "Some of the
musicians wanted to stay on, and in the end they were transported to places
like Terezin or even Auschwitz," he says. Erwin Schulhoff stayed; he died
in the Wulzberg concentration camp in 1942.
who fled Germany flourished on world stage
organizer Michael Adams points out that, in a sense, German suppression of what
they called degenerate music scattered the seeds of innovation to flower
elsewhere. For instance, Kurt Weill, whose work is also featured in the
concert, left Germany in the 1930s and eventually wound up in the United
best-known work, The Threepenny Opera, was written in collaboration with
Bertolt Brecht while both men lived in Berlin. The poet and playwright, a
member of the Communist party, also fled Germany when the Nazis came to power.
Threepenny Opera became a huge success, translated into 18 languages. The
tune "Mack the Knife," which opens the musical, became one of the
most popular songs of the 20th century.Adams says the show struck a cord with
American audiences. "Its biting political commentary combined with the
sounds of 1920s Berlin – dance bands and dance halls and cabaret music-
created the kind of musical theater that paved the way for things we know now,
Ironically, Albrecht Deumling, Berlin's expert on degenerate
music, thinks there's too much focus on the Nazi suppression of works by Erwin
Schulhoff and his contemporaries Felix Mendelssohn, Arnold Schoenberg and
Gustav Mahler. He thinks people should appreciate their compositions for what
they are: good music.