Articles & Essays

By Dr. Kevin Clarke

How did this happen? Or more importantly: how could it happen? How did the up-to-date, cheeky, cosmopolitan art form known as ”operetta“ become transformed from a popular, commercial genre into the old-fashioned, state subsidized, sexually repressed waltz-and-schmaltz entertainment that it is usually seen as today? There are several answers to these questions. Although there is a somewhat different explanation for the shift in the United States, in the German speaking world the line that divides operetta history into a ”before“ and ”after“ is the year 1933.

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By Michael Haas

With Hitler's election on January 30, 1933, most of the political opposition optimistically assumed that things would proceed through established constitutional and democratic processes. An unpopular government would last only until it was voted out again. Checks and balances meant that there was no immediate danger to most Communists, Social Democrats or even Jews, although anyone who had read Hitler's Mein Kampf suspected that he might be ruthless enough to rid himself of the constitution and rule by decree. Such suspicions were confirmed in less than a month, with the burning of the Reichstag and the beginning of numerous draconian measures. One of these was the dismissal of all Jews from publicly funded bodies.

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By Carla Shapreau

After the March 13, 1938 Anschluss, Jewish members of Austria’s society of authors, composers, and music publishers (Staatlich genehmigte Gesellschaft der Autoren, Komponisten und Musikverleger), known as the “AKM,” were blacklisted. The nature, scope, and ramifications of the AKM’s 1938-1945 history are the subject of new research in Austria, with the publication of a study expected soon.  1 This study follows on the heels of the first public exhibition of a recently discovered AKM blacklist in the Vienna City Library in 2012.  2  Name by name, this diminutive yet chilling red-lined Nazi-era artifact was a prelude to evolving persecution in Austria for those in the musical world.

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By Juliane Brand

A Review of the Conference at Arizona State University, 2013

In November 2013, a select group of international scholars met in Tempe, Arizona, to discuss the richness and diversity of music created and performed in Poland during the first half of the twentieth century. The event, hosted by the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University (ASU) and co-organized with The OREL Foundation, took place over two days, both of them packed with presentations, and it concluded with a stellar concert by the ARC (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) Ensemble.

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By Jory Debenham

On June 22, 1944, baritone Karel Berman and pianist Rafael Schächter premiered Pavel Haas's Song Cycle Four Songs on Chinese Poetry for an audience of inmates in Terezín. Although many features of the work brought it acclaim, one of the most striking aspects of the cycle is its use of an ostinato pattern that becomes the basis of the first and third songs; this results in a form that is at least reminiscent of the Baroque passacaglia and may even be a direct usage of it. In his review of the work, Viktor Ullmann noted the significance of the pattern, granting it the status of an idée fixe. Only six weeks later, on August 7, Hans Krása completed his work Passacaille et Fugue, and in the subsequent two weeks Viktor Ullmann completed his last piano sonata, which concludes with a set of variations and fugue on a Hebrew folk tune. Almost exactly one…

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By Juliane Brand

On March 4 and 5 of 2012, the OREL Foundation and the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University (ASU) collaborated in sponsoring an international interdisciplinary conference in Tempe, Arizona, on the subject “Reimagining Erwin Schulhoff, Viktor Ullmann and the German-Jewish-Czech World.”

Schulhoff and Ullmann are no longer obscure names encountered only in ancillary relationships to the canonic figures of music history, as was the case a mere decade or two ago. Interest in them may have begun within the context of what, for brevity's sake, is often called Holocaust studies (both composers were incarcerated and died in Nazi camps), but closer acquaintance with their oeuvres over the past couple of decades has revealed each to have been a strong, highly individual voice in his time. Performances of their works are no longer rare, and a growing corpus of recordings attests to the acceptance of this music into the twentieth-century repertoire. As the conference organizers Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Michael Beckerman and Robert Elias stated in their synopsis, the decision to place the music of these two men at the center of a two-day conference was based on the recognition that, among the composers who died or were otherwise suppressed by the Nazi regime, Schulhoff and Ullmann “stand out for their productivity, the quality of their musical imaginations and the unusual and fraught contexts in which they worked.”

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