Articles & Essays

Anneliese Landau: “I Was There”

By Lily E. Hirsch

As a music lecturer and promoter, Anneliese Landau participated in an extraordinary number of significant developments: early German radio broadcasts, the Jewish Culture League in pre-war Berlin, and the activities of émigré composers in Los Angeles. She knew and worked with many important historical figures — musicologist Alfred Einstein, composer Ernst Toch, and Rabbi Max Nussbaum, among others. In doing so, she navigated traditional roles that defined women in her day and common assumptions regarding Jewish identity, within and outside the world of music.

Landau was born in Halle, Germany, on March 5, 1903. She studied law - a difficult field for women at the time - at the University of Halle, but she eventually received permission to focus on her real passion, music history, an area with gender issues of its own. She followed her primary instructor, musicologist Arnold Schering, to the University of Berlin and earned her Ph.D. in musicology in 1930. After graduation she prepared, at Alfred Einstein's request, the Musikalische Zeitschriftenschau, an index of all the articles on music published during the preceding year, for the respected journal Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft. She continued this annual activity until 1933 and compiled similar listings for the Bach-Jahrbuch and Händel-Jahrbuch.1

While carving out a portfolio career in this area, she also gave lectures on music on German radio until early in 1933, when the Nazis forced the cancellation of contracts with all Jews in broadcasting. In her unpublished memoirs, Landau recalled her incredulity when she arrived at the radio station and was told that her program proposals simply wouldn't work. She asked, “Do you mean, I cannot broadcast any longer because I am Jewish?”2

Landau had to consider emigration: in addition to being Jewish, although she was not observant, she had joined the Social Democratic Party along with her friend Franz Beidler, the grandson of Richard Wagner.3  Chance interceded. One day, while she was standing on a sidewalk gazing into a shop window, “I suddenly see a familiar face appearing next to mine in the reflection of the window: Dr. Kurt Singer,” she recalled. “That afternoon, at his office, he spoke to me about his idea of a [Culture League]: he would call together all Jewish musicians, actors, lecturers and ask them to become part of an organization which would offer drama, opera, and lectures to a Jewish membership.”4  In this way, she began her tenure with the Jewish Culture League in Berlin (Jüdischer Kulturbund), an organization created by and for Jews, through negotiations with the Nazi regime.5

In the League, she gave remarkably popular lectures on music. A reporter for the Jüdische Rundschau, a contemporary German Jewish newspaper, described an evening with Landau as “magic.”6  Why? For one thing, Landau included live music by way of illustration, and these performances made use of the best musicians available. Her regular performers included pianist Wolfgang Rosé, son of cellist Eduard Rosé, a founding member of the prominent and long-lasting Rosé Quartet; Mascha Benya, a folk singer, who became a good friend and featured artist in the League's opera productions; and baritone Fritz Lechner, with whom Landau had worked on the radio. When Lechner left for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Wilhelm Guttmann, who had been a member of the Municipal Opera in Berlin,7 took his place on Landau's programs.8  These accomplished musicians performed entire pieces, rather than examples of only a few bars, and Landau's accompanying talks were entertaining performances in their own right: she used colorful anecdotes to set the music in its historical context. The interplay between her words and the music augmented the impact of both. One review at the time described the format “as a completely new form of artistic performance.”9

Critics and some former members have argued that involvement in the League, which existed from 1933 to 1941, distracted its Jewish members from the Nazi danger and the changing reality of the situation of Jews in Germany.10  This was not the case for Landau. After the 1938 pogroms, with worries about her sister's family as well as mounting restrictions on her work (including the requirement that she focus on Jewish topics), she made plans to leave Germany. She emigrated in 1939, staying first with a friend in London while she waited for the Kindertransport that would carry her sister's children from Berlin to freedom in foster care; her sister and brother-in-law remained behind to look after her parents. After her niece's and nephews' arrival, Landau went on to the United States, hoping to find the means and sponsorship to win her family's release from Germany; she was not successful. She traveled on a ship, SS Nova Scotia, first to Nova Scotia and then to Boston, where she arrived on January 1, 1940, and was received by a representative of the National Council of Jewish Women, who was dismayed that Landau did not speak Yiddish. “You don't understand Jewish, what kind of a Jew are you? Are you Jewish at all?”11 she exclaimed. After this unsettling welcome, Landau traveled to New York.

As a single woman in New York (Landau never married), she struggled to support herself in her chosen field. But in the fall of 1941 she was invited by Jane Evans, head of Cincinnati's National Federation of the Temple Sisterhood,12 to work on a book, The Contributions of Jewish Composers to the Music of the Modern World, which she completed in 1946. 13  She also organized a unique lecture-performance program, “An Evening of Forbidden Music,” that was presented early in 1942 at the B'nai B'rith Lodge in Forest Hills, a well-to-do neighborhood in Queens, New York.14  It was meant to be a one-time affair, but the chairman of the Lodge asked Landau to repeat it in Manhattan. After that encore performance, Landau was invited to take the program on tour, with the support not only of the Lodge but also of the Army Emergency Relief Fund, a private nonprofit organization incorporated in 1942 to give financial aid to soldiers and their families in need.15  Between March 1942 and March 1944, Landau presented her program sixteen times, with slight variations in repertoire and in the roster of performing artists, at B'nai B'rith lodges as well as Jewish Community Centers in New York and Connecticut.16

A draft of the full program, most likely from 1943, lists the repertoire: the music of Jacques Offenbach, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, Ernest Bloch, Henryk Wieniawski, and Dmitri Shostakovich—Jewish and non-Jewish composers suppressed during the Third Reich. Landau also programmed folk songs—Russian, Lithuanian, English, and Hebrew, which were sung by her friend Benya, who had also made her way to the United States after the pogroms. Landau explained in commentary that punctuated the performances, “Each country that was occupied by the Nazi aggressors had to stop immediately with the performance of music written by Jews, and had also to quit her National Anthem, her national composers, and her folk songs.”17  Landau closed the concert with “American music” —excerpts from Broadway and film: She asked, already embracing her new home, “And if Fascism would happen here—did you ever think about what we would have to miss of our American music?”18

A visit to Los Angeles changed Landau's life. She had traveled there thanks in part to an invitation from Rabbi Max Nussbaum to speak at Hollywood's Temple Israel, which he had recently begun to serve and would lead for thirty-two years. While in the city, she learned about the work of the Jewish Community Centers and met Lee Kestenbaum, who had important musical contacts in the city. During a second trip, Kestenbaum was able to arrange for Landau to meet Meyer Fichman, the first executive director of the Jewish Centers Association, created in 1943 to coordinate the city's various Jewish Community Centers.19  Landau was offered and accepted the position of music director of the Association, and she moved to Los Angeles in 1944. In 1952, membership in the Association's five centers was estimated to be 7,692, but the total number of people who frequented the centers was 835,116. Among the approximately sixty staff members, sixteen were “special interest staff,” with expertise in the arts, including drama and dance as well as music.20

In her new role, Landau quickly discovered that only a small segment of the population frequented the limited concert offerings available in the city and that there was little room for new music. One contributing factor was the notion “that music was a social accomplishment, not a profession” —something to be left to the women.21  This attitude was a distinct obstacle for Landau in her early attempts to find academic work in the United States: American musicology was trying to distinguish itself as male in an effort to assure the field's respectability as a profession.22  But it may have actually helped Landau in Los Angeles; indeed, many women in the city played prominent roles in non-academic musical life. The oil heiress Arline Barnsdall, for instance, had sponsored programs of the California-born composer Henry Cowell's New Music Society of California from 1925-1927 in the ballroom of the city's luxurious downtown Biltmore Hotel. Artie Mason Carter, who had studied as a pianist in Vienna, was behind the Symphonies Under the Stars series at the Hollywood Bowl, which had begun in 1922 as a means of generating income for the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the summer.23

One of Landau's earliest triumphs in her new position was a special International Composers Concert that took place on April 24, 1945, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. For this event, she had reached out to the émigré composers in the city and had had memorable meetings with Ernst Toch, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Arnold Schoenberg. Landau's recollection of approaching Schoenberg is especially memorable: “No kindness or any form of hospita[lity] expected me at Schoenberg's house. I felt like an intruder into the sanctuary of an embittered man. ” 24  In addition to their music, the program would include Maurice Ravel's Kaddish, music by Darius Milhaud, Ernest Bloch's Psalm 22, The Dances of King David by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and, by Louis Gruenberg, Five Variations on a Popular Theme, Including Three Apologies, for three violins and cello.25  The appreciative audience included many of the featured composers. Only Korngold, among them, participated on stage as a musician in the performance of his suite “Much Ado about Nothing” for violin and piano, accompanying his friend violinist Henri Temianka.26

In addition to special events, Landau also established regular programs at the centers. For musicians between the ages of eight and twenty-eight, she organized a series of monthly Sunday afternoon recitals, which she called Musicians in the Making. It began in the fall of 1945 and continued uninterrupted from October through April, each year for two decades.27  Budding musicians auditioned and were adjudicated by professional judges. Typically, two hopefuls would be awarded that month's recital, which they would split, in addition to a cash prize established by local composer Ferde Grofé. The first winner was the fifteen-year-old pianist André Previn, who was born in Berlin but had settled in Los Angeles as a child after his family had emigrated from Germany in 1939. Some other winners included violinists Arnold Steinhardt and Zina Schiff, pianists Daniel Pollack and Malcolm Bilson, and violist Myra Kestenbaum. In a parallel effort, Landau created Composers in the Making, with judges Lukas Foss and Ingolf Dahl.28

On March 12, 1955, Landau proudly oversaw another high-profile event: the West Coast premiere of Alexandre Tansman's oratorio Isaiah, the Prophet. Although she had at her disposal an excellent stage at Los Angeles's Westside Jewish Community Center, she chose to use Royce Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles. She engaged not only the Roger Wagner Chorale but also the prominent film composer Franz Waxman, who conducted the fifty-six-piece orchestra. Actor Louis Calhern, whose most endearing and enduring film role was Ambassador Trentino in the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, agreed to be the narrator. Police had to close Royce Hall's doors thirty minutes before the start of the program: the auditorium was already filled to capacity.29

In 1957, Landau found a way to re-involve émigré composers in her work. She began The Composers Workshop, a more regular showcase for local contemporary artists in performance and conversation.30  Each invited composer spoke about a new piece or a piece in progress and then performed it or had it performed. A question and answer period was followed by an informal discussion with audience members over tea, coffee, and cookies.31  The purpose was twofold: “to help the music listener develop an ear for the music of his own days, and to make him aware of the contribution Jewish composers are making to the international musical scene.”32

In 1957, the series featured Louis Gruenberg, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ernest Gold, and Leon Levitch. During the 1958-1959 season, the program included Ellis Kohs, Max Helfman, Maurice Goldman, Walter Arlen, Ernest Kanitz, Roy Travis, and William Grant Still.33  Within this list, Still's name may seem surprising, given the series' focus on the contribution of Jewish composers. Born in Mississippi, he had relocated to Los Angeles in 1939, the same year in which he married Verna Arvey, whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.34  She and her family must have been the initial link between Still and the Jewish Community Center.

Two especially memorable sessions of these workshops were Ernst Toch's Some Viewpoints of the Composer, on May 22, 1957, and Eric Zeisl's presentation, Message from the Conscientious Jewish Composer, on January 9, 1957. During the latter program, Zeisl introduced vocal parts from his incomplete opera, Job; this was the only performance of these segments during the composer's lifetime. (The complete work was not performed until 2014.)35

In 1960, Landau assumed a full-time position at the new Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Van Nuys, in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley. In this way, she lost her central function in the Westside Jewish Community Center's musical activities.  Her new role was a poor substitute for the old one and, increasingly frustrated, she retired in 196836  and focused on writing. She had always loved art-song, and she devoted herself to the genre in her final project, The Lied: The Unfolding of Its Style, a book published in 1980, eleven years before her death in 1991. On July 18, 1982, at a conference on nineteenth-century music at Southampton University in England, Landau gave a talk - “Schubert and Wilhelm Müller” – in which she described Müller's role in Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin and the work's reception.37  In more informal discussion during the conference, she spoke of her direct work with many composers of interest to those in attendance. The younger participating musicologists excitedly asked her about the concerts she had attended in Berlin and the artists she had known in Germany and after.

Landau was able to say, “I was there. ”38

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Endnotes
  • 1.  Anneliese Landau, “Pictures you wanted to see—People you wanted to meet, ” Memoirs (unpublished), donated to the author by the Landau family, 31-33.
  • 2.  Anneliese Landau, “Bridges to the Past, ” donated to the author by the Landau family, 38. Landau, Memoirs, 40.
  • 3.  John M. Spalek, Interview with Anneliese Landau, December 29, 1982, recorded and held at the University of Albany. For more information on Beidler, and the controversy of his connection to Wagner, see Eva Rieger, Friedelind Wagner: Richard Wagner's Rebellious Granddaughter (New York: The Boydell Press, 2013), 10, 53, and 190.
  • 4.  Landau, “Bridges to the Past, ” 39-40.
  • 5.  For more information, see Lily E. Hirsch, A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany: Musical Politics and the Berlin Jewish Culture League (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010). See also http://orelfoundation.org/index.php/journal/journalArticle/ the_j252dische_kulturbunde_in_the_early_nazi_years/.
  • 6.  Micha Michalowitz, quoted in Matthias Harder, “ ‘Messianische Erziehung’? Die Kluturbund-Vorträge zwischen Tradition und Augenblick, ”  Geschlossene Vorstellung: Der Jüdische Kulturbund in Deutschland 1933-1941, ed. Akademie der Künste (Berlin: Akademie der Künste, 1992), 132.
  • 7.  See Horst J.P. Bergmeier, Ejal Jakob Eisler, and Rainer E. Lotz, Vorbei … Beyond Recall: Dokumentation jüdischen Musiklebens in Berlin 1933-1938… A Record of Jewish musical life in Nazi Berlin 1933-1938 (Hambergen: Bear Family Records, 2001), 365.
  • 8.  Landau, Memoirs, 48.
  • 9.  Anneliese-Landau-Archiv 584, Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
  • 10.  Lily E Hirsch, “Germany's Commemoration of the Jüdischer Kulturbund, ” in Jewish Music and Germany after the Holocaust, ed. Lily E. Hirsch and Tina Frühauf (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • 11.  Spalek; Landau, Memoirs, 78.
  • 12.  See http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/national-federation-of-temple-sisterhoods
  • 13.  Landau, Memoirs, 106.
  • 14.  Spalek.
  • 15.  See http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/
  • 16.  Landau, Memoirs, 110-111; Spalek interview; Press clippings about “Forbidden Music,” Ruth-Nussbaum-Archiv 63, Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
  • 17.  Anneliese Landau, “Forbidden Music” lecture, Anneliese-Landau-Archiv 435, Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
  • 18.  Anneliese Landau, “Forbidden Music” lecture, Anneliese-Landau-Archiv 435, Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Anneliese Landau, “Forbidden Music” concert program, Anneliese-Landau-Archiv 432, Akademie der K√ľnste, Berlin.
  • 19.  Herbert Morris Biskar, “A History of the Jewish Centers Association of Los Angeles with Special Reference to Jewish Identity, ” Doctor of Social Work thesis, University of Southern California, 1972, 55-57.
  • 20.  Murray T. Blumberg, “Community Relations as Recognized and Practiced by the Jewish Centers Association of Los Angeles and its Four Institutional Members, ” Masters Thesis, University of Southern California, 1952, 36-45.
  • 21.  Dorothy Lamb Crawford, A Windfall of Musicians: Hitler's Émigrés and Exiles in Southern California (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 25-28.
  • 22.  Judy Tsou, “Women Musicologists in Mid-Century American Academies, ” in Frauen in der Musikwissenschaft/women in musicology.  Dokumentation des internationalen Workshops Wien 1998, ed. Markus Grassl and Cornelia Szabó-Knotik (Vienna: Bundesministeriums für Wissenschaft und Verkehr, 1999), 183-188.
  • 23.  Crawford, A Windfall, 27-28.
  • 24.  Landau, Memoirs, 128.
  • 25.  Landau, Memoirs, 129.
  • 26.  “Two Concerts Offered, ” Los Angeles Times, April 26, 1945, A2.
  • 27.  “20 Musical Years in the Centers, ” newspaper clipping from 1964, in the private collection of Spedding Micklem.
  • 28.  Landau, Memoirs, 137-139.
  • 29.  “20 Musical Years in the Centers. ”
  • 30.  Anneliese Landau, “A Different Approach to Music and the Related Arts for Adults, ” Anneliese-Landau-Archiv 452, Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Landau, Memoirs, 123-134. See also “Music at the Center,” a program, personal collection of Carrie Paechter.
  • 31.  Landau, Memoirs, 134.
  • 32.  Anneliese Landau, “Interest in Work of Living Jewish Composers Stimulated by Los Angeles Music Council,” Circle (Spring 1959), Anneliese-Landau-Archiv 449, Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
  • 33.  “Music at the Center,” 1958-1959, program, in the private collection of Carrie Paechter.
  • 34.  Catherine Parsons Smith, Making Music in Los Angeles:  Transforming the Popular (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 178.
  • 35.  Malcolm S. Cole, “A Miracle in Munich: The Bavarian State Opera Premieres Zeisls Hiob, ” The OREL Foundation, http://orelfoundation.org/index.php/journal/journalArticle/ a_miracle_in_munich_the_bavarian_state_opera_premieres _zeisls_hiob/.
  • 36.  Letter to Lisel Micklem from Anneliese Landau, Sept 10, 1967, private collection of Spedding Micklem.
  • 37.  “Schubert and Wilhelm Müller, ” Anneliese-Landau-Archiv 45, Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
  • 38.  Spalek.