Violist Recovers Nazi-Banned Music Exhibit Honors Works by Composers Lost in the Holocaust, Others

By Karen Campbell, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 25, 1994 | Go to article overview

Violist Recovers Nazi-Banned Music Exhibit Honors Works by Composers Lost in the Holocaust, Others


Karen Campbell, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


IT is called "Entartete Musik." Literally translated, it means "degenerate music," and it is the phrase coined by the Nazis in the 1930s to refer to any music not fitting into their agenda to maintain cultural purity. That included music that was atonal, music that was influenced by jazz, and any music composed by a member of the Jewish faith.

This wholesale policy of censorship in the name of ideology cut short the careers, even lives, of many notable composers of the day, effectively lopping off an entire branch of the tree of 20th- century music. And for nearly half a century, music by composers such as Pavel Haas, Erwin Schulhoff, and Hans Krasa, to name just three who perished in the Holocaust, has lain quiet, the result of ignorance, neglect, and time.

This month, Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., opened a five-week retrospective of music banned by the Nazis called "Silenced Voices," which features an exhibition, concerts, and lectures, along with satellite events at the Longy School and New England Conservatory of Music. The commemoration is the idea of Mark Ludwig, a violist with the Boston Symphony and the founder-director of Terezin Chamber Music Foundation, dedicated to fostering an awareness and appreciation of music written by Jewish composers who perished in the Holocaust.

The foundation is a cosponsor of the retrospective. "In terms of social impact, showing the genesis of this music under such horrible circumstances is a wonderful way to stimulate people to think about the horrors of prejudice, racism, intolerance, and censorship," Mr. Ludwig says.

Ludwig's commitment to this music began just over seven years ago as the convergence of several interests. "I had already founded a chamber music series that prided itself on diverse programming, avoiding the well-trod path. I was also reading a biography of Rabbi Leo Beck, the chief rabbi in Berlin before the war. He was incarcerated in Theresienstadt and mentioned going to a concert given by two composers who were also incarcerated. This piqued my interest. I had never heard these names, and nobody else I knew had either. I thought maybe if a few pieces had survived, it would be interesting to put them on my series."

Ludwig concentrated his search on Theresienstadt, a transit point to the Nazi death camps that the Nazis periodically spruced up to use as a "Paradise Ghetto" for propaganda films. It became the last home for many of Europe's most gifted composers, and a surprising amount of impressive music was created there. "To have a cultural community active in a concentration camp, it's such a unique, bizarre thing," Ludwig says. "And not all this music is depressing by any means. A lot of it is very uplifting or reminiscent of a better time."

Ludwig used his own money for travel to Europe to get access to the music that survived.

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Violist Recovers Nazi-Banned Music Exhibit Honors Works by Composers Lost in the Holocaust, Others
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