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Entartete Musik at Zweitausendeins

David Ayers

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Here's a sampler of some of this music I picked up several years ago. Fascinating stuff:


1. Die Vögel: Vorspiel - Prolog performed by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Lothar Zagrosek - 8:10

2. Between Two Worlds: The World at War - The performed by Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin / John Mauceri - 4:21

3. Der Kaiser Von Atlantis: Wer da? Halt!... performed by Gewandhausorchester Leipzig / Christine Oelze - 6:50

4. Das Wunder Der Heliane: Ich Ging Zu Ihm performed by Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / John Mauceri - 7:15

5. Flammen: Introduzione - Karnevalsnacht performed by RIAS-Kammerchor Berlin / John Mauceri - 8:37

6. Rondeau 'Rue du Rocher' [edit] performed by Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchster Berlin / Berthold Goldschmidt - 4:33

7. Die Gezeichneten: Maskenzug-Was Fliehst du performed by Tamare, Monte Pederson / Lothar Zagrosek - 2:27

8. Deutsche Sinfonie, Op. 50: Präludium performed by Ernst Senff Chor, Berlin / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig - 7:00

9. Der Gewaltige Hahnrei: Zwischenspeil - Du... performed by Martin Petzold / Bruno, Robert Wörle / Roberta Alexander - 10:30

10. String Quartet No. 2 'Z Opic Ích Hor' III: performed by Hawthorne String Quartet - 9:32

11. Jonny Spielt Auf: Ob Er Kommt performed by Leipziger Opernchor / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig - 6:56

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This series covers many facets of 20th century german (and austrian) classical music. The composers were discriminated more for their jewish origins or communist ideology than for the nature of their music.

The most famous works are Zemlinsky's "Lyric Symphony" (if you like Mahler's "Lied von der Erde" you must have this), Krenek's symphonies and Korngold's violin concerto (very "Schmaltz", he later composed film music in Hollywood). Those discs are already sold out. The compositions are however available in other recordings.

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Was ist das?

This series concerns works of composers labelled by Nazis as 'degenerate' - meaning they were Jewish, Avant-Garde, Jazz inflected, sexually scandalous, or communist. Most of the material comes from before 1939, though some comes from after. Some composers were killed by the Nazis (Haas, Krasa), others pursued alternative careers abroad (Korngold, Goldschmidt).

The basic thinking behind the series is to map part of the history of German music which is considered to have been interrupted and broken off by the Nazis. Very little of this work is well known (though Schoenberg and Korngold are the most eminent figures, even if Korngold's 'Wunder' was little known).

It is an interesting series (though how many of these compositions would become anybody's permanent favorites is another matter), and the jazz angle of it is that we can hear how German composers heard and re-presented jazz. In fact, 'Jonny spielt auf' (which doesn't translate well ...) is an opera about a jazz saxophonist, with a mild though not dominant jazz content.

Many of these disks wre reviewed in Gramophone and can be seen at the Gramophone review site (remember always to check the 'show deleted' box!).


Click on reviews. Its free but you have to register.

PS Sorry Claude I was writing while you were!

PPS Claude is right about the Korngold violin concerto - very widely recorded and often played in concert. The Zemlinsky Lyric Symphony has now become well known through records, and this version is particuarly good, being combined with the Symphonic Songs to texts by Negro poets, sung brilliantly by Willard White. The Schoenberg is all available elsewhere and is obviosuly important. But Claude, I don't know whether I would put my hadn on my heart and describe Krenek's symphionies as famous! Among the Operas, the Korngold and Shreker are late romantic blockbusters, fine if you have an appetite for that kind of thing. The Schreker was recently revived in Germany so is not as 'dead' as some of the others perhaps are.

I see several of these are now said to be 'out of stock' - but it is worth checking back as the situation may change.

Edited by David Ayers
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Most of the titles seem to be OOP, the label page only shows 4 titles. More reasons to get those CDs at bargain price from Zweitausendeins.


A year or so after the opening in Munich of the exhibition "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art), the cultural politicians of the Nazi regime put on another, much less well-known show: this exhibition, entitled "Entartete Musik", was staged in Düsseldorf in 1938.

The scientific term "degenerate" was adopted by the Nazis to defame atonal music, jazz arrangements and, above all, works by Jewish composers. The concept of "degeneracy" became fixed to a new norm, namely the ideal of a music dictated by laws of racial origin.

The music branded and decried by the Nazis as being "degenerate" embraces a wide variety of styles, for their single-minded aim was simply to ensure the integrity and pre-eminence of German musical life as a whole, from the most popular operetta through to the avant-garde. Béla Bartok considered the label "Degenerate Music" as a title which did him honour, and, in 1938, he courageously demanded that the Nazi government should include his own compositions in the Düsseldorf exhibition. Most of the musicians affected by this absurd censorship - performers, composers, musicologists and teachers - were forced to emigrate or killed, causing a serious drain of talent in European musical life, the consequences of which have scarcely been recognized or appreciated even today.

The plea for tolerance, for free speech and dialogue in the arts, is what constitutes the significance for Decca today of the historical concept of "Entartete Musik". From a purely musical point of view, the "Entartete Musik" series has, with unanimous international critical acclaim, brought back to life more than 30 forgotten key works from the first half of this century by composers such as Braunfels, Goldschmidt, Haas, Korngold, Krása, Krenek, Ullmann and Waxman. These recordings may help the listener imagine what the musical life in Europe was before its destruction by the Nazis, and what it might have been if these great branches had not been abruptly cut off.

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