horizontal line

Concentrating on France, Britain and the German Reich and occupied territories, Patrick Bade’s fascinating book grew out of 15 years spent teaching at the London Jewish Cultural Centre. In Bade’s account, the war is never far away from the music making. During experiments with creating a stereo recording of Beethoven’s Emperor concerto by German sound engineers in January 1945, in a quiet passage of the first movement cadenza the sound of distant anti-aircraft fire is ‘captured with perfect clarity’. Concerning the BBC commentators at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Bade describes the contrast between the ‘barking’ of the German announcer and the ‘patronisingly languid’ style of the BBC announcers, a contrast sufficient enough to convince the Nazi hierarchy that the British empire was ripe for the taking.

During the pre-war years, politics had intruded even into the rarefied world of opera. Bade describes how the wealthy country- house owner John Christie – who was intensely Germanophile – signposted the Glyndebourne toilets as ‘Damen’ and ‘Herren’. Christie paced over the Sussex Downs in lederhosen, oblivious to the darkening political situation.

In defeated France, after the great exodus from Paris in June 1940, a number of those musicians who had played a key role in the musical life of the city failed to return. Symbolically, a score of Wagner’s Parsifal was left on the mantelpiece of Milhaud’s emptied Paris apartment. Les contes d’Hoffmann by Offenbach, who was Jewish, could not be performed under the German occupation. Neither could works by Milhaud, Reynaldo Hahn and Paul Dukas. The most performed and discussed contemporary composer in occupied Paris was Arthur Honegger, in spite of being banned in the German Reich as ‘degenerate’.

Revealing coverage of events in Britain includes an account of what is described as ‘The Battle of Britten’, namely the press controversy which grew from the hostility engendered by the pacifism and homosexuality of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. In all, Music Wars is both informative and entertaining.

JOHN ROBERT BROWN Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Classical Music, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing