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This title suggests a subject of concern to many of us, but it should be noted that the author – the CD producer behind the excellent ‘Entartete Musik’ series of recordings – has reserved his discussion of Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása, Erwin Schulhoff and other composers who died in Nazi concentration camps, until two-thirds of the way through the book. We reach the year 1932 around page 200. Before this we do learn a great deal about such figures as Hans Gál, Hanns Eisler, Erich Korngold and Franz Schreker, and in even earlier chapters Haas provides some 19th-century history, musical or otherwise. Although this is an engrossing area in itself, Haas’s account proves to be dense reading and may be rather more than musician-readers would have expected or indeed wished for. One needs to be as interested in Bismarck as in major Jewish figures.

Thus, in chapter one, ‘German and Jewish’, these respective identities are discussed, one sub-section being entitled ‘Why “German” does not mean “from Germany”’. In chapter two Haas revisits a familiar topic – ‘Wagner and German Jewish composers in the nineteenth century’.

When Haas arrives at the 20th century he pays considerable attention to Egon Wellesz, Ernest Toch, Hans Gál and other names mentioned above, as well as – more predictably – Schoenberg. Other aspects well covered include Jewish composers’ involvement in Jugendstil, expressionism and the ‘new objectivity’, the migration of numerous composers to America or Britain and, eventually, the composers who died in the concentration camps.

A quite different, more comprehensive book title might have avoided disappointing those primarily interested in the Holocaust. However, I particularly enjoyed reading about Margot Asquith’s splendid humiliation of Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s cultural representative, Eisler’s counter-intuitive film scores (eg with silence replacing music at precisely those dramatic moments when one would expect musical underlining), and the sub-section Jewish cultural leagues.

PHILIP BORG-WHEELER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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