A Remarkable Story of Songs Written by Composers Surviving in Exile
Above: Looking north on Westwood Boulevard at Wilshire, Los Angeles, 1941
The story is related by Dr. Michael Haas, author of the book Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis, and Co-Founder, Senior Researcher and Recording Producer of the exil.arte records exil.arte Center at Vienna’s University for Music and Performing Arts.
Additionally including a unique bonus of an exclusive new interview in which Walter Arlen at 100 years old discusses some of the songs he has composed in exile.
A significant number of composers were casualties of the horrific Holocaust era – defined by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as extending from 1933 to 1945. Some were murdered, but some survived in foreign countries they had fled to. Of those that survived as refugees living in exile, many began to write music that was often notably different in style and character from the compositions they had written before they were forced to leave their homelands. In particular, a striking common trend that arose among many dissimilar refugee composers was a powerful emotional need to reach back to the ambiences of the places and existences they had lost – worlds that had now vanished completely forever. The fully formed essence of this strongly definable characteristic was identified relatively recently by Dr. Michael Haas, author of the book Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis, and Co-Founder, Senior Researcher and Recording Producer of the exil.arte records exil.arte Center at Vienna’s University for Music and Performing Arts. While he was acquiring substantial collections of the music of exiled composers for the Center, he recognised this reaching-back element in the works of the majority of the composers who had been forced out of their countries, and he termed it “Music of Inner Return.” He commissioned some new recordings of such music that had never previously been recorded, and for this feature Song of Inner Return here he describes to Jon Tolansky the remarkable phenomenon of two contemporaneous composers from the same country whose songs were written in exile yet whose styles varied strikingly in character: Robert Fürstenthal and Walter Arlen (born Walter Aptowitzer). He also touches on songs by Richard Fuchs and Hans Eisler – and as a unique bonus there is additionally an exclusive new interview with the centenarian Walter Arlen, recorded for this feature, in which he discusses some of the songs he has composed in exile. Recorded illustrations of all the music discussed in the feature are included.
Because of the Covid 19 Health Crisis, the discussion with Michael Haas had to be recorded via Skype and the interview with Walter Arlen had to be recorded by telephone. The sound quality on these interviews is thus inferior to the usual standard that we present, however both items are intelligible.
—Jon Tolansky, Feature Producer
Discussion with Michael Haas
Music illustrations that are referred to in the discussion are featured below, with indications of where in the discussion they are referred to.
Music Illustrations in the Michael Haas Discussion
23’31” – Fürstenthal – Spätlese IV: “Reiselied” – TOCCATA: TOCC0354
25’08” – Arlen – Sonnets to Orpheus: “Only One who has Lifted the Lyre” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
31’29” – Arlen – The Poet in Exile: “In Music” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
31’29” – Fürstenthal – Lieder und Balladen vom Leben und Vergehen: Herbst – TOCCATA: TOCC0354
35’13” – Fürstenthal – “Liebeslied” – TOCCATA: TOCC0354
37’46” – Fuchs – “Vom Jüdischen Schicksal” – Exil.Arte
38’10” – Fuchs – “In der fremde” – Exil.Arte
38’28” – Fürstenthal – Spätlese III: “Träume” -TOCCATA: TOCC0354
38’28” – Fürstenthal – Songs After Poems by James Joyce: “Sleep Now” -TOCCATA: TOCC0354
38’56” – Arlen – “Es geht wohl anders” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
39’03” – Arlen – “Wiegenlied” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
39’32” – Arlen – Sonnets to Orpheus: “O Come and Go” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
39’58” – Fürstenthal – Songs After Poems by James Joyce: “O Cool” -TOCCATA: TOCC0354
42’41” – Fürstenthal – Song of Songs: “Sulameth” – Exil.Arte – Exil.Arte
42’41” – Arlen – Song of Songs: “Upon My Bed at Night” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
45’11” – Arlen – Songs of Love and Yearning: “Ah, Who Can Cure Me?” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
45’30” – Arlen – The Poet in Exile: “For JL” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
45’41” – Arlen – Sonnets of Shakespeare: “Like as the Waves” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
45’46” – Arlen – Song of Songs: “Very dark am I, though comely” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
45’50” – Arlen – Songs of Love and Yearning: “O Living Flame of Love” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
46’24” – Arlen – The Poet in Exile: “Island” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
54’36” – Eisler – “An den kleinen Radioapparatt” – DECCA 4605822*
56’30” – Eisler – Fünf Elegien: “Unter den grünen Pfefferbäumen” – DECCA 4605822*
*Decca has a company rule that online access has to be limited to 20 seconds for each song.
Interview with Walter Arlen
Music illustrations that are referred to in the interview are featured below, with indications of where in the interview they are referred to.
Music Illustrations in the Walter Arlen Interview:
SEGMENT ON INSPIRATION FOR SONG WRITING SINCE CHILDHOOD
No music illustrations in this segment
SEGMENT ON SETTINGS OF POETRY OF ST JOHN OF THE CROSS:
2’27” – Arlen – Songs of Love and Yearning: “Upon a Night of Darkness” – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
SEGMENT ON SETTINGS OF POETRY OF CAVAFY
1’47” – Arlen – Endymion: Manuel Komninos – GRAMOLA: GRAM98946
SEGMENT ON ARBEIT MACHT FREI PIANO SUITE
Embedded in the interview – Arlen – Arbeit Macht Frei – movements 2 and 3 – GRAMOLA 98996
Es geht wohl anders
Walten Arlen is one of the last living composers of the generation the Nazis sought to extinguish. After his flight from Vienna in 1939, he made a significant contribution to the cultural transfer of Austrian musical tradition not only as the music critic of the Los Angeles Times, but also as the founder of the Music Department of Loyala Marymount University. Arlen, who was born in 1920, has always been a composer of the small form and has written tonal music. This double CD offers a broad cross-section of his important song oeuvre.
Robert Fürstenthal: Songs and Ballads of Life and Passing
Robert Fürstenthal, born in 1920, took the path of many Viennese Jews when Germany invaded and fled to the United States, where he made his living as an accountant; the fact that he had written a few songs in his youth was soon forgotten. The rediscovery, after 35 years, of the woman who had been his first love rekindled not only that flame but also his urge to compose, and songs – achingly lovely songs, laden with an autumnal sense of loss – flowed from his pen from that moment, preserving the spirit of fin-de-siècle Vienna under the Californian sun. He died in November 2016, aged 96, as this album was in preparation, knowing that some of his many songs had at last been recorded and were about to find their audience.
The Hollywood Songbook
Matthias Goerne & Eric Schneider
This is the official site for Forbidden Music, a book written by Michael Haas and published by Yale University Press in 2013.Visit site
exil.arte operates as a centre for the reception, preservation, research and presentation of Austrian composers, performers, musical academics and thinkers who, during the years of the ‘Third Reich’ were branded as ‘degenerate’.Visit site
npr Feature (Jan. 27, 2023)
"Forensic musicologists race to rescue works lost after the Holocaust"Visit site
Jon Tolansky specialises in making documentary features on composers and performers for international radio organisations and recording companies. These have included the BBC, the WFMT Radio Network, the CBC, Warner Classics, Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon and VAI Records. His collaborations with the Hampsong Foundation include the Singers on Singing: Great Artists in Conversation series.