This handy little tome consists of three portraits of influential German musicians of the 20th century, apparently brought together for the sake of alliteration and because of a common opposition to Nazism. Hindemith, although not actually particularly avant-garde in his idiom, became identified in the minds of the Nazi leaders with certain cultural trends they despised and was forced by them to flee to America. Hartmann, fortunate in his wife's wealth, led a reclusive life during the Nazi period, emerging to growing popularity in postwar Germany. Guy Rickards's greatest admiration, however, which is as much political as musical, seems to be reserved for the not conspicuously talented Henze. This composer could stand as an archetype of the postwar-era German artist and intellectual: he was reflexively left wing and scornful of the West and all its works. But Henze's sometimes hypocritical preoccupation with radical politics, including the dedication of an oratorio to the Communist revolutionary Che Guevara, and support for the discredited East German regime while living a life of decadent capitalist ease in Italy, may come to seem absurd in our post-communist world. This portion of the book will be enjoyed primarily by those already convinced of the worth of Henze's output and politics.
'It is a beautifully produced volume. Rickards' text does a magnificent job in interweaving the lives of these composers against the background of the calamitous history of their homeland, using a good deal of material not otherwise available in English.' (London Magazine) 'As a series, Phaidon's 20th Century Composers has brought remarkable variety and a welter of information, both necessary and delightfully trivial. Intended both for the general reader and for the more enthusiatically musical...' (The Scotsman)