- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 23, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195099249
- ISBN-13: 978-0195099249
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits 1st Edition
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From Library Journal
With this volume, Kater has completed a remarkable trilogy of books about music during the Nazi era. This final book, the logical successor to The Twisted Muse (LJ 1/97), focuses on the works and activities of eight German/Austrian composersAEgk, Hindemith, Weill, Hartmann, Orff, Pfitzner, Schoenberg, and StraussAand their relationships to the people and politics of the Third Reich. Each is given his own chapter, with a telling subtitle (e.g., "Werner Egk: The Enigmatic Opportunist") that summarizes Kater's view of the composer's degree of complicity, acquiescence, or, all too rarely, principled opposition to the Nazi regime. Complexities and contradictions abound, but overall the reputations of Egk, Hindemith, Orff, and the odious Pfitzner suffer, while that of Richard Strauss, perhaps surprisingly, is somewhat restored. Secondary players, such as Thomas Mann, Wilhelm Furtw?ngler, and Joseph Goebbels, make frequent appearances; indeed, the entire socio-politico-musical landscape of post-Weimar Germany is as thoroughly and engagingly chronicled as the achievements of the individual composers. Kater, as usual, is rigorous in his attention to detail; his research is up-to-date, and his conclusions are persuasive. This bookAindeed, the entire trilogyAshould be a part of every collection.ALarry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"With this volume, Kater has completed a remarkable trilogy of books about music during the Nazi era....Kater...is rigorous in his attention to detail; his research is up-to-date, and his conclusions are persuasive. This book--indead, the entire trilogy--should be a part of every collection."--Library Journal
"Michael Kater's new book, the third and best of his studies of German music during the Third Reich, examines the fortunes, in the Nazi and first postwar years, of eight composers: Werner Egk, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill, Carl Amadeus Hartmann, Carl Orff, Hans Pfitzner, Arnold Schoenberg, and Richard Strauss. Based upon a staggering amount of original research, it is endlessly informative." --Gordon A. Craig, Stanford University
"Congratulations to Michael Kater for resisting the usual black-or-white temptation and casting his portraits in a wide, and therefore illuminating, spectrum of greys." --Richard Taruskin, University of California, Berkeley
"A judicious, exceptionally informative study of eight composers, who were victims, accomplices, and sometimes both, of the Third Reich." --Peter Paret, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
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Top Customer Reviews
The defect of this book is that these interesting points emerge implicitly rather than explicitly. Kater devotes more text to details about his subjects' personalities and private life than to broader historical context. Kater fails also to provide some of the more important historical background. Germany, with its network of state supported orchestras, opera houses, theaters, and conservatories, was unique in the world in providing opportunities for composers. Serious music also had unusual prestige in Germany. This accounts partially for the opportunism of German composers. The prestige of serious music accounts partially also for the attention the Nazi leadership paid to serious music.
There is a lot of information, but it's a lot of work to read this book. The writing style is very dense, and it's not pleasurable to read. I gave the book only 3 stars because of the difficulty with the writing style. The information would have rated 4 or 5 stars.
Thinks of this as a good reference book, but not something to enjoy. If you're interested in Strauss, I would recommend two books. One is "Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma" by Michael Kennedy, music critic for the Daily Telegraph and author of many composer biographies. This book is pure pleasure, and full of very detailed information. A second book is "Richard Strauss An Intimate Portrait" by Kurt Wilhelm. This book focuses on his personal, daily life, and can be considered an illustrated biography as it contains many, many wonderful photographs.
So what are the issues? it seems to be idle curiosity for historical fact without explanation(as fascinating as that seems to be), but what Kater does furnish here is actually interesting profiles and historical data on some composers long neglected. The marvelously powerful "Symphonies" of Karl Amadeus Hartmann for one, to this day remain in a state of neglect,and the chapter here is the only material on his life you will find in English. There is another picture-filled book with Henze,Hartmann and Hindemith published in a series. In focusing on composers lives during the political times of the Nazi era is like looking at history wrongfully from the inside out,with a focus on an individual's life nuances without the larger perspective that created how he/she must act. Artists and composers for the most part only care about their careers and recognition, where is the next performance of their?, and as Kater frequently identifies,he reveals the dirty dealing with Nazi party hacks in order to obtain performances.
Much of the material is fairly redundant as the chapter on Richard Struass or the chapter on Kurt Weill,being Jewish we know he had no chance for successes in an Anti-Semitic country growing more racist by the day, from 1933 forward.
I think there is a danger in reviewing history from this narrow perspective of the individual,especially artists(composers) who are hardly ever power brokers within the state of culture.Frequently the ones that are jettisoned to the top have little artistic genius. First it erases the sense of historical context and the inherent danger of the times. This issue has been well discussed and documented with the "collaborationist" theories during the Nazi Era,yet I doubt if it has been answered with any degree of vigor, and we frequently overlook the fact that the situation in war times is never a "us against them"one's enemies are only revealed after the fact,there are gradations of affiliation between individuals when speaking of betrayel,corruption and greed.
It still remains an open question for us who sit here in a retrospective position, that given a situation of politically dangerous times,not necessarily times of War,which is obvious, but would we have collaborated with a Nazi party hack,when our survival,or demise was a phone call away? That will always be a question we can never answer,but Kater's book certainly makes this question all the more a reality,especially when the focus is on another's creative life.