Tag Archives: Nazism

Spohr and German opera



In 1823 Louis Spohr’s article “Aufruf an deutsche Komponisten” appeared in Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung. He wrote it to encourage young German composers to contribute to the genre of German opera, but he may have had other intentions as well.

Spohr was determined to promote his latest opera, Jessonda, which he mentioned as a model for his ideas of German opera—but a closer look at that work reveals that Spohr did not think along nationalist lines. In a way its dramaturgy depicts Kant’s definition of Enlightenment and aims at a united and enlightened mankind; so did the composer in his personal life.

Indeed, Spohr’s liberal and enlightened ideas are so prominent in his operas that they became increasingly neglected in the 1870s, when chauvinistic tendencies became more widespread. This development culminated in the 1940s, when the Nazis banned Jessonda from the German stage. As Spohr’s original resisted attempts to align it with the Nazi idea of German opera, the Reichsstelle für Musikbearbeitungen commissioned an amended version; the end of World War II curtailed this effort.

This according to “Zwischen nationalem Anspruch und lokalpolitischen Zwangen: Entstehungs- und Rezeptionsbedingungen der Kasseler Opern Louis Spohrs” by Wolfram Boder (Studia musicologica LII/1–4 [March 2011] pp. 311–321).

Today is Spohr’s 230th birthday! Above, the composer’s self-portrait; below, some excerpts from Jessonda.

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Musica Concentrationaria

Survivors’ accounts tell us that among the deportees to Nazi concentration camps were prominent, less known, and unknown musicians and composers. These accounts also attest to the existence of compositions that were written in the camps, either spontaneously or on the orders of the camp’s commanders.

Musica Concentrationaria was established to research, study, and catalogue this vast repertoire, to demonstrate the role the music had on the life of the deported: a temporary escape from the horrors that surrounded them. Some 2,500 works have already been found, and reports of further works continue to arrive.

The project has resulted in the documentary Musica concentrationaria (2007, produced by Associazione Musikstrasse and directed by Ermanno Felli), which includes documents, original scores, and interviews with deported musicians or their relatives. A related project, KZ Musik: Encyclopedia of music composed in concentration camps 1933–1945 (distributed by Membran Music), will present performances of selected works on 24 CDs.

Above, from a Nazi propaganda film, Pavel Hass and the conductor Karel Ančerl at the premiere of Haas’s Studie pro smyčcový orchestr at Theresienstadt, a year before the composer died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. Below, the trailer for the documentary.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Politics