Composers of the Nazi Era

Composers of the Nazi Era : Eight Portraits

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How does creativity thrive in the face of fascism? How can a highly artistic individual function professionally in so threatening a climate? Composers of the Nazi Era is the final book in a critically acclaimed trilogy that includes Different Drummers (OUP 1992) and The Twisted Muse (OUP 1997), which won the Wallace K. Ferguson Prize of the Canadian Historical Association. Here, historian Michael H. Kater provides a detailed study of the often interrelated careers of eight prominent German composers who lived and worked amid the dictatorship of the Third Reich, or were driven into exile by it: Werner Egk, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Carl Orff, Hans Pfitzner, Arnold Schoenberg, and Richard Strauss. Kater weighs issues of accommodation and resistance to ask whether these artists corrupted themselves in the service of a criminal regime - and if so, whether this may be discerned from their music. After chapters discussing the circumstances of each composer individually, Kater concludes with an analysis of the composers' different responses to the Nazi regime and an overview of the sociopolitical background against which they functioned.
The final chapter also extends the discussion beyond the end of World War II to examine how the composers reacted to the new and fragile democracy in Germany.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 414 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.1 x 27.9mm | 567g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Second and ed.
  • notes, index
  • 0195152867
  • 9780195152869
  • 952,445

Table of contents

Preface ; 1. Werner Egk: The Enigmatic Optimist ; 2. Paul Hindemith: The Reluctant Emigre ; 3. Kurt Weill: A Survivor on Two Continents ; 4. Karl Amadeus Hartmann: The Composer as Dissident ; 5. Carl Orff: Man of Legend ; 6. Hans Pfitzner: Magister Teutonicus Miser ; 7. Arnold Schoenberg: Musician of Contrasts ; 8. Richard Strauss: Jupiter Compromised ; Conclusion ; Notes ; Index
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Review quote

A largely successful effort to clarify the motives and behaviors of some representative men during a fascinatingly ugly chapter of human history, without appearing to sit in judgment so much as to illuminate various noble, deplorable, and frequently contradictory phenomena of human character ... Meticulously documented. * The Washington Post * 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 - indeed, the entire trilogy - should be a part of every collection. * Library Journal * What do artists do in the face of tyranny, and how can creativity thrive under fascism? ... This last book of a trilogy of music and musicians in the Third Reich is intended to present a closer look at each of the people studied ... Especially compelling is the book's description of the Nazi Bureaucracy as regards art and culture before, during, and just after the Second World War. * Music Educators Journal * Kater's background knowledge is impressive, and he refuses to oversimplify or to make facile judgements. * Times Literary Supplement * A very impressive achievement - for two reasons above all. First, the range of Kater's research and documentation is awe-inspiring. Second, Kater sets out neither to canonise nor demonise ... Ultimately, this is a book which provokes thoughts rather than spelling them out ... Kater doesn't offer answers, but after reading his book, we can at least see the questions more clearly. * Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine *
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About Michael H. Kater


Michael H. Kater is Distinguished Research Professor of History at the Centre for German and European Studies, York University, Toronto. He has published widely on modern Germany and is a Guggenheim Fellow as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
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