The Twisted Muse

The Twisted Muse : Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich

3.92 (27 ratings by Goodreads)
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Is music removed from politics? To what ends, beneficent or malevolent, can music and musicians be put? In short, when human rights are grossly abused and politics turned to fascist demagoguery, can art and artists be innocent? These questions and their implications are explored in Michael Kater's broad survey of musicians and the music they composed and performed during the Third Reich. Great and small-from Valentin Grimm, a struggling clarinetist, to Richard Strauss, renowned composer-are examined by Kater, sometimes in intimate detail, and the lives and decisions of Nazi Germany's professional musicians are laid out before the reader. Kater tackles the issue of whether the Nazi regime, because it held music in crassly utilitarian regard, acted on musicians in such a way as to consolidate or atomize the profession. Kater's examination of the value of music for the regime and the degree to which the regime attained a positive propaganda and palliative effect through the manner in which it manipulated its musicians, and by extension, German music, is of importance for understanding culture in totalitarian systems.
This work, with its emphasis on the social and political nature of music and the political attitude of musicians during the Nazi regime, will be the first of its kind. It will be of interest to scholars and general readers eager to understand Nazi Germany, to music lovers, and to anyone interested in the interchange of music and politics, culture and ideology.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 344 pages
  • 152 x 226 x 24mm | 539.77g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0195132424
  • 9780195132427
  • 424,673

Review quote

In assembling this material, Kater has surely written the definitive study of the musician in the Third Reich (carefully documented with sixty-nine pages of detailed notes). It will prove indispensable for students of the culture of the period. * German History * This book bears many of the hallmarks of Kater's earlier work on jazz: resourceful research, copious documentation, straightforward writing, and a good working knowledge of music. Perhaps of even greater importance is that this book, like the one on jazz, succeeds brilliantly in conveying a sense of the ambiguities and contradictions of musical life in Nazi Germany...never before has the readiness of large numbers of German musicians, both major and minor, to
acquiesce or cooperate actively in the purge of their colleagues, been as thoroughly and persuasively documented...offers fascinating portraits of several of the century's most important musical figures, such as Bruno Walter, Arnold Schonberg, Otto Kelmperer, and Kurt Weill. Kater has performed a valuable
service by bringing their stories together in one place, integrating them into a study whose main focus is on what took place inside Germany's borders. * Central European History * The most authoritative account to date of music and musicians in the Third Reich. * American Historical Review * ...a well informed study of the state of serious or classical music....Kater is extemely knowledgable about the varieties of political allegiances deployed by the musical fraternity....[His] almost-encyclopedic study of these musicians' activities in the Third Reich reveals a great deal more than was hitherto documented about the least desirable sides of these men's characters. * Vancouver Sun * This work, with its emphasis on the social and political nature of music and the political attitude of musicians during the Nazi regime, is the first of its kind. It will be of interest to scholars and general readers eager to understand Nazi Germany, to music lovers and to anyone interested in the interchange of music and politics, and culture and ideology. * Avid-Magazine * This absorbing study provides a painful reminder of the degree to which musicians were prepared to compromise their artistic integrity in order to appease the political hierarchy during the Third Reich. * Music Magazine * [An] impressive new book...far and away the finest and canniest treatment of the Nazi musical nightmare to date, presents an excellent case study of two conductors who were judged not ideologically but aesthetically. * The New Yorker * The best source of information about conductors and other musicians in the Third Reich is now Mr. Kater's book, dense with facts, many of them newly unearthed. * New York Times * Fills a conspicuous lacuna in 20th-century musicology. Kater...presents a detailed, disturbing, but always compelling account....There is a great deal here to engage scholars and professional musicians as well as general readers interested in the study of music and ideology. Highly recommended for all libraries. * Library Journal * [Gives] more analytical attention to the entire [Nazi] era's secrets. Kater...has combed newspaper archives, studied economic statistics, interviewed surviving composers and meticulously correlated information from denazification proceedings. His the most throrough and nuanced now available of Nazi musical alliances, allegiances and ambiguities....Brings us to a more complicated understanding without tolerating latent defenses of old friends or
'Vissi d'Arte' alibis. * New York Times Book Review * Kater...has done prodigious primary research, much of it in hitherto unexamined files, to emerge with a mountain of fresh material....Anyone seriously interested in the interface of art and a peculiarly threatening political culture will find [this book] endlessly fascinating. * Publishers Weekly * Mr. Kater...has extracted masses of information from far-flung sources, including public and private archives in Germany and elsewhere, and has drawn level-headed, intelligent conclusions from his research....The broadest and clearest study of classical music in Hitler's Germany that has appeared to date....Mr. Kater's treatment of the complicated-and hotly debated-case of the conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler is thorough and convincing....A great deal more is packed
into [this book], including fresh looks at the Wagner family's complicity with the Nazis and the cases of Paul Hindemith...and Herbert von Karajan....Anyone interested in the depressing but fascinating subject of art and politics will find this book exceptionally worthwhile. * The Wall Street Journal * A very readable and intriguing book for those interested in the impact of Nazism on cultural life in Germany. * Ralph F. Wells, Richard Strauss Society * The merit of the book lies in its detailed factual picture of the background for music and musicians in those troubled times. * Ralph F. Wells, Richard Strauss Society *
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About Michael H. Kater

Michael H. Kater is Distinguished Research Professor of History at the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies at York University, Toronto, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is also the author of Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany (OUP, 1992).
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Rating details

27 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 22% (6)
4 48% (13)
3 30% (8)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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