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We close our program today with music that was banned by the Nazis in 1930's Germany. Reporter Lonny Shavelson recently attended a concert in California that focused on such music.He sent us today's Global Hit.
Music in the Vineyards is a summer concert series. It takes place in an idyllic setting, a luxurious winery in California's Napa Valley. But the focus of this concert is less than idyllic. The musicians here are performing music banned by the Nazis.
This is String Quartet number 1 by Erwin Schulhoff
ADAMS: "I'm Michael Adams. I'm artistic director of Music in the Vineyards Festival. And we had already started investigating the music of Schulhoff on our own, and then discovered his tragic death in a concentration camp."
ADAMS: "Dvorak discovered him as a boy wonder in Prague and he got first-rate musical education with the best teachers. And he loved jazz and the avant garde. And he even set the Communist Manifesto to music. Now in hindsight, as a Jew living in Nazi Germany, declaring you were a communist was probably not a good idea. But up to then Schulhoff had been a really big deal all over Germany as a composer and pianist. And he was officially labeled a degenerate musician."
The title of this concert is "Degenerates." That's what the Nazis called art they deemed decadent or subversive - especially works by Jewish artists. Albrecht Deumling is a Berlin-based expert on degenerate music.
DEUMLING: "And they wanted to perform the so-called good music, like Johan Sebastian Bach, by Beethoven and Mozart. They said it's good enough to perform these excellent composers, and not to introduce the more controversial."
Controversial included anything new and non-German. And of course, anything composed by Jews. Many Jewish musicians fled Nazi Germany, though not all.
DEUMLING: "Some of the musicians wanted to stay on, and in the end they were transported to places like Terezin or even Auschwitz."
Erwin Schulhoff died in the Wulzberg Concentration Camp in 1942.
Concert organizer Michael Adams points out that in a sense the German suppression of degenerate music scattered the seeds of innovative music, to flower elsewhere. For instance, Kurt Weill, whose music is also featured in the concert, left Germany in 1930 and eventually wound up in the United States.
ADAMS: "When Weil wrote the Threepenny Opera, with his collaborator Bertol Brecht, he really struck a cord, because its biting political commentary combined with the sounds of 1920s Berlin, dance bands and dance halls and cabaret music, created the kind of musical theater that paved the way for things we know now, like Cabaret. The tune Mack the Knife, which opens the show, became one of the most popular tunes of the 20th Century."
Ironically, Albrecht Deumling, Berlin's expert on degenerate music, thinks there's too much focus on the Nazi suppression of these works. He thinks people should appreciate them for what they are -- good music.
For The Word, I'm Lonny Shavelson, Calistoga, California.