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

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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 t 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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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 t 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    This is an extremely dry and granular accounting of Nazis and the composers and performers they loved and hated. I can't imagine anyone not specifically interested in this topic would find it an engrossing read. Kater discusses some of the big names (Richard Strauss, Herbert von Karajan, Otto Klemperer, Arnold Schoenberg, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Paul Hindemith) at some depth, but also reams of the lesser-knowns. The text is only 239 pages but feels much longer. Kater was given unrestricted access to This is an extremely dry and granular accounting of Nazis and the composers and performers they loved and hated. I can't imagine anyone not specifically interested in this topic would find it an engrossing read. Kater discusses some of the big names (Richard Strauss, Herbert von Karajan, Otto Klemperer, Arnold Schoenberg, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Paul Hindemith) at some depth, but also reams of the lesser-knowns. The text is only 239 pages but feels much longer. Kater was given unrestricted access to Strauss's papers by his family, and is able to provide a reassessment: ...it can be shown that Strauss's engagement with the Nazi regime, deplorable as it was, was far less committed and durable, and far less motivated by personal, egocentric concerns, than has hitherto been held. Besides Hindemith, whom Strauss respected despite his dislike of the Weimar modernists, he also tried to help other victims of the regime, although not with the public fanfare of a Furtwängler. In addition, there is now a large body of evidence to prove that Strauss and his family were punished by the regime to a degree of viciousness never thought possible in the case of a supposed Third Reich collaborator.(*) Hence, it is fair to conclude that, just as Furtwängler's portrait in the Third Reich has, for decades now, been far too flatteringly drawn, that of Strauss has been painted much less charitably, and redressing this imbalance is in order. These are fascinating stories of both collaboration and resistance, occasionally in the same individual. The famed conductor Furtwängler was Hitler and Göring's favorite, yet he also intervened on behalf of some of the Jewish players in his orchestras. (He could do so because of his lofty position; he wasn't likely to suffer disastrous consequences.) Kater details some of the attempts of those who had been cozy with the Nazis to deny it when the Americans came to interview them in the postwar "denazification" process. Herbert von Karajan, for instance, had joined the Nazi Party twice, but denied it. The soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf had also joined the Party young, like Karajan, for opportunistic career reasons, and repeatedly denied it until confronted with the evidence. She declined to speak to Kater for the book, although he pursued her for two years. (*) Strauss's son Franz, although a fervent Nazi, was actually married to a Jew, and by 1945, 26 members of her family had been murdered in Nazi camps or otherwise. Richard Strauss himself drove to the gates of the Theresienstadt death camp in his car in an attempt to help them, but was turned away. In 1938, Nazi officials came to the town of Garmisch where Franz Strauss and his Jewish wife Alice lived, to arrest her; she was away, but they took the young Strauss sons (grandsons of Richard) to the town square in tears, and forced them to spit on the Jews who had been assembled there.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This compelling book examines a wide variety of musicians - from struggling performers to world-renowned composers - and how they and their music interacted with the Third Reich. Kater looks at the degrees to which these musicians complied, collaborated, or resisted. He also looks at the value Hitler and his regime placed on music, the ways they manipulated it to serve their political and social ends, and the degree of success they had in these endeavors. Although I feel like Kater could have ti This compelling book examines a wide variety of musicians - from struggling performers to world-renowned composers - and how they and their music interacted with the Third Reich. Kater looks at the degrees to which these musicians complied, collaborated, or resisted. He also looks at the value Hitler and his regime placed on music, the ways they manipulated it to serve their political and social ends, and the degree of success they had in these endeavors. Although I feel like Kater could have tightened up the organization of his material, I really enjoyed his writing. His prose was clear and flowed well. I also like the fact that, when referring to Nazis and their atrocities, he almost entirely eschewed the kind of sanitized, objective prose typical of scholarly writing. Kater directly and bluntly described Hans Frank, governor of occupied Poland, as "that butcher of Poles and Jews". He also described a musician who did not survive as having been "sent to Auschwitz to be murdered", rather than saying that he died in the camp. The picture Kater paints is often complicated, without a lot of clear heroes or villains among the musicians profiled. Nonetheless it was still chilling in many ways, and there was a sense in which it all read a little like the non-fiction equivalent of a horror novel.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Tigue

    Great book. Essentially short biographies throughout each chapter. Functionalist approach. No serious discussion of "their music" except for one or two minor instances. Read for the haphazard approach and application of NSDAP policy and not for a discussion of music theory. Great book. Essentially short biographies throughout each chapter. Functionalist approach. No serious discussion of "their music" except for one or two minor instances. Read for the haphazard approach and application of NSDAP policy and not for a discussion of music theory.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric Oliver

    Excellent source of information, but the organizational structure tended to interrupt any narrative.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dada Vinci

  8. 5 out of 5

    Edward Young

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stefan Malmberg

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eric Mastilak

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fraizier

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stefan

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Nordqvist

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

  21. 5 out of 5

    Claire Bradford Di Caro

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rose

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marcin Marszalek

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sangho Shin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lucsly

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gaydon Phillips

  28. 5 out of 5

    Imanol

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tanner Knoll

  30. 5 out of 5

    Howard

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