DEGENERATE MUSIC?! MUSICAL CENSORSHIP IN THE THIRD REICH
Singer, Mark Lewis
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In 1938, in Düsseldorf, the Nazis put on an exhibit entitled "Entartete Musik” (degenerate music), which included composers on the basis of their “racial origins” (i.e. Jews), or because of the “modernist style” of their music. Performance, publication, broadcast, or sale of music by composers deemed “degenerate” was forbidden by law throughout the Third Reich. Among these composers were some of the most prominent composers of the first half of the twentieth-century. They included Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Mahler, Ernst Krenek, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Erwin Schulhoff, and others. The music of nineteenth-century composers of Jewish origin, such as Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, was also officially proscribed. In each of the three recitals for this project, significant works were performed by composers who were included in this exhibition, namely, Mendelssohn, Webern, Berg, Weill, and Hans Gal. In addition, as an example of self-censorship, a work of Karl Amadeus Hartmann was included. Hartmann chose “internal exile” by refusing to allow performance of his works in Germany during the Nazi regime. One notable exception to the above categories was a work by Beethoven that was presented as a bellwether of the relationship between music and politics. The range of styles and genres in these three recitals indicates the degree to which Nazi musical censorship cut a wide swath across Europe’s musical life with devastating consequences for its music and culture.