DIE VERSCHWUNDENEN MUSIKER: JUDISCHE FLUCHTLINGE IN AUSTR ALIEN.
Albrecht Dumling. Cologne: Bahian Verlag, 2011. 444 pp.
This extensive volume by renowned musicologist and music critic Albrecht Dumling provides a detailed and thorough history of Jewish refugees with an educational background or even with an established career in music, who were forced to flee the Nazis and landed ill Australia. For the rediscovery of musicians persecuted by the Nazis, Dumling was awarded numerous prizes, among them the European Cultural Prize (KAIROS). In 2004, he received the Harold White Fellowship from the National Library of Australia.
The volume traces the difficult and--more often than not--reluctant journey of orchestral performers, virtuoso soloists, singers, and conductors as well as composers, to a continent whose geographical remoteness from Europe had shaped its sense of itself since the beginning of European settlement. To no small degree the complexity of the obstacles these artists were going to face in Australia can be attributed to its identity as a pioneer outpost for those who possessed the physical and psychological strength to overcome their position as outcasts, caused by poverty and deprivation, in Britain and Ireland and "made it" in Australia. The "tyranny of distance" that the Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey famously identified as being so strongly felt by these settlers must have been particularly dreaded by refugees whose identity as musicians was deeply connected to the culture of their home countries, Germany and Austria.
The-feeling of unwillingness, as Dumling documents in his book, was mutual. In 1938, Australia was reluctant to take in Jewish refugees in the first place, but cultured and sensitive musicians from enemy territory were unattractive to Australia in more than one way. Not only were they seen as being unable to contribute to the material wealth of the continent, but they also threatened the country's attempts to develop a cultural identity represented by Australian rather than European artists. Most of the refugees, such as the musician Walter Dullo, or the violinist and teacher Ellen Cohn-Byk, were aware of this problem. Dullo's visa application stated his occupation as masseur and pastry cook; Cohn-Byk arrived under the rubric "home duties."
Dumling has accumulated an impressive amount of material and follows the lives of nearly a hundred displaced musicians in great detail. He provides meticulously researched facts on their life trajectories collected from primary sources such as personal files, correspondence, interviews with the refugees themselves or their descendants, shipping lists, travel documents, and visa applications, as well as the refugees' history of employment. The archival task he has accomplished is more than impressive. The abundance of facts makes parts of the volume read like an encyclopedia. Dumling's intention seems to be to cover the entirety of musicians of popular as well as classical music affected by persecution in their home countries and their subsequent displacement. The liveliness Dumling manages to transmit in his stories despite this makes the book a compelling read. This is due to the fact that he uncovers the musicians' stories from their very beginnings in Germany and Austria, describing how they embarked on careers in music often against the will of their families, making their first steps in what could have become a respectable career only to be interrupted by the rise of National Socialism.
Especially interesting are stories such as that of the famous German jazz band The Weintraub Syncopators, who accompanied Marlene Dietrich in the famous 1930 Joseph Sternberg film Blue Angel. Like so many other refugees of similar background, Stefan Weintraub had to endure internment as enemy alien after the outbreak of the war. He was even being accused of being a spy, and along with others was held together with committed Nazis. His destiny after his release from the camp in 1941 is just one example of the numerous Jewish refugee musicians who continued to be victims of systematic exclusion by Australian state organizations such as the Musicians' Union of Australia, which prevented nonunionists from performing while refusing noncitizens union membership. Weintraub's career as a musician, as Dumling tells us, was finished, and he had to earn his living as a mechanic until his death in Sydney in 1981.
Richard Goldner, a virtuoso viola player who had fled Vienna in 1939, as well, had initially been prevented from pursuing his musical career by the union and made his living by trading in leatherwear and jewellery. Fortunately, he met Walter Dullo, a musician from Berlin who, for his part, had embarked on a trade selling chocolate. They met for the first time when Dullo came to Goldner's factory in order to sell some chocolates to him. While Goldner did not become Dullo's customer, they developed a relationship based on their mutual passion for chamber music. The result of ihis passion was the foundation of Musica Viva, Australia's oldest independent, and still one of the most renowned, professional performing arts organization.
The sheer volume of stories, all intriguing and inviting further research into the individual destinies of the protagonists, makes it difficult to provide more than a number of glimpses that hint at the further riches of the volume. One of the more prominent stories is the one of Heinrich Krips, musical director of the Vienna State Opera, who landed at Sydney Harbor with his wife in November 1938. After the war and having taken up Australian citizenship, he was able to continue his career as the chief conductor of the most prestigious Australian orchestras. Deeply connected with Australia's musical history are the stories of Hermann Schildberger, who became the musical director of the Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, and that of Georg Dreyfus, who, after arriving through a children's immigration assistance scheme in 1939, managed to become Australia's first successful freelance composer.
George Dreyfus is exceptional in more than one way, but especially intriguing is his willingness to tread new ground. Dreyfus, composer of classical, film, and television music, was asked by musicians and organizers of the Adelaide Wind Quintet to write a piece for didgeridoo and a pipe quintet. After a period of feeling baffled and insecure, as he had never had any interest in the music of the Aborigines, Dreyfus decided to give it a try. He contacted experts in Aboriginal music. They discouraged his project as they felt that black and white music were not compatible. Despite this, Dreyfus travelled to the Northern Territory to meet George Winunguj, who introduced him to the traditional instrument. The story of their subsequent collaboration is one of the truly inspiring parts of Dumling's book. The result, the Sextet for Didgeridoo and Wind Quintet, is proof that music indeed transcends borders, geographical and cultural.
It was George Dreyfus who, because of his interest in Dumling's work on Brecht's engagement with music, initiated the first contact with the author. The result of their first meeting in Berlin, which certainly triggered the author's subsequent interest in this important part of Australia's musical history, is this volume, which cannot be recommended highly enough.
University of Sydney
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2013|
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