Arnold Schoenberg's <i>A Survivor from Warsaw</i> in Postwar Europe
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of California Press
Publisher Page, Title Page, Further Reading, Copyright, Dedication
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Abbreviations and Acronyms, Map
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Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw (1947) seemed designed to irritate every exposed nerve in postwar Europe. A twelve-tone piece in three languages about the Holocaust, it was written for an American audience by a Jewish composer whose oeuvre had been the Nazis’ prime exemplar of entartete (degenerate) music. Said composer was both admired and reviled as a pioneer of dodecaphony and had immigrated to the United States and become an American citizen...
West Germany: Retrenchment versus A Survivor from Warsaw
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The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany) figures prominently in most American musicological narratives of Western Europe during the Cold War because of its distinctive relationship with the United States, and because of its unrivaled support for new music. That support included dedicated international events, most famously Darmstadt’s Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (IFNM), which worked in tandem with radio stations to commission, record, disseminate, and promote new repertoire...
Austria: Homecoming via A Survivor from Warsaw
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Such was Schoenberg’s response when the conductor Hermann Scherchen informed him that he was planning to perform A Survivor from Warsaw in Vienna and asked the composer for his blessing. Schoenberg had long had a love-hate relationship with his hometown. Just sixteen months earlier, in October 1949, he had expressed heartfelt delight at receiving honorary citizenship in Vienna from that city’s mayor, even while his correspondence with Viennese friends revealed a deep and abiding ambivalence. He had ample cause to proceed with caution...
Norway: Performing Remembrance with A Survivor from Warsaw
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On 21 March 1954 the Scandinavian premiere of A Survivor from Warsaw was given by the Philharmonic Society Orchestra in Oslo (Filharmonisk Selskaps Orkester), in cooperation with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and the national section of the ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music). Heinz Freudenthal was on the podium, Ola Isene performed the recitation, and Ernst Glaser was the concertmaster...
East Germany: Antifascism and A Survivor from Warsaw
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A Survivor from Warsaw officially breached the Iron Curtain in 1958. The relatively late date is not surprising. Certainly it could not have happened much earlier than Khrushchev’s “secret speech” renouncing Stalin’s crimes in 1956. That A Survivor had its Soviet Bloc premiere in East Germany, however, is surprising, since the German Democratic Republic (GDR— Deutsche Demokratische Republik) had a reputation as one of the more Stalinist and culturally conservative of the satellite states...
Poland: Cultural Diplomacy through A Survivor from Warsaw
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We know now that this did not come to pass. Felix Greissle, Schoenberg’s son-in-law, then working at the music publishing company E. B. Marks, described the prospect of “a world premiere,” apparently unaware that Kurt Frederick would do the honors in Albuquerque just a month later, followed shortly thereafter by the European premiere in Paris under René Leibowitz. Yet even the suggestion that A Survivor from Warsaw might have been performed in Warsaw just five years after the destruction of the ghetto and four years after much of the city had been leveled as well is noteworthy, world premiere or not, and provides the point of departure for considering the work’s performance and reception there...
Czechoslovakia: A Survivor as A Survivor from Warsaw
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The story of A Survivor from Warsaw is distinctive because two of the five narrators who performed the title role in the 1960s were Jewish. The first of these, Josef Cˇ ervinka, survived the Holocaust because he was in exile in England; the second, Karel Berman, survived four Nazi camps and is now best known for his role in Terezín’s musical life. Berman made the only commercial recording of the work that features the narration in Czech, and he performed the role more often in Czechoslovakia than anyone else...
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Viewing the cultural history of postwar Europe through the lens of Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw, its early performances, and its reception can illuminate some of the fissures in the continental cultural and political landscape. Schoenberg’s biography and reputation, the subject matter of the work, and the dodecaphonic method according to which it was composed all attracted considerable attention in their own right, but they also functioned as metonymies, standing in for social, political, ethical, and aesthetic issues that ranged far beyond the particular composer and work...
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Page Count: 258
Publication Year: 2014