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Reviewed by:
  • Musikalische Impressionen aus Japan 1941-1957
  • Margaret Mehl
Musikalische Impressionen aus Japan 1941-1957. By Eta Harich-Schneider. Edited, with an introduction and commentaries, by Ingrid Fritsch. Munich: Iudicium, 2006. 122 pages. Softcover €12.80.

Eta Harich-Schneider is perhaps best known in the English-speaking world for her book A History of Japanese Music (Oxford University Press, 1973; reviewed by Willem Adriaansz in MN 29:3), the first comprehensive study of traditional music in a Western language by a Western scholar and based on primary sources. She lived in Japan from 1941 to 1949 and returned several times thereafter. In the introduction to this collection of essays by Harich-Schneider, Ingrid Fritsch (professor of Japanese studies at the University of Cologne), gives a brief biography of the author. Eta Harich-Schneider debuted as a pianist in Berlin in 1924 and embarked on a busy career as a performer and teacher. From 1929 she began to study the harpsichord, and her book, Die Kunst des Cembalo-Spiels (The Art of Playing the Harpsichord, 1939), the first of its kind in German, was translated into several languages. From 1933 she taught at the conservatory in Berlin, but various intrigues led to her dismissal in 1940. At this point she was invited to Japan to perform, and her friends strongly advised her to go in order to avoid persecution by the Nazis. Harich-Schneider's concert activities in Japan are an interesting example of the workings of the Nazi government with its rivalries and intrigues between different government offices; it was quite possible for someone to suffer repressions from one and be protected by another. Of course, Harich-Schneider could not avoid being used for propaganda purposes, as the Japanese flag and the swastika figuring in all the photographs of her performances in this volume testify.

Harich-Schneider arrived in Japan in May 1941, the year Germany invaded the Soviet Union; she found herself unable to leave for a third country and ended up remaining in Japan until 1949. From 1943 she studied the language and traditional music, in particular Buddhist religious music and gagaku. In 1949 she left for the United States. Finding employment proved difficult; instead she studied sociology and pursued research on Japan at The New School for Social Research in New York, completing an M.A. in 1954. In 1953 she spent nine months on the first of several field trips to Japan. She continued her research into Japanese music even after her appointment to teach harpsichord at the Vienna Academy of Music in 1955 and became a leading specialist in Japanese music. (Her writings in English include several articles published in MN in the 1950s; among them was "Rōei: The Medieval Court Songs of Japan," a series that was also published separately as an MN monograph.) Harich-Schneider died in 1986 at the age of ninety-one (apparently she was sensitive about giving her age, and Fritsch seems to respect this by not giving us the exact year of her birth, which was 1897 in Oranienburg).

The eight essays in this collection can be divided into three subject areas. The first three pieces are travel accounts of her concert tours in 1941-1942. One, about Niigata, was published in a German newspaper; the other two, about Sendai and Shizuoka and Numazu, are typescripts, but were presumably intended for publication. They show Harich-Schneider as an engaging writer with a pleasing style and a sense of humor. Fritsch is at her best in her commentaries at the end of the first two (the third one [End Page 394] includes footnotes but no commentary), providing additional information from Harich-Schneider's autobiography (Charaktere und Katastrophen: Augenzeugenberichte einer reisenden Musikerin, Ullstein, 1978) and diaries. The differences between the three are revealing; for example, Harich-Schneider devotes considerable space in her diary and autobiography to the persecution of Christians, a theme she (for obvious reasons) glosses over in the newspaper article. The diary and the autobiography also reveal her relationship with Richard Sorge, who was arrested as a spy on 18 October 1941, shortly after her return from Niigata (Fritsch only hints at the discrepancies between the diary...


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