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Reviewed by:
  • The Lives of Ingolf Dahl
  • Michael Saffle
The Lives of Ingolf Dahl. By Anthony Linick. Bloomington, IN: Author-House, 2008. [vi, 644 p. ISBN 9781438914015 (hardcover), $23; ISBN 978143480036 (paperback), $16.50.] Illustrations, index.

As a composer, Ingolf Dahl (1912–1970) has mostly been forgotten. Nevertheless, he was—and today remains—an interesting individual as well as a creative musician of consequence.

Born "Walter Ingolf Marcus" in Hamburg, Dahl studied composition with Philipp Jarnach from 1931 to 1932 at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne; during 1932–36 he also studied music, art history, and other subjects in Zurich, and worked with several performing ensembles. Although ill health was his principal motivation for moving to Switzerland—throughout his life he suffered from asthma, and he believed that mountain air was good for him—this change of venue was fortuitous for several other reasons. First, Dahl was a Jew; second, he was homosexual; third, he was an aesthetic iconoclast, or at least became one in later life. For any one of these "crimes," much less for all three, he would almost certainly have been arrested and eventually executed in post-January 1933 Germany. Instead of returning home, however, Dahl met Etta Gordon Linick (1905– 1970), his future wife, in December 1934, and in 1938 he followed her to Los Angeles. There, in September 1943, he became an American citizen and later studied with Nadia Boulanger for a few months in 1945. In addition, throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, he participated regularly in the celebrated Concerts on the Roof.

From 1945 until his death (during an extended vacation in Europe), Dahl taught at the University of Southern California (USC). Among his friends were Aaron Copland and Ernst Toch; his idol was Igor Stravinsky, whose Poetics of Music (1947) he helped translate into English. The recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and two Huntington Hartford summer residencies, Dahl also received the 1964 Alice M. Ditson Award as well as awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 1960 and 1965. In 1971 the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the American Musicological Society established the Ingolf Dahl Prize for the best student paper in musicology, and in 1981 the annual Ingolf Dahl Lectures on music history and theory were first presented at USC, where many of his papers and manuscripts are kept today.

I learned a few of these facts more than forty years ago, when I first heard Dahl's Sinfonetta for band in a college course on twentieth-century music. I learned more of them in 2001, when I contributed the biographical entry on Dahl to the second edition of Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. In 2008, however, when I was asked to contribute a second, more detailed, and more specialized article to for the Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit ("Biographical Dictionary of Musicians Persecuted by the Nazis, 1933–45")—edited by Claudia Maurer Zenck, Peter Petersen, and Sophie Fetthauer, and published online by the University of Hamburg ( [accessed 17 February 2010])—I found myself momentarily at a loss. Fetthauer, who invited me to write for the Lexikon, wanted information of apparently unobtainable kinds. When, she asked, was Dahl's mother born? Had Dahl become an American citizen and, if so, when and where? And what about Dahl's lessons with Boulanger?

This last query proved especially difficult. Every published synopsis of Dahl's career mentions those lessons, but none of the pre-2008 synopses does more than mention them. Dahl's name appears in none of the Boulanger biographies I consulted (i.e., Alan Kendall, The Tender Tyrant: Nadia Boulanger, A Life Devoted to Music [London: MacDonald and Jane's, 1976]; Léonie Rosenstiel, Nadia Boulanger: A Life in Music [New York: W. W. Norton, 1982]; and Jérôme Spycker, Nadia Boulanger, trans. [End Page 760] M. M. Shriver [Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1992]). And the USC librarian with whom I spoke over the phone about Dahl and Boulanger had no idea whom I was talking about. Except for musicologists and composers, Dahl doesn't seem to have much of a following today on that institution's...