- A Windfall of Musicians: Hitler's Émigrés and Exiles in Southern California
At the start of the twentieth century, Berlin, Vienna, and other European centers were homes to robust musical cultures in which many composers and performers of Jewish origin developed successful careers. With Adolf Hitler's rise to power, Nazi discrimination against Jews, and official condemnation of musical works in the modernist mode as "degenerate," a good number of these musicians were forced to emigrate. Fortuitously, the film industry in Hollywood was growing rapidly after the success in 1927 of the early talkie, The Jazz Singer, and the promise of potential employment led many to settle in Southern California.
Dorothy Lamb Crawford's A Windfall of Musicians considers how this influx of European musicians impacted the development of Southern California's musical life, from the arrival of the first émigrés through the death of the last of their generation. The book, based on extensive archival research and interviews, explores how these musicians made it to Southern California, the paths their lives took once they arrived, and their lasting impacts on cinema and Los Angeles's rise as a center for art music and musical education. Crawford intersperses chapters about institutional affiliations - the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the film industry, and academic programs - with others that address individual émigrés - in particular Arnold Schoenberg, Ernst Toch, and Igor Stravinsky. Along the way she discusses the experiences of numerous others, including conductor Otto Klemperer, and composers Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ingolf Dahl, and Hanns Eisler. Details of émigré artists' encounters lend particular vividness to the author's account. For example, Crawford describes a Sunday dinner Eisler organized with Charlie Chaplin and Thomas Mann in his Malibu home, and regular gatherings of Stravinsky, Aldous Huxley, and others at the West Los Angeles farmer's market.
The early reactions of the European musicians to Southern California's dramatically different landscape and culture varied widely. Some felt they had arrived in paradise; others missed their native weather patterns and found it difficult to adjust to the sprawling layout of Los Angeles. Most were surprised at the conservative, unsophisticated tastes of Southern California listeners, many of whom had limited experience with art music, let alone the modern sounds of the European avant-garde. After his arrival in 1933, Klemperer remarked, "My God, my God, I didn't know that such a lack of intellectuality existed" (25). In many cases these musicians rallied together for support, presenting each other's work in settings such as Franz Waxman's Los Angeles Music Festival and Peter Yates's influential series "Evenings on the Roof" (later "Monday Evening Concerts"). They also promoted one another for jobs in cinema and academic music departments. Klemperer built up the Los Angeles Philharmonic. [End Page 98] He brought cutting-edge repertoire and prominent soloists, and attracted devoted audiences and enthusiastic reviews. Although Klemperer suffered for years from depression and poor health, "orchestral music in Los Angeles was brought to maturity" during his tenure (78).
Many émigré composers arrived with the hope of working with the movie industry to develop innovative artistic forms. Toch, for example, dreamt of developing a genre of film-opera. Eisler wrote of his intentions to bring modernist music to film scoring. They were mostly disappointed, however, when confronted with studio heads who favored music that emphasized sentimentality and, happy to reuse excerpts from previous film scores, showed little toleration of experimentation. Toch lamented, "Music in Hollywood is a closed shop" (137). Working in film proved trying for many composers, as they were offered low pay and given rapid deadlines and little aesthetic freedom. Waxman and Erich Korngold were among the most successful. They were able to adapt to the industry's demands while developing innovative, personal compositional styles that made a lasting imprint on the future of movie scoring. Others had greater difficulty. Schoenberg and Stravinsky, who demanded high wages and stylistic control, ultimately failed in their attempts to break into cinema. Castelnuovo...