German Organ Composers - 1930's - post WW2

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giwro
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German Organ Composers - 1930's - post WW2

Post by giwro » Sun Sep 27, 2009 7:55 pm

Klaviereich has written in another place on this forum about the composers from GDR, many of whom are hardly known here, and many whose music is neglected. In a similar manner are a whole host of organ composers (and of course for other instruments as well) who were alive and active during WW2. I have observed (and mentioned before) that there seems to be a stigma about these folks which has mostly prevented their music from becoming known. It is sad, because they were fine craftsmen, and often were at least privately not in support of the actions and policies of their government. As an organist, I try to do my best to make these composers known - here is a partial list:

Ahrens, Josef
David, Johann Nepomuk
Driessler
Genzmer, Harald
Micheelsen
Pepping, Erst
Raphael, Günter
Reda, Sigfried
Schroeder, Hermann
Trexler, Georg

I've been collecting scores of the above (and more) and trying to encourage performance. Some of the scores are very difficult to find, most of the composers have been gone at least 20 years (except for Genzmer, who just passed recently, nearly at 100 yrs and composing almost to the end (!)

I'd be interested in other organ composers who fit in this era and situation (and most interested in exploring their music) I will be sharing private recordings here I have made of the repertoire as well as selected scores (only the rarest ones not easily obtainable)

I'd also welcome civil discussion about this phenomenon in this thread.

Best,

- Giwro

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Re: German Organ Composers - 1930's - post WW2

Post by klavierelch » Mon Sep 28, 2009 6:07 am

Great idea for a thread.
Since my knowledge on organ music is next to zero, I won't be of much help here. But I may offer several possible explanations for the neglect of some of these composers:
  • 1. In the case of Raphael this is due to the fact that he was of Jewish descendants and that he wasn't allowed to publish music during the Nazi era. Like a lot of Jewish composers he wasn't rediscovered afterwards.
  • 2. After WW2 the German music scene tried to do something like a totally new beginning which in the end led to the Darmstadt school and to a neglect of a lot of the more conservative/traditional tendencies from the 1930s (partly out of political reasons since a lot of the composers who stayed in Germany during the Nazi era collaborated in one or another way with the Nazis; e.g. Pepping and David made their way to Hitler's "Gottbegnadetenliste" which saved them from any war services).
  • 3. While in the 19th century most composers wrote both secular and religious music, in the 20th century there emerged a clear distinction in Germany between composers who only wrote secular music and composer who only wrote religious music (more or less). With the notable exception of Raphael and Genzmer all the composers you list fall into the latter category. And the pure church musicians only became famous within their own religious circles. Thus Pepping (who by the way was something of an atheist!) is seen as the most important protestant German church composer of the 20th century and Schroeder as one of the most important German catholic church composers. But in "normal" musical life in Germany modern church music doesn't play an important role (or rather: it doesn't play any role at all!). And so the less religious music lovers don't know their names and their music.
There may be more reasons of course, but that's what I can think of right now. Any other ideas for discussion?
Ars opus est hominis, non opus artis homo.

John Owen, Epigrammata (1615)

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Re: German Organ Composers - 1930's - post WW2

Post by giwro » Mon Sep 28, 2009 3:05 pm

This is fascinating, Klavierelch....

I'm glad you took the time to explain a bit - most of the times I've tried to learn about this, my German friends have been reluctant to discuss it much. While I fervently hope that we never repeat the kinds of things that happened in Nazi times, I hope we've all come to a point where there can be forgiveness as well as a realization that given similar circumstances, such an awful succession of events might have taken place in some other country - it's not a particularly German flaw to be led astray into evil, its a human one.

So, if I understand you correctly, basically after WW2 composers tended to focus more narrowly on either secular or religious music? That makes sense to why they would be less known - a similar phenomenon is here in the USA, as there are many fine composers of religious music that are almost totally unknown in the secular arena.

Oddly enough, Schroeder wrote a fair amount of chamber, piano and other music (but it is hardly known!). I've also found piano and chamber music by Trexler, Reda and some of the others, but it does not seem that these works ever caught on enough to give their composers wider hearing. I guess not everyone could be like Genzmer and write something for nearly EVERY known classical instrument (and a few weird ones as well - who the heck ever thought of a concerto for TRAUTONIUM?)

I'd like to find more Raphael - what I have heard and seen so far is wonderful, emotional music. Granted, I've only explored the organ works so far, but I suspect the piano and other instruments have been treated with similar skill.

Schroeder is easily recognizable - quartal harmonies, fugal writing, a love for the spirit of toccata :D

Reda and Trexler intrigue me, though - here the music moves away from conservatism (but not to dodecaphony as in some of Ahrens)

BR

- G

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Re: German Organ Composers - 1930's - post WW2

Post by klavierelch » Mon Sep 28, 2009 3:41 pm

giwro wrote: So, if I understand you correctly, basically after WW2 composers tended to focus more narrowly on either secular or religious music? That makes sense to why they would be less known - a similar phenomenon is here in the USA, as there are many fine composers of religious music that are almost totally unknown in the secular arena.
I think indeed the end of WW1 is a more precise date for the beginning of this separation.

After this war there was a big struggle in Germany between politically conservatives on the one side (comprising such diverse movements as the militarists, Christians and nationalists [among these the emerging Nazis]) and social democrats, socialists and communists on the other side. And although there was no relation between modern music and the political left the conservatives considered all modernists (like Schönberg, Berg, Hindemith, Bartok, Stravinsky etc. - all of them no communists, quite the contrary...) as "Musikbolschewisten" (Musical bolshevists) or "Kulturbolschewisten" (Cultural bolshevists), which soon became a metaphor for everything which was said to be against "nature" (of art), nation and god (Quite a complicated matter; there is a whole dissertation on this topic).

Being no Nazi invention this term later on builded the basis for the Nazi cultural ideology and was a central tool for the Nazis to get the support of the conservative and christian classes, who all were against any modernist movement. So church music - like the music favored by the Nazis - took a much more conservative trail like the art music of the 1920s and early 30s (of course there were already conservative tendencies in art music, e.g. by Pfitzner who was one of the inventors of the terminology used against the "bolshevists", but there were a lot of experiments in the art music of this time, while there was not much in the church music). This BTW is one reason why church composers could continue their work relatively easy during the Nazi era, their aesthetics being more or less in accordance with the official Nazi aesthetics.

After WW2 there was the understandable tendency to "forget" the cultural development of the 12 years before and to create something new on the basis of the modernist movement cut short by the Nazis. So the church composers were irrelevant in this development and they were ignored (even if they wrote some secular pieces).

There are certainly more reasons than just this. But this may be the most important one.
Ars opus est hominis, non opus artis homo.

John Owen, Epigrammata (1615)

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