Paper Session
Nov 11, 2021 01:00 PM - 01:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211111T1300 20211111T1350 America/Chicago European Jews in Exile AMS 2021
Exiled Musicians from the Third Reich and the Development of Music in Iceland, 1935–1950
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 16:50:00 UTC

Although the government of Iceland ran a hardline immigration policy in the 1930s and beyond, three exiled musicians from the Third Reich were allowed to settle there. Two were of Jewish descent: Robert Abraham (1912–1974, a conductor and musicologist from Berlin) and Heinz Edelstein (1902–1959, a cellist and music educator from Freiburg); Victor Urbancic (1903–1958, a Viennese conductor and pianist) was married to a woman of Jewish heritage. These musicians faced a challenging task in their new homeland, where Western 'classical' music had only been tentatively established in the late nineteenth century. No professional music ensembles were in place; the first local performance by a symphony orchestra (a visiting ensemble from Hamburg) was in 1926, only nine years before Abraham arrived. 

For the next two decades, these exiled musicians played a key role in the development and increasing professionalization of local choirs and orchestras, as well as having a major impact in the field of music education. Yet their contributions were not always fully appreciated. The Urbancic family narrowly escaped deportation at the order of Iceland's xenophobic prime minister in 1940; Urbancic and Abraham were both passed over for the post of chief conductor when the Iceland Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1950; Edelstein returned to Germany in 1956.

In this paper, I will examine the roles of three musicians in the Icelandic musical community, with a particular focus on the interplay of music, politics, and xenophobia in the 1930s and '40s. I will also discuss the role of the Reykjavík Music Society, a private organization run by twelve distingushed and well-to-do local amateurs, which provided employment for all three at various points in their careers. A careful study of official documents and private letters sheds new light on their successes (which included the first local performances of Mozart's _Requiemand J.S. Bach's _St John Passion_), frustrations, and disagreements. Their story is an enlightening case study in the interaction of cultural and identity politics, patronage, race, and reception during a pivotal period in Iceland's musical history.

Arni Ingolfsson
Iceland University Of The Arts
Resurrection and Messianism in Mathew Rosenblum's Lament/Witches' Sabbath
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 16:50:00 UTC

American composer Mathew Rosenblum's clarinet concerto, Lament/Witches' Sabbath (2017), was commissioned and supported by the Guggenheim Foundation for clarinetist David Krakauer and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Rosenblum's concerto uses recordings of the voice of his grandmother Bella Liss, and recordings of Ukrainian and Ashkenazi Jewish laments as part of the musical fabric. In the course of the concerto, Liss tells her family's story of how they fled the pogroms in Ukraine and escaped murderous mobs in the town of Proskurov, in 1919. The composition has two foundational materials: the laments and citations from Berlioz's last movement of his Symphonie Fantastique, Dream of a Witches' Sabbath. The pitch world of the laments informs the piece's microtonal language which gives it its unfiltered expressivity. The quotations from Berlioz, according to Rosenblum (2017), allude to his grandmother's superstitious beliefs rooted in Eastern European Jewish culture and the fear that drove the violence against Jewish communities in Ukraine. The appropriation of Berlioz's music is redefined, moreover, by its inscription in Rosenblum's sound world shaped by his filiation to traditional Jewish klezmer music and admiration for Krakauer's playing.

Following cultural critic John Beverley (2010), this paper will argue that Rosenblum's composition can be thought of as "transculturation from below": the oral elements are not modified to fit the cultural codes of the concerto, instead, orality and vernacular klezmer music reconstitute the concerto format of Western classical music. By underlying the structural tension between the medium of classical music and the historical memories coming from oral tradition, I contest that the lament's narratives and Bella Liss' historical account manifest the symbolic value of memory-which philosopher Walter Benjamin calls "messianic" (Lowy 2005). They resurrect subalternized historical subjects and their narratives become constitutive of Lament/ Witches' Sabbath's artistic expression.

Nicolas Aguia
University Of Pittsburgh
The Composer as Intellectual: Biblical Interpretation and Jewish Martyrdom in Alexandre Tansman’s _Isaïe le prophète_
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 16:50:00 UTC

In 1949, three years after returning to France from his temporary exile in the United States, where he escaped Nazi persecution, the Polish-born French-Jewish composer Alexandre Tansman began working on his oratorio Isaïe le prophète. Tansman, who had cultivated a strong attachment to the French nation since leaving his native Poland, returned to a country that he barely recognized. Although the French government purportedly supported all its citizens under the auspices of universalism, it willingly persecuted its Jewish citizens during the Holocaust and remained hostile to the survivors. Without a stable sense of belonging in France, Tansman developed a self-identification with ancient Israel and turned to a biblical subject to memorialize the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and celebrate the new state of Israel in the oratorio. Drawing on materials from Tansman's archive and published writings, this paper situates Isaïe le prophète in Paris' postwar French Jewish culture to reveal an intimate picture of identity construction in the wake of the Holocaust. Musicologists have expended much scholarly currency to address music's function in Nazi camps and ghettos and postwar musical constructions of Holocaust memory, but they have paid limited attention to the role of postwar identity politics in such commemorations. Religious studies scholars have recently begun to analyze the work of French Jewish intellectuals to understand how they interpreted biblical narratives to construct a Jewish identity in relation to France during the war, as well as how this work affected survivors' identification with France and Israel after the war. Building on this research, I propose that these thinkers significantly influenced Tansman's identity and his oratorio. By exploring how Tansman's musical, political, and philosophical observations about Judaism and French universalism intersect in his correspondence and writings, I demonstrate how Tansman participated in French Jewish intellectual culture. By reading the oratorio as an intellectual expression, I show that Tansman turned to biblical literalism to construct an allegorical framework for both Holocaust suffering and his understanding of Zionism. Tansman's oratorio, I argue, thus illuminates music's contributions to postwar French Jewish intellectual culture.

Nicolette Van Den Bogerd
Indiana University
Iceland University of the Arts
University of Pittsburgh
Indiana University
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