in: News & Features

January 17, 2012

BCMS 2012 Winter Festival and Forum

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The Boston Chamber Music Society and the MIT Music and Theater Arts faculty’s joint presentation on Saturday afternoon, January 21 at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium will address the topic Exiled to Hollywood: Outcast Artists in Southern California. The presentation allows us to explore the contributions of six composers (plus one) — Arnold Schoenberg, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Hanns Eisler, Ernst Toch, Erich Korngold and Ingolf Dahl — who were compelled by rising tyranny to leave Europe and remake their lives and careers in America, where they came to terms with university and film cultures. We will also be hearing music from Louis Gruenberg who settled in LA but had emigrated earlier, as a child. We could have included composers who settled in Northern California, Chicago, New York, or right here in Boston. We may want to do so in a future forum.It has been a humbling experience to catch a glimpse of the many ways in which the subject of artists and scholars who fled Europe during the 1930s and 1940s has been treated within the last 20 years. Exiled in Paradise (Viking Press, 1983), by Anthony Heilbut, is perhaps the most sweeping account. Exiles and emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler (1997), by Stephanie Barron with Sabine Eckmann, was our primary source for creating this concert. It is a catalog of an art exhibit that took place at the LA County Museum of Art, one that was seen and reported to us by BCMS violinist Ida Levin.

Closer to home, in 1999 Harvard University Press published a book of essays, Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States compiled and edited by Professors Reinhold Brinkmann and Christoph Wolff in which the lives, careers, and experiences of musicians and music historians are portrayed in their own words. In 2009 Yale University Press published A Windfall of Musicians: Hitler’s Emigres and Exiles in Southern California by Dorothy Lamb Crawford. This is her second book focusing on the development of the concert scene in the LA area and how those artists may have had an unusually large influence not only on how we hear music in concerts and film, but on how we play and speak about music today in private conversation and public forums.

Free Forum: 1:30 pm – 3 pm.

The forum will have three speakers: Joseph Auner, the Schoenberg expert from Tufts University; Dorothy Lamb Crawford, and Martin Marks, film music historian from MIT. Marks will focus on contributions by these composers to film music, especially in the rise of Film Noir, and how their music was transformed to suit the dominant cultural medium of their new home. We will be seeing several clips of films that show the range of styles and the depth of artistry that won Oscar nominations and Oscars and paved the way for one of today’s towering figures, John Williams.

Crawford will focus on the experiences of being uprooted and replanted, in the composers’ own words. She will be assisted by such lyrics as those written by Bertold Brecht for Eisler’s The Hollywood Songbook, the poem by Ernst Lothar in Korngold’s Mond, so gehst du wieder auf from his Abschiedslieder, op. 14, and from the text by H. Kaltneker for his Sonett für Wien, op. 41. Korngold used Mond, so gehst du wieder auf as the theme for the slow movement of his Piano Quintet, which closes our program and continues the series of piano quintets BCMS has scheduled on every concert this season.

The Concert at 4 pm.

The concert will open with the Piano Trio No. 2 in G major by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a composer known for his copious guitar music and short concert pieces for violin and piano. This is a substantial work that our players have been eager to learn. The best-known student of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco is John Williams. The program continues with selections from Hanns Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook, a collection of some 40 lieder in German and English, many based on poetic texts by Berthold Brecht. It is through these we learn directly of the anguish and despair of the emigrant experience. Eisler was also the author of an important theoretical work on combining film and music; his music is enjoying a revival in Europe this year. Ernst Toch is best known as the composer of the Geographical Fugue, not for the chase scene in Shirley Temple’s Heidi! His Sonata for Violin and Piano is a masterpiece. Eric Korngold is widely known for his Violin Concerto written for Jascha Heifetz, his gorgeous String Sextet, but not as widely in concert circles for winning an Oscar for the music to Robin Hood! Louis Gruenberg, who also wrote a violin concerto for Heifetz, came to America from Russia as a child before 1900 and returned to Europe to study with Busoni before World War I. Once he settled in LA he worked at merging media and film, and was nominated for an Academy Award for a documentary Fight For Life about life in the Chicago slums.

Series extras and conclusion.

The series allows us to explore themes, topics, and ideas, in conversation and concerts that have enlarged the context for enjoying the chamber music literature. This year’s program, the third, is sponsored in part by Goethe-Institut Boston. The musical portion our series began in December at MIT with the Schoenberg Chamber Symphony and ends in February with the performance of Ingolf Dahl’s Concerto a tre, an exciting and virtuosic piece for violin, clarinet and cello that BCMS has performed in 1984, 1992 and 2003. Dahl was a close collaborator with Stravinsky and was one of the translators for Poetics of Music. Besides giving private lessons to Benny Goodman, making arrangements for Victor Borge and Tommy Dorsey, he is best remembered as the teacher of Michael Tilson Thomas.

We are grateful for a number of collaborations that we hope can enhance the experience of this music, its creators and fellow artistic contributors from this time. At MIT Martin Marks has been teaching a course, “The Rise of Film Noir,” during the school’s Independent Activities Period in January that leads up to our forum. Among the events available to the class and the public will be a film series entitled “Five Émigré Directors and the Rise of Film Noir” with music by our composers and others and a tour of visual art works by émigré visual artists at the Harvard Sackler Museum. During the

Marcus Thompson is a distinguished performer both on viola and viola d’amore, a Professor at MIT and director of BCMS.

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