Re: Gerhard Frommel
Posted by Paul Corfield Godfrey on June 17, 2016, 11:22 am, in reply to "Gerhard Frommel"
The relationship between between composers and totalitarian regimes is a very fraught issue, and I think it is necessary for anyone eager to condemn a particular composer to examine the individual's motives closely - insofar as such a thing is possible. Any composer who compromises his artistic integrity for the sake of personal advancement and/or profit is clearly treading into very dangerous territory, and if they at the same time use their relationship to their political masters to denigrate the work of their fellow composers they are putting themselves - at least as far as I am concerned - well beyond the pale. I don't know enough about Frommel to make any judgements in this regard. |
Colin Mackie draws parallels between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, but in fact the two are not really analogous. In Russia there was a very definite pressure to adopt a particular style of composition, and anyone who attempted to defy this was consigning themselves to oblivion artistically and possibly physically as well. There were some composers - like Khrennikov - who seem to have thoroughly exploited this position for their own advancement, but most Soviet composers compromised with the regime more reluctantly, like Shostakovich or Prokofiev; and although it is possible to argue that their music suffered in consequence, they continued to be able to produce masterpieces. Alan Bush certainly espoused the cause of "socialist realism" in his music, but his best scores seem to me to be those where he allows his native roots to come through to the surface. (I studied with Bush as a composer, and should add that he never allowed political considerations to influence his teaching methods.)
In Nazi Germany the musical criteria seem to have been much more indistinctly drawn beyond the purely racial doctrine of anti-Semitism. Some composers, such as Wagner-Regeny or Schultze, received official approval, while others such as Kurt Weill did not - but the musical styles of all three are very similar. Similarly Pfitzner and Strauss were (sometimes) on amicable terms with the regime while other composers with superficially similar styles such as Braunfels and Schreker were not. Therefore the distinction between musical styles was purely racial and not artistic in any way. Is there really then any such thing as "Nazi music" over and above purely jingoistic pieces such as military marches?
So this is not just a straightforward matter of judging composers on "purely musical grounds" - those who flatter the artistic pretentions of totalitarian regimes should also be recognised for the moral dimensions of their actions, and indeed for the effect it has on their own artistic integrity. The case of a composer like Henze, who adopted his "Cuban" style as a matter of personal conscience without any materialistic considerations, falls outside this argument - one simply has to judge the music on its own merits.
I was not originally proposing to contribute to this discussion, but it does raise some very interesting issues and although it is not possible to come to any firm conclusions the argument itself is illuminating.