German musical education

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

Writers on Wagner never tire of telling us that Wagner was always a popular composer in Germany: that the so-called Music of the Future was in Germany the Music of the Present. But Wagner could not have become a popular composer in his lifetime had he not found audiences intelligent enough to understand and appreciate him. That intelligence was made by an intensive musical culture. Even the social disturbance following the war did not destroy the musical life of Germany. At the present time, apart from the famous teaching institutions of Berlin there are over seventy privately owned conservatoires in the city: and musical instruction is planned to produce competent musicians and intelligent audiences.

Sight singing is part of the curriculum in all State schools: and only state-trained music teachers with diplomas secure appointments in secondary schools. The success of German musical culture is due to Germany’s decentralised capitals. Recent political changes have made a radical difference, for now a Ministry of Music exercises a wide authority, going so far as to support or denounce composers as prominent as Hindemith. Control of this kind, we Englishmen may assume, must eventually produce creative sterilisation.

From an item entitled The German professor in On the other hand, by La main gauche

Musical opinion, August 1937, p. 945