Suppression of music

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

When in 1928 Schreker’s opera, Der singende Teufel, was produced in Berlin, a critic said that the city’s opera houses had five of his operas in preparation, which supports the statement in Grove that he was the most important figure in German opera since Wagner. But official Germany, for reasons I have never understood, frowned on Schreker. I do not pretend to have any great knowledge of the Schreker operas, but I recognise his invention as of that feverish type which rushes upwards and headlong, as though his inner mind were boiling over with music.

I have written elsewhere1 how to our innocent abroad everything in the German garden of music is lovely: the treatment of Schreker does not prove it, and he was no Jew. It was amidst strife that Hitler rode to power: and now like conquerors of all times he is deputing lieutenants to pacify or subdue everybody and everything. Dr Goebels, as Minister of Education, has called the German composers together, put Richard Strauss at their head, and told them to get on with it, the ‘it’ seeming to be an obsession that German music must play an important part in German politics. It is also demanded that German composers must think in terms of German music. Of course, I should not like to cross swords with Dr Goebels, or even to question his wisdom, but most people think that German composers always have thought in terms of German music.

The desire for close control of German musical thought from its inception is being followed by seizure of the best, or one of the best, means of opera presentation. Goebels called together all the artists and artisans of the Berliner Städtische Oper and told them that from September next the control would pass from the Municipality to the State (c’est moi?), and that in future the name would be Deutsches Opernhaus. There was an assurance that das Haus would take a more important part in German national life, though whether as a handmaid of the present regime of music was not stated.

  1. Brian had earlier referred to conflicting newspaper reports of the circumstances of Schreker’s death (Berlin, 21 March 1934), in obscurity, his music reviled by the Nazi regime which had forcibly removed him from his Meisterklasse at the Prussian Academy of Arts. This was probably responsible for the stroke from which he died: Brian had cited a totally inaccurate report of him ‘dying peacefully in Vienna’. In this same issue of Musical Opinion Brian gave a considered view of Schreker in a short fornal article. ↩︎

On the other hand, by La main gauche

Musical opinion, May 1934, p. 685