A composer remembers his Kristallnacht terrormain
Walter Arlen has been talking to the Financial Times:
“The Vienna of 1938 was an incredible place to be – so many composers, artists, writers, philosophers. What if Kristallnacht had never happened? We know of the gifted Jewish composers interned in Theresienstadt [the “artistic” concentration camp] – like Ullmann and Schulhoff – and the revival of operas by composers such as Schreker, Braunfels and Zemlinsky has shown us what might have been. Musical history would surely have been the richer.”
This is no less the case for Arlen himself. “I would have spent my life as a composer,” he says. “Would my music have been different? Surely yes – the music I have written is so heavily influenced by what happened to my family, the tragedies that befell me, the loss of everything in Austria that our family owned, stolen under the Nazis and never returned. If none of this had happened, I would have been a different person.
“I am not a religious Jew, my family were not religious Jews. But I feel that I am a representation of the Jewish spirit, whatever that might be. To me, it is honesty, rectitude, intellectual achievement. I had heard nothing of my music before these recording sessions brought it so wonderfully to life. Now I am 93 years old and I hope that finally my music will be noticed by the public before I die.”