The long read: How Boston lost a music director to national hysteria

The long read: How Boston lost a music director to national hysteria


norman lebrecht

November 03, 2017

Neil Swidey in the Globe retraces the dilemma Boston got into with its conductor Karl Muck when the US entered the First World War against Germany.

Read here.


  • Robert Holmén says:

    WWI Hysteria…

    Over in Iowa around this time my grandfather, a Lutheran minister, got called before the local citizens’ patriotism council (legal basis unclear) to defend himself. The problem may have been that he had a strong foreign accent (Swedish) and led a church that wasn’t holding its services in English but, whatever the reasons, he needed to explain why he wasn’t acting 100% American like the rest of them.

    He had lived and worked in the town for years but now they imagined he was a spy or agitator or something.

    They let him off after he said that his oldest son was fighting over in France at that very moment. That got him provisional acceptable status.

    It’s possible that this was opportunistically stirred up by the local “lodges” who had an antagonistic relationship the churches then and whom he had preached against, but other people were getting called before these councils who didn’t have that particular past conflict.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      This would make a great subject for a novel or film script. Get to work on it!

    • Joseph says:

      During that time, many churches in Iowa held services in German — Iowa had a significant percentage of German immigrants, both Catholic and Lutheran, especially in Eastern Iowa. Most had been in Iowa for decades at that point (my own ancestors emigrated from the Saarland in the late 1840s). Sometime during the course of World War I, the Iowa State Legislature passed legislation that forbade the speaking of German in public. A result of this was a marked decrease in the number of bi-lingual people of German descent. It’s very rare to find anyone of German descent in Iowa who has any command of the German language.

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    It’s Karma.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    A shocking and shameful story. Shameful, that is, on the part of the Americans. The land of the free? Hardly. A century later, the nation is still straining to define, let alone uphold, freedom, more illusion than reality. Then again, freedom and democracy are not American inventions.

  • Larry says:

    There was such hysteria in America about Germans that the name “sauerkraut” was actually changed to “Liberty Cabbage,” lest any American be accused of eating an unpatriotic food!

  • Gaffney Feskoe says: