How Berthold Goldschmidt was rediscovered

How Berthold Goldschmidt was rediscovered


norman lebrecht

August 04, 2018

The exiled German composer lived in British obscurity for half a century before the Decca producer Michel Haas and a few others brought to light an extraordinary composer, a unique witness to troubled times.

Michael writes, with his customary candour, about the jealousy between some of Berthold’s first discoverers.

Now, two decades after he died, there are not many of us left who knew him well and Michael’s memoir is essential reading.

Read here.



  • barry guerrero says:

    I met a relative of Goldschmidt who confirmed my long held suspicion that he, Goldschmidt, had done most of the dirty work and orchestration for Deryck Cooke’s performing version of Mahler 10. Of course, in London, the critics and BBC toadies like to circle the wagons and would never admit such a thing. For me, the very greatest Mahler 10 in the Cooke version is Goldschmidt’s own recording that’s in the three cd set put out on Testament. It was the 1964 Proms premiere of the full draft. There are minor changes and additions – mostly in orchestration – that Goldschmidt did in that performance that never made into any of the printed versions. It’s also superbly conducted.

    • barry guerrero says:

      I met this relative after Sony’s recording of “Beatrice Cenci” came out, so we’re talking mid ’90s. If you listen to “B.C.”, who’ll hear a lot of similarity between its orchestration and the orchestration of Cooke’s Mahler 10.

  • Rob says:

    Hopefully not responsible for that hideous orchestration at the opening of the 4th movement of No ’10’. Mahler would never have been so four square.

    • barry guerrero says:

      Well, perhaps so. Compare with that sounds like with what some of Goldschmidt’s own orchestrations sound like. Goldschmidt is more ‘bald’ sounding, closer to Shostakovich than Berg or Mahler. The problem, of course, is that Mahler left little to go on.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Wonderful memoir about a fascinating composer, who was silenced for half a century by the herd mentality of music life, intimidated by modernist ideology which condemned every 20C music which did not follow the party line. And that in the ‘free West’ – a grotesque mirror image of Soviet rule but exercised by the responsible people themselves, without the help of a dictatorial government.

    Goldschmidt’s music is dark and incisive, like Shostakovich’s, and I think for comparable reasons.

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Bonus: Some rawther compelling Abbado dish at the link to Haas’s Goldschmidt recollections.

  • Martinu says:

    Read, read this:
    Michael Haas writes about the “me too” Abbado in this fascinating article:

    “As Abbado’s producer, I became the conduit for several unhappy relationships: attractive, intelligent young women, all of a certain type would be heartlessly cast off before being called back to the Berlin Philharmonic’s maestro in order to withstand yet more abuse.”

    Haas goes on to describe Abbado’s homophobia and misogyny and his abusive treatment of women who worked with him.

    • barry guerrero says:

      Abbado? Please say it’s not so. Who knew!

    • Michael Haas says:

      Actually, I didn’t mention Abbado’s abuse to women who worked with him. I’m told Abbado had a redemptive experience following his cancer treatment, and I admit to preferring Abbado as a musician to almost everyone else I’ve worked with. His biggest advantage was his biggest disadvantage and he was candid enough to tell me that he wasn’t as naturally gifted as other conductors who could read through the Eulenberg pocket score on route to their next gig as all the preparation required. He didn’t learn music fast or easily and had to ram it into his head in isolation at his home in Switzerland. This gave him a sense of architecture that always created a coherent narrative within the music. He even used this method in opera recordings, where I had the feeling he hadn’t a clue what the opera was about, or even who was who. He simply saw operas and symphonies or tonepoems as a musical object with its own innate musical narrative. His Mahler largely remains my preferred version as a result. That he was misogynistic and homophobic is unfortunate and tragic. Perhaps it was his age and culture. He was a child of the 1960s, good looking and able to have whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He probably believed there were gay mafias in the music business – frankly, so did Goldschmidt. It was a generational thing that came out of an age when homosexuality was barely more than legally acceptable, and to straight Italian men, a reprehensible betrayal of gender. He was definitely no saint and his misogyny and homophobia were only two aspects of far deeper character flaws, which I won’t go into. I regret having brought up his misogyny and homophobia, but they were relevant to the Goldschmidt story.
      Regarding Goldschmidt and Mahler X. Deryck Cooke in a BBC interview somewhere explains that he mapped out the material and Goldschmidt filled in the gaps. Cooke never under-sold Goldschmidt’s contribution and I never heard Berthold say a negative thing about Cooke. I had the impression that Cooke was the architect and Goldschmidt the builder. Ultimately, Cooke’s UK constituency was greater than Goldschmidt’s and for far too long, he was considered the only creative agent of the work. We now know the symphony was mapped out by Mahler himself to a greater extent than previously realized, so Cooke’s contribution may not have been as monumental as everyone assumed, and Goldschmidt’s contribution far more crucial to the final product. Goldschmidt was definitely a victim of English exceptionalism that saw in Johnny Foreigner something threatening. Vaughan Williams’ letter to Ferdinand Rauter worrying about the number of highly trained Austrian and German musicians flooding the UK and “trampling the delicate flower of English music”, or Egon Wellesz in a letter to his daughter complaining about Oxford dismissing his pleas to teach musicology and being told that music at Oxford was “intended to train the organists of the country’s great cathedrals – they didn’t need music history or musicology.“ Goldschmidt was part of that generation, and the isolation that resulted kept him silent for a quarter of a century.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Very interesting…. and what a parochial attitude of the British, incredible that they somehow won the war. The island mentality has been alive all the time and raises its head once more today.

        What an incredible information about Abbado. It also shows how entirely random and mysterious musical talent is as a phenomenon, it goes its own way and lands into people indifferent to its host.

        • barry guerrero says:

          “incredible that they somehow won the war” . . .

          uhhhhh, . . . perhaps with a little help from their friends in the good-old colonies. Otherwise,

  • Karen Lybia says:

    I well remember his for its time pioneering performance for the BBC of Mahler 3 with Sibyl Michelow as contralto soloist in 1960 (I still have a precious tape of the performance somewhere). Not performed enough even now. I must now try and break into the stream of Beatrice di Cenci.

  • Mikael says:

    William Glock, the BBC’s Controller of Classical Music 1959-1972, has a lot to answer for re: Goldschmidt and all the other composers who did not belong to the post-war avantgarde.

  • Basia Jaworski says:

    About Goldschmidt (and Grosz, and Braufels and more):

  • Misha says:

    I think William Glock, the BBC’s Controller of Classical Music 1959-72, has a lot to answer for. His obsession with post-war modernism kept people like Goldschmidt out in the cold.

    • John Borstlap says:

      And not only Goldschmidt. Also other composers in the UK who did not jump onto the modernist bandwagon – except Benjamin Britten since he had established himself already before the Schoenbergian infection. This does not mean all of those tonal composers were geniusses, but to claim that modernism, which was introduced in the UK rather lately, was as a genre a better option than ‘the rest’, was pure ideology and had nothing to do with musical interest or musical quality. I remember that Alexander Goehr, professor at Cambridge in the eighties, was once confonted with the suggestion that tonal composers had been suppressed, and his answer was that all the failed careers of tonal composers were the result of entirely individual circumstances and life stories. This like saying that there was no Second World War but a great number of individual deeds of violence.

  • Simon says:

    Didn’t his family come to Dartington, and there was a concert of his music? Or am I hallucinating (again).