‘My name is known, but nobody performs my works’

‘My name is known, but nobody performs my works’


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2019

The cry of the emigré composer Karol Rathaus.

Has his time finally come?

Basia Jaworski presents some essential documents here, with much to ponder about present views on migration.


  • Ricardo says:

    New to me. Thank you! Sounds like a genuine musical voice. Will have to investigate…

  • thank you so much for sharing!

  • Ross Amico says:

    Amazing! I picked up a recording of his Piano Concerto only this week.

  • Rathaus says:

    great composer, without any doubt. impressive symphonies, performed by many great conductors from Scherchen to Furtwängler. scores are difficult to find.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Botstein is wrong when he says that Rathaus’ music cannot be ‘classified’. It reflects the typical still tonal music of the twenties and thirties, and is Middle-European in nature, Germanic in its expressionism. A herd of composers wrote such everything-in-a-pan music, mostly very mediocre and pale, but Rathaus clearly is far above that level and more a composer like Schreker (who also enjoys a posthumous come-back) or Shostakovich. That 3rd symphony (with Shos touches) is strong and impressive music, although the leaden pathos is not in proportion to the music itself, and the piano music is clearly influenced by Scriabine, Szymanowski and Bartok, with a touch of expressionism (Schoenberg, Berg), and it is all very well made and very expressive. His film music did not much good to him, obviously. But one can clearly speak of a ‘second murder’ after WW II, the murder of music, under the pressures of the times and the idiocy of ‘avantgarde’.

    I still don’t forgive Botstein’s character murder of Stefan Zweig for not upholding ‘Jewish identity’ but instead advocating a European, inclusive humanism. That kind of ‘identitary fanatism’ kills-off any humanist message of Jewish culture it may have. And Rathaus should be revived not because he was Jewish but because he was a truly good composer, representing different trends of the 20th century.

    More about Rathaus here:


    With the gradual and ongoing excavations of 20C ‘forbidden music’, forbidden for different reasons, the scale of the cultural holocaust that happened after WW II still has to be assessed.

    • I interviewed Botstein for this video, and what he meant was that Rathaus refused to join any of the musical cliques forming at that time. With expressionism winding down, he refused to be drawn to the Schoenberg’s circle of serialists, he rejected new objectivity of Hindemith and Toch, he was looking for his own path striving to stay modern while remaining listenable and emotionally expressive. His music lied at the far border of tonality without actually crossing it into atonal territory. He was always in search for his own voice and his cultural identity refusing to be put in a box.

      • John Borstlap says:

        A most admirable stance……. In the Interbellum, there was an amazingly rich pluralism, of which the Schoenberg trend was only one of many, and a quite isolated one at that. It was after WW II that the history of the 1st half of the century got ‘solidified’ on the expense of all those genuinely musical composers who rightly felt that there was nothing wrong with preserving the expressive and communicative elements of music. Great character, this Rathaus, and a great talent.

  • Larry says:

    Queens College (City University of New York) named a concert hall in his honor. Rathaus was a teacher there from 1940-1954.

  • BrianB says:

    I never even thought of him as a composer but as an editor of a version of Boris Godunov widely performed by the Met in the fifties and sixties.

    • He wasn’t just an editor – he made a completely new orchestration of Godunov getting rid of Rimsky-Korsakov excesses and bringing back the original Musorgsky’s vision of the opera.

      • John Borstlap says:

        There is also the Shostakovich version, reconstructing the Mussorgski sound but with more technical expertise.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Grateful to Slipped Disc for reviving, acquainting us with or reminding us of fine, forgotten composers. My personal favorite: Toch.

  • fflambeau says:

    The sad fact is that many lives were disrupted by the events of the 1930’d and 40’s. This composer is but one example. I think Daniel Hope, among others, has done music (and society) at large a huge service by shining a light on this.

  • Music by Rathaus was recently presented in a week long festival organized by Queens College with participation of Bard College and The American Society of Jewish Composers. There is also a documentary film in production Discovering Karol Rathaus. See details here http://www.karolrathausfilm.com

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    The amazing music he composed for Ozep’s 1934 film “Amok” predates Britten’s, McPhee’s and Harrison’s forays into Balinese music. The opening 7 minutes are on YouTube.

  • fflambeau says:

    The top 3 have all studied at Juilliard. What’s NL going to do? Kaplinsky again? Gotta be.