Album of the Week: Son of Mann

Album of the Week: Son of Mann

Album Of The Week

norman lebrecht

April 30, 2021

From this week’s Lebrecht Listens:

The German writer Thomas Mann cast such a huge shadow across 20th century culture that his six children struggled to emerge in their own light. The eldest, Klaus, a remarkable novelist, committed suicide at 42. His sister Erika, with whom he had symbiotic links, was a bisexual media activist. Another daughter, Monika, made a living for a while as a pianist. Elisabeth became an expert on maritime law and Golo was a generally embittered German historian.

The youngest, Michael Mann…

Read on here.

And here.

En francais ici.

More languages follow.


L’écrivain allemand Thomas Mann a jeté une telle ombre sur la culture du XXe siècle que ses six enfants ont eu du mal à émerger dans leur propre lumière. L’aîné, Klaus, un romancier remarquable, s’est suicidé à 42 ans. Sa sœur Erika, avec laquelle il entretenait des liens symbiotiques, était une activiste médiatique bisexuelle. Une autre fille, Monika, a gagné sa vie pendant un certain temps en tant que pianiste. Elisabeth est devenue une experte en droit maritime et Golo était un historien allemand généralement aigri….


  • I believe one of THE foremost experts on Klaus Mann is Fredric Kroll who is also a wonderful composer. I suggest listening to his “Frantumi” on YouTube with Elizbeth Kulmann:

    I will send him the link to this story so he can comment, and here is where you can find his book on Klaus Mann:

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Erica Mann was above all a very fine writer. Her short stories are well worth reading.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Talk about an ambivalent review! After dismissive comments about the Krenek, Honegger and Milhaud works, one reads: “all three pieces are really worth hearing…”

  • Edgar Self says:

    Klaus Mann was named for his mother’s twin brother Klaus Pringsheim, a German conductor active in Japan. Thomas Mann once sent a congratulatory note to Klaus on the publication of one of his books, inscribed “To my brilliant son from his promising father.”

    I’ve been re-reading Thomas Mann’s books this year, thinking of his children and wondering what had become of Michael’s recordings. It isn’t easy being the son of a great man. The elder Mann knew Mahler, Pfitzner, Bruno Waalter, and Bronislaw Hubermann, corresponded with Furtwaengler, and often wrote of music.

    • ruben Greenberg says:

      Edgar: yes, music was central to the life of Thomas Mann. He had a strained relationship with his youngest son Michael, who played in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under the direction of another violist: Pierre Monteux.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Mann’s ‘Doctor Faust’ – about a German serial composer – is a masterpiece. Schoenberg was greatly annoyed.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It’s extremely difficult to be the son of a brilliant artist. That’s why we never hear about the sons of Chopin, Liszt, Baudelaire, Hugo, Proust, Brahms, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Picasso, Tchaikovsky, Scriabine, and Hindemith, while they really tried their best.

  • Kathrin Peters says:

    Golo Mann may have been a complicated man but deserves a better description than that of an embittered historian. His three volume Wallenstein biography is masterful.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      Thank you, Kathrin.
      Golo Man deserves indeed a fairer assessment. (I met him several times during the last two decades of his life.) He was discreet and withdrawn, but no enigma, not even to himself. He self-diagnosed during the first years of emigration:
      “Golo Mann was born as a ,son‘; did not like it; could not help it.“

      The oppressive personalities of his parents, the inferiority complex towards his brother Klaus, a general sense of inadequacy despite his great talents, compounded by a lifelong difficulty in coming to terms with the fact of being gay, all this made him a hurt, vulnerable, somewhat tortured man. But he was not “embittered”, let alone generally so. He was a skeptic, and more often than not a pessimist, in an era when history had a knack of making even pessimists appear as lighthearted fools.

      Also, as anyone who interviewed him for radio or television would, I think, concur, he was a hard case to steal a sound-bite from. His eloquence and erudition were impeccable; but his carefully convoluted periods, formatted in paragraphs, complete with mental footnotes and references, were drafted for the printed page, not for the fleeting instantaneity of audiovisual media. Golo Mann was, essentially, a “Gelehrter” of the XIXth century mercilessly thrown into the mid-XXth.

  • Edgar Self says:

    ARuben, another violist in the San Francisco Symphony was Germaine Prevost, a Belgian formerly of the old Pro Arte Quartet. That standard continued with Geraldine Walther. I’ve read that Monteux, ahimself a violist as you say, sometimes sat in with quartets when needed for a performance. homas Mann in youth played the violin and chamber music.

    Thomas Mann is one of the most musical writers, surprising even his old friend Bruno Walter by “Doctor Faustus”, which conductor Alan Gilbert has praised in the New York Times.

    Thomas’s wife Katia once said, “There has to be someone in this amily who does not write books, but even she was coaxed into a late memoir.

  • Edgar Self says:

    John Borstlap, Scriabine’s son Julian might have proved an exception had he not drowned accidentally at age eleven. His four surviving piano pieces suggest a talent like his father’s and Alexei Srtanchinsky.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Thanks to all these contributors for their information about Thomas Mann’s children Erika, Klaus, Michael, and Golo. There is a new topic today about Michael, Golo, and Klaus.

    I didn’t know of Golo’s books or Erika’s short-stories. Her father valued her help as editor and called her “du kuehnes, herrliches Kind”, as Wotan did Brunnhilde. She was married to actor-director Gustav Gruendgens, subject pf Klaus’s “Mephisto”, and then to W. H. Auden. Klaus also wrote a biography of Tchaikovsky.

  • Edgar Self says:

    krenek, complex, paragraphed expression ran in the family, and in German grammar. Thomas Mann for sport once wrote a sentence that ran to a page and a half in print, wiith the meaning unclear until the last word, the verb.

    Thomas Mann admired English picaresque novels by Laurence Sterne and Henry Fielding such as “Tristram Shandy” and “Tom Jones”, which is evident in his “Felix Krull”.

    In a letter. Hermann Hesse pointed out to Thomas Mann a careless mistake in one of Klaus’s books that had passed the author and editors uncorrected, which Hesse thought boded ill.