University of Saskatchewan

03/14/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 03/14/2019 10:43

‘Lost’ concerto by German music master and Mozart editor resurrected in Saskatoon

lead to a new USask research project.

The initiative has also led to a USask research project, further enhancing the formal partnership between USask and the SSO.

Moehn was a leading editor of composers' original scores for the major musical publishing houses Barenreiter, and Schott, and was one of the editors of the definitive complete works of Mozart, which is still used by concert halls around the world. He also edited scores by Handel and contemporary German composers including Ernst Krenek.

His archive of papers-which Dyring describes, with a wry smile, as 'a pile of yellowing and tatty manuscripts'-is now being combed through by Canadian musicians and music scholars. Alongside dozens of Moehn's compositions, there are letters from leading composers in pre- and post-war Germany.

Amanda Lalonde, an assistant professor in the USask music department who leads the research, says Moehn is not only interesting as a composer in his own right, but because of his links to some of the most important 20th century figures in European music.

Lalonde has recently been awarded $25,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to research Moehn's work, and edit his scores, in a collaboration between the music department and the SSO. The one-year joint project, involving students, will include a mini-documentary, recorded interviews with performers, a multi-media website, and live and recorded performances of a selection of Moehn's musical works.

'This project is important, not only because we will learn more about Moehn's multifaceted career, but because it might add another layer to our understanding of the impact of German cultural policy on music before and during the Second World War,' said Lalonde.

From the 1920s, Moehn wrote over 40 of his own original musical works including solo vocal compositions, choral works and chamber compositions. They included a song dating from 1946-perhaps reflecting post-war German austerity-entitled On the Black Market.

Moehn's multi-faceted musical career was affected by the cultural policies of the Third Reich, and his work as a composer slowed down during the war years.

He was choral and operatta director of the Mainz Stadttheater during the Second World War and was initiator and director of the Wiesbaden Orchesterverein from 1952 to 1959. Yet the musical styles of composers he admired and with whom he was associated were denounced by the Nazis for being Jewish, or too modern and 'degenerate.'

His collection of papers includes letters from Hans Werner Henze and Ernst Krenek, two modernist German composers whose work he edited.

Henze, who was conscripted into the German army during the Second World War, was left wing and gay, and after the war, published works influenced by jazz and Arab music. He embraced atonality in his work-which was condemned as modernist during the Third Reich-and later worked in Cuba.

Krenek was an acclaimed composer before Hitler's rise to power and wrote a jazz opera in 1926 whose main character was a black jazz musician. Jonny spielt auf was a sensational hit throughout Europe.

But Krenek was condemned and persecuted by the Nazi regime. The poster from his jazz opera was the centrepiece of the Nazis' 1938 Degenerate Music exhibition, which aimed to whip up condemnation of music deemed 'un-German', including compositions by Jewish composers. Krenek fled to America in 1938, and in the 1950s moved to Toronto where he taught at the The Royal Conservatory of Music .

Also preserved are letters from Wilhelm Rettich, a German-Jewish composer and conductor who fled Nazi Germany and survived the war in hiding in the Netherlands.

Moehn also corresponded with Franz Schrecker, an acclaimed Austrian composer whose father was Jewish. Before the Nazi period, he was one of the pre-eminent figures in German opera. However, the Nazis marginalised Rettich because of his Jewish background, and his works and performances were disrupted by right-wing demonstrations or cancelled. He died a marginalized figure in 1934.