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The Vanished Musicians

Jewish Refugees in Australia


Albrecht Dümling

About 9,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany settled in Australia between 1933 and 1945, a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands who fled. Although initially greeted with a mixed reception as «enemy aliens», some of these refugees remained and made a significant impact on multicultural Australia. This book traces the difficult journey of the orchestral performers, virtuoso soloists, singers, conductors and composers who sought refuge on a distant continent. A few were famous artists who toured Australia and stayed, most notably the piano virtuoso Jascha Spivakovsky and the members of the Weintraubs Syncopators, one of the most successful jazz bands of the Weimar Republic. Drawing on extensive primary sources – including correspondence, travel documents and interviews with the refugees themselves or their descendants – the author depicts in vivid detail the lives of nearly a hundred displaced musicians. Available for the first time in English, this volume brings to light a wealth of Jewish, exilic and musical history that was hitherto unknown.
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Chapter 15 : ‘The cultivated enthusiasm of a handful of missionaries’: The Genesis of Musica Viva Australia


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‘The cultivated enthusiasm of a handful of missionaries’: The Genesis of Musica Viva Australia

Over the centuries, Europe had gradually developed a concert life that sought neither to entertain nor to provide religious edification, but to communicate artistic values. The bourgeoisie had taken over these ideals from the nobility and brought them to a high point. By contrast, in Australia, utility was the order of the day; there had never been a tradition of nobility and that of the bourgeoisie developed very late. Therefore, material gains were of greater importance than intellectual or spiritual values, which were seen as either nebulous, or sentimental and effete. Accordingly, the arts, or what was called high culture, attracted less attention than sport, whose role in physical training was obvious. Concerts were only regarded as useful or worthwhile if they served as entertainment, which is why, to this day, Australian newspapers review them under the heading ‘Entertainment’. In those days, the word ‘music’ had a more limited meaning than the German word ‘Musik’. Around 1945, the most important cultural activities were the cinema, dancing, ballet and choral societies, as they were all associated with social gatherings. Opera performances by guest companies and ABC symphony concerts were most popular when famous celebrities performed. In such cases, however, free tickets are said to have been regularly distributed in order to spare guest artists the embarrassment of half-empty halls. Under these circumstances, an art form as quiet and...

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