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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 17 : ‘Land of Mine’: New Compositions for a New Australia


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‘Land of Mine’: New Compositions for a New Australia

In the 1930s and 1940s, Australian musical life still looked towards British models, whereby a combination of distance and conservative tendencies meant that developments in the United Kingdom were often adopted somewhat later. After the fall of Singapore in 1942, Britain’s influence declined sharply. The loss of its largest naval base in the Asiatic region meant that Britain could no longer guarantee military security for the Commonwealth of Australia, so what until then had been unswerving trust in the motherland was now in crisis. In view of the Japanese threat, Australia chose the USA as its new protector. The stationing of American soldiers in Australia gradually changed its lifestyle: many old, familiar ways now appeared backward and provincial.

From 1945 onwards, the conductor Eugene Goossens was one of the key figures who helped the country to tap into the international repertoire and modern trends in music. Born in London, he had worked since 1931 in the USA, where he conducted the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for fifteen years. He was appointed as head of both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney University Conservatorium in 1946, which raised the status of contemporary music. At the time, many of the works he conducted, such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht [Transfigured Night] and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony had never been played by the orchestra before. Goossens’ concerts were a...

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