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Nationalism, Chauvinism and Racism as Reflected in European Musical Thought and in Compositions from the Interwar Period


Andrzej Tuchowski

This book concerns the ways in which many different types of nationalism, chauvinism and racism penetrated into musical thought in the interwar period, and how the leading artistic personalities of that period reacted to these ideologies. The concept of "nationalism" is understood broadly in this book and covers the entire spectrum of its positive and negative aspects. The topics listed in the book’s title have been discussed on the example of selected four countries, significant with respect to population and territory and representing different social-political systems: Germany (mostly after 1933), Italy, Poland (after 1926) and Great Britain. This selection is also representative of the main ethnic groups in Europe: Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Latin-Romance and Slavic.

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The above described migrations of theoretical thought, accompanied by inevitable concessions and transformations in its original ideological base, considered anachronous in the second half of the 20th century, were undoubtedly a signum temporis and a symptom of growing European integration. As mentioned above, many postwar composers drew more or less consciously on their respective national heritage and confirmed their genuine patriotism with both their music and their lives. Both brilliant contemporaries born in 1913, Witold Lutosławski and Benjamin Britten, were undoubtedly patriotically minded. Despite his resentment toward communism, which badly affected his family, Lutosławski never considered emigration. In the 1950s this may also have had to do with a pragmatic and realistic attitude. He knew the fate of Roman Palester and other émigrés who, deprived of the Polish state’s protection, had to struggle in order to survive in the world of art. On the other hand, Lutosławski did not leave Poland also in later times, when he was already a world-famous composer and his country was still ruled by a regime whose ideology he never came to accept. Britten – as we have mentioned – despite his pacifist views returned to England in 1942, risking his life at the most dramatic moment of the country’s struggle for survival. Moreover, as a homosexual he was returning to a country in which the law had criminalised homoerotic relations. Both composers were born and died in their fatherland and their homelands – Britten in Suffolk, Lutosławski in Warsaw. Their...

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