The term ‘entartet’ (degenerate) was not invented by the Nazis. Already in the nineteenth century it was used in criminology, meaning something like ‘biologically degenerated’. The term was eagerly borrowed by the rulers of the Third Reich to prohibit the expressions of art that they considered ‘non-Aryan’. Modernism, expressionism, jazz … And everything that had to do with Jews, because they were already seen as a degenerate race.
What had begun as a ban soon developed into exclusion and resulted in murder. Those who had managed to flee to America or England have survived the war. Those who stayed in Europe were doomed.
Many, mainly Czech composers were deported via Terezín to the extermination camps, many ended up there directly. After the war they were totally forgotten, and thus murdered for the second time. Those who survived were found hopelessly old-fashioned and no longer played.
It was only at the end of the 1980s that it became clear that Korngold was more than a composer of Hollywod scores; that without Schreker and Zemlinski there would probably have been no Strauss either and that Boulez and Stockhausen were not the first to experiment with serialism. The turnaround came too late for most of the survivors …
In Germany the foundation Musica Reanimata was established, but the Netherlands did not stay behind either. Under the name Musica Ritrovata a few enthusiasts have tried to bring the music back to the concert halls.
That this succeeded was partly thanks to Channel Classics. The Dutch CD label, founded by Jared Sachs was the very first to record the music of forgotten composers.
Already in 1991 and 1992 they released four CD’s with music of the ‘Theresienstadt – Composer’ of whom one had almost never heard before: Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, Pavel Haas, Viktor Ullman… Even though the last three were really household names before the war. Gideon Klein had not had the chance – he was murdered in the gas chambers at the age of 24.
The first four Channel Classics CDs were truly pioneering. Hans Krása’s child opera Brundibarwas recorded in Prague. Brundibar was actually composed before the war, but its premiere took place in Terezín, in 1943.
The CD (CCS 5198) was combined with songs by Domažlicky. Not a high-flyer, but certainly interesting.