VC INTERVIEW | Conductor James Conlon on Selling Works by Silenced Composers

(Photograph credit score: Dan Steinberg)


The Colburn Faculty’s Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices encourages higher consciousness of composers whose lives had been disrupted or ended by the Nazi regime in Europe. Established at Colburn in 2013, the undertaking goals to deliver this essential repertory again to life by way of performances, courses, competitions, symposia, recordings, and extra.

Its latest on-line sequence delves into the life and music of Erwin Schulhoff (1894–1942). Schulhoff’s life and profession are emblematic of the composers whose legacies had been destroyed throughout, and following, 1933–1945 on account of Nazi repression. He, like all Jewish composers and lots of non-Jewish composers, was branded by the regime as “degenerate.”

The net sequence is being streamed on The Violin Channel’s Fb web page.


Why do you’re feeling it’s so essential to share these composers and their works with a wider viewers?

There are three crucial causes for doing all the things we will to resurrect the music and the names of those composers. The primary motive is an ethical motive. If we’re given the chance to right an injustice, we have now an ethical obligation to take action — that is for all walks of life. An injustice was meted out to those composers. Lots of them misplaced their lives. Lots of them had been pressured to immigrate. We will not give them again their lives, however we will do the one factor that might imply greater than the rest, which is to play their music.

A second motive is a historic motive. It is the job of historians, each time there may be new data obtainable, to revisit any given topic and to right what might need been mistaken or omitted or just to revisit its context. I imagine we have now to do that with 20th-century music.

The third motive is an important one, and that’s an inventive motive. None of this could be essential if the music wasn’t any good. I don’t suggest performing this music just because it was written by any individual who was victimized by genocide. It issues music that belongs to the identical group because the composers whom you realize significantly better, however was written by somebody who was within the mistaken place on the mistaken time.

The Nazi regime was defeated, and but they succeeded in a single factor to at the present time. They eliminated the names of those composers from widespread information. Their music continues to be deprived right now by a political motion that died nearly 80 years in the past. It’s an object lesson in how straightforward it’s to destroy and the way troublesome it’s to rebuild.


Because the pandemic shutdown campuses worldwide, the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices discovered a method to attain audiences on-line by way of Recovered Voices: Schulhoff and Extra. Would you inform us extra about this on-line sequence?

For the previous seven years, the Ziering-Conlon Initiative had supplied an annual course on the Colburn campus referred to as Recovered Voices: An Examination of Lesser-Recognized Composers and Works of the Early Twentieth Century. As a consequence of COVID, the in-person course was reimagined for digital platforms and have become Recovered Voices 2021: Schulhoff and Extra. Every 45-minute section explores the life and legacy of Erwin Schulhoff, an awfully progressive composer, with musical examples recorded and carried out by Colburn musicians.

I used to be thrilled that we discovered a method to push by way of the pandemic-related challenges and proceed our mission by way of the streaming of our discussions. My hope is that with the expanded, now-virtual attain of this sequence, we will attain an excellent bigger viewers to attract consideration to the composers like Erwin Schulhoff, whose lives had been shortened however whose music can dwell on by way of all of us.


What’s subsequent on the horizon for the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at Colburn?

We’re about to increase all of our actions, having realized from our expertise in the course of the COVID pandemic the right way to make the most of the Web with a view to current our story and our program. I am very inspired by our nice fortune to collaborate with the Colburn Faculty and by the generosity of our fantastic patron Marilyn Ziering, who continues to encourage our progress and actions.

The Colburn Faculty is uniquely positioned to deal with this mission; I do not know of some other faculty making such vital contributions to this space. In the event you examine Colburn with universities with 30,000 college students, we’re not solely holding our weight, we’re punching above it and can do way more. I imagine we’ll make a distinction sooner or later.

What can college students, performers, and audiences do to change into extra concerned and assist right this injustice?

The place do I feel the answer lies? With all of us and also you. When younger musicians change into curious, they will change the musical panorama. They want solely to make the additional effort to familiarize themselves with composers whose music was banned and, for a mixture of very sophisticated historic causes, continued to be ignored after the second World Battle.

These composers have written items for solo piano, string quartets, chamber music, orchestra items, operas, and tune literature. There are a enough quantity to maintain any live performance corridor open even when you performed nothing else for a number of seasons — in order that’s lots of music. You could find extra data on these composers on the OREL Basis web site.

These of you who aren’t musicians however are music lovers, you can also play an infinite function on this revival: simply by being curious. Go surfing, search for this music, take heed to it, after which deliver it to the eye of your neighbor, your grandchild, or anyone the following time there is a live performance. Discuss it. Let the names be heard.

The truth that a lot of this music continues to be not performed is a posthumous victory on the a part of the Nazi regime. I am decided to do all the things I can so that such victory is denied to them, even at such a late date. When this music is being performed all over the place, then I’ll know that victory has been reversed—that is my aim.



The Recovered Voices on-line sequence will proceed with episodes that includes Robert Elias (“What and Why ‘Degenerate’ Music”) and Dr. Lily E. Hirsch (“Jewish Ladies Composers Through the Nazi Regime: Twice Censored”) to be launched at a later date.