Books October 2000
Orpheus in Hell
A review of Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits by Michael H. Kater.
Today, the exhortative power of music for political ends is a forgotten topic. But as anyone who was alive during World War II in the United States remembers, things were different then. This brand of musical motivation was all around us. Now, hurtling as we are into the new millennium, we are as far from the stirring “God Bless America” as sung by Kate Smith as we are from Marc Blitzstein’s Airborne Symphony, Randall Thompson’s Testament of Freedom, Earl Robinson’s Ballad for Americans—even Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, though the latter work still appears on musical programs around the Fourth of July. During the war, there was a commonality that permeated all echelons of society, and the music that emanated from that collective sense of purpose came in all sorts of guises, from the above-mentioned musical artifacts to War Bond rallies to broadcasts by Toscanini,...
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