History, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 1997


Published in Central European History, Vol. 30, No. 4 (1997), pp. 611-613 Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association. Used by permission.


Ths is a serious book about "serious" music. Michael Kater's Twisted Muse is the author's second major contribution in five years to the study of music under National Socialism. In hs previous volume, Different Drummers (Oxford, 1992), Kater provided a detailed and nuanced examination of jazz under the Nazis. In his new book, Kater turns his attention to the world of serious (ernste) music, a category encompassing not only classical compositions and performances, but also a good deal of the contemporary music of the 1930s and 1940s.This book bears many of the hallmarks of Kater's earlier work on jazz: resourceful research, copious documentation, straightforward writing, and a good working knowledge of music. Perhaps of even greater importance is that this book, like the one on jazz, succeeds brilliantly in conveying a sense of the ambiguities and contradictions of musical life in Nazi Germany. ... Kater devotes many pages to German musicians who attempted to buck Nazi trends, and to those who left the country. His chapter on "Persecuted and Exiled Jewish and Anti-Nazi Musicians" offers fascinating portraits of several of the century's most important musical figures, such as Bruno Walter, Arnold Schonberg, Otto Klemperer, and Kurt Weill. Kater has performed a valuable service by bringing their stories together in one place, integrating them into a study whose main focus is on what took place inside Germany's borders. These exiled German musicians were, after all, representatives of German musical traditions, a fact that should not be obscured by their physical separation from Germany, or by the willingness of the majority of their colleagues to make music under the auspices of National Socialism

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