There’s one thing elfin and even somewhat mischievous in regards to the 102-year-old man who goes by Walter Arlen. The composer lives in a home close to the ocean in Santa Monica, Calif., together with his husband of 65 years. However he was born in Austria, in 1920, as Walter Aptowitzer. He grew up in a cosmopolitan cradle of music and excessive tradition: Vienna earlier than the conflict.
“I grew up in an environment of nice pleasure, so far as I used to be involved,” says Arlen, whose grandfather based a big division retailer — the Warenhaus Dicther — in 1890. “And it grew and grew, as a result of he was an excellent businessman. And there was at all times music, as a result of my grandfather believed in having music within the retailer. And he was the primary one in Vienna who had loudspeakers put in all around the retailer.”
His grandfather paid a younger lady to sit down by a phonograph all day and swap out data. The identical music could be heard on each ground. The Aptowitzers lived in an condominium above the shop, and by age 5, younger Walter had discovered the phrases to all the songs. His aunts would stick the kid up on the shop counter and ask him to sing.
His mom performed piano, his uncle performed fiddle, and he was eight when his dad and mom took him to his first opera: Tosca, by Puccini.
“It bowled me over,” he says. “That was the start of my eager to be a composer.”
The budding musician took piano classes and sang at school. Someday, his instructor had him costume up as Franz Schubert for a classroom celebration of the composer. He was praised for his expertise and inspired to jot down music. It was a contented childhood — “till Hitler got here, and that is when it modified in a single day,” he says. “That was in 1938. Up within the air, the sky was filled with airplanes. That was the occupation of Austria.”
Aptowitzer was 17. His father was imprisoned by the Nazis and his mom was positioned in a psychological hospital. The boy responded by writing a melancholy tune based mostly upon a poem, titled “Es geht wohl anders.” The title, in English, interprets as Issues end up otherwise.
Aptowitzer escaped Austria and moved in with family members in Chicago. Many others in his household weren’t so fortunate: His grandmother died on the Treblinka extermination camp, and his father was taken to Dachau. His mom later died by suicide. In Chicago, Aptowitzer modified his title to Walter Arlen. (He isn’t associated to “Over the Rainbow” composer Harold Arlen.) Arlen staved off despair by writing music. He gained a prize in a tune cycle contest and turned an assistant to the American composer Roy Harris.
Arlen pursued his musical research at UCLA, labored as a driver for Igor Stravinsky and, earlier than lengthy, was employed as a classical critic for the Los Angeles Occasions. I additionally write for the LA Occasions, however had by no means heard of Arlen till I used to be launched to him by Michael Haas — a musical historian who organized for Arlen’s work to be recorded together with many different Jewish composers. For many years, Arlen’s music remained in his desk drawer.
Among the many just lately recorded work is an oratorio, “The Tune of Songs,” based mostly on the traditional Jewish love poem and composed by Arlen within the early Nineteen Fifties.
“It’s music that would solely have been composed by a Viennese composer uprooted and transplanted to America, making an attempt to work out all of his points,” says Haas, who authored the e-book Forbidden Music about Jewish composers banned by Hitler.
Regardless that most of Arlen’s music was written after the Shoah, Haas says it belongs to this distinctive — and uniquely traumatic — place and time. “You understand, these horrible issues that he needed to witness and reside by and simply the tales he has to inform about simply making an attempt to get out of Austria, and the issues that occurred to him and to his household. The one approach he may take care of it was to jot down music … after which shove it within the desk drawer,” Haas says.
In 2006, Haas co-founded the Exilarte Middle for Banned Music in Vienna, which locates, preserves and presents music misplaced in the course of the Holocaust. The impetus started when Haas, a Grammy-winning classical producer for Decca Information, recorded music by Kurt Weill — the German Jewish emigré who wrote “The Threepenny Opera.”
“I saved stumbling throughout names of different composers who had been simply as well-known as Kurt Weill,” Haas says. He factors to the Jewish composers who fled Hitler’s Europe and located success in Hollywood.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, for instance, was a classical prodigy who escaped Austria within the Nineteen Thirties and achieved fame scoring Errol Flynn swashbucklers corresponding to The Sea Hawk. However Haas started to find a whole hidden world of composers who both died in the course of the Holocaust, or turned exiles. They both gave up music or — like Walter Arlen — wrote music that nobody ever heard.
“The extra we recorded,” says Haas, “the extra we all of the sudden found that the music had been, to some extent, additionally intentionally suppressed after the conflict — not as a result of the composers had been Jewish, however as a result of the music didn’t signify the form of post-war, anti-Fascist assertion that society felt was essential in re-educating, you already know, publics after the conflict.”
He factors to the music of the late Robert Fürstenthal — who additionally left Vienna when he was 17, and whose desk-drawer compositions endlessly sounded just like the glory days of his Austrian childhood.
“He was the accounts auditor for the U.S. Navy, for heaven’s sakes, in San Diego,” says Haas. “You may solely think about a extra completely different place to Vienna. I stated, ‘Robert, why did you write within the fashion of Hugo Wolf within the Eighties, Nineteen Nineties, early 2000s?’ And he stated: ‘After I compose, I return to Vienna.’ “
The forensic musicologists on the Exilarte Middle have rescued tons of of works by these composers. They’ve additionally tracked down their heirs and estates — greater than 30 estates all all over the world.
Robert Thompson, president of Sensible Music Group, refers back to the Exilarte group because the “monuments males” of composers and manuscripts. “However I noticed that the lacking a part of it was getting this music out into the world, in order that it might be carried out,” Thompson says. “We spent a number of months speaking to them about how this might work, how we might be of assist as a writer to disseminate all this music.”
Sensible Music Group, which owns the historic publishing firm G. Schirmer, partnered final 12 months with Exilarte to assist resurrect this forgotten and exiled music in public live shows. Publishing royalties go to the Exilarte venture, and composer royalties to the households and estates. Or, within the case of Walter Arlen — who expects to show 103 this July — the composer himself.
“I feel he is our latest and our oldest residing composer,” says Thompson.
Over the many years, Arlen composed some 65 works — a lot of it vocal. It is music trapped within the amber of his reminiscence, music of a Vienna he dearly cherished and was pressured to depart. Professionally, Arlen distinguished himself as a critic. So how would he have reviewed his work?
“If I hadn’t preferred it, I would not have written it,” he says.
And if he hadn’t survived, we by no means would have heard it.