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A Semblance of Freedom: Karl Amadeus Hartmann between Democratic Renewal and Cold War, 1945–7


For more than a decade, literature on the cultural politics of the Cold War in postwar Europe has done much to question the notion that the political manipulation of music was confined to the Soviet bloc, and that musicians in the West enjoyed untrammelled autonomy and freedom. This article focuses on the case of the German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann, presenting evidence that the reorientation he underwent in the late 1940s (during which he revised, retitled, or suppressed nearly all the works he had composed between 1930 and 1945) was motivated not by purely aesthetic or personal considerations, as some writers have suggested, but by strong pressures to eradicate from his output all manifestations of social(ist) and political commitment. In Bavaria, where Hartmann lived, anti-communism was rife in political circles. Meanwhile, in the cultural sphere, critics such as Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt (strongly influenced by Nicolas Nabokov) abandoned their pre-war commitment to socially relevant art, denounced Shostakovich (a composer much admired by Hartmann), and began promoting Schoenberg as a rational, apolitical exemplar of formalism in music. Against this background – and in the light of his experiences with one work in particular, the Symphonische Ouvertüre ‘China kämpft’ – Hartmann felt compelled to reassess his political position.

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Amy C. Beal Negotiating Cultural Allies: American Music in Darmstadt 1946–1956’. Journal of the American Musicological Society 53/1 (2000), 105–39.

Michael Hochgeschwender . Freiheit in der Offensive? Der Kongreß für kulturelle Freiheit und die Deutschen. Munich: Oldenbourg, 1998.

Kristina Kratz-Kessemeier . Kunst für die Republik: die Kunstpolitik des preußischen Kultusministeriums 1918 bis 1932. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2008.

Anne C. Shreffler Berlin Walls: Dahlhaus, Knepler, and Ideologies of Music History’. Journal of Musicology 20/4 (2003), 498525.

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Twentieth-Century Music
  • ISSN: 1478-5722
  • EISSN: 1478-5730
  • URL: /core/journals/twentieth-century-music
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