15 MARCH 1957, Page 21

Contemporary Arts

Foreign Keys

DURING the past month or so, the BBC have been giving consider- able attention to the music of several of the refugee composers living in this country. Some weeks ago they relayed a performance of Reizenstein's choral cantata Voices of Night. This was fol- lowed by a series of four programmes of the chamber niusic of Seiber and by concertos and other works by Gerhard and Goldschmidt. The lirst three of these have come nearest of the many refugee composers here to gaining an estab- lished place as composers in English musical life and Goldschmidt came to attention when his Beatrice Cenci won one of the four prizes awarded by the Arts Council in their Festival of Britain opera competition. Another of the four prizes was won by Karl Rankl for his Deirdre of the Sorrows. Besides these, Leopold Spinner, Egon Wellesz and now Andrzej Panufnik, the latest arrival, all claim attention as composers.

The refugee composer (or executive musician or painter), like the manual labourer, is luckier than the writer or poet or clerical worker. His work is not with language and he can continue with it wherever he is. There is not much else, though, to envy these eight composers for. With the exception of Wellesz they were all too young to have made a secure international reputation before their forced emigration, which meant that they could not hope to be accepted in their new country as composers but had to begin the struggle for recognition all over again from scratch while trying to earn a living as profes- sional musicians in other capacities. Most of them have found a tolerable solution. Wellesz as a scholar and authority on Eastern music found a welcome at Oxford, Rankl found a use for his experience as an opera conductor in building up the Covent Garden company, Seiber's ability to turn his hand to anything in composition and his brilliant gifts as a teacher brought him film work and an appointment at Morley College, where many younger English composers have benefited from his presence, Reizenstein is a first-rate pianist and Panufnik has been appointed conductor of the Birmingham Symphony Or- chestra. Gerhard lives on air in Cambridge.

No less pressing was the problem of what they should do as composers. This was much more difficult for them than for the refugee composers of the preceding generation. Schoenberg, Bartok, Stravinsky, Milhaud and Hindemith were all world-famous before they emigrated, and when they reached America they were accepted on their own terms and had only to go on being themselves Wherever they were. Their successors, being no- body as far as the public in their new country knew, had to decide whether it would be better to try to make their original selves somebody in their new country or to siart from the beginning to establish themselves as English composers. Most of them have compromised according to their adaptability. The most adaptable of them all is Seiber, whose music is completely cosmo- politan and perfectly integrates all the influences that he has ever encountered. Reizenstein, who Was young enough when he came here to study With Vaughan Williams, has made a determined attempt at anglicisation in Voices of Night (modelled to some extent on Britten's Sprt:ng Symphony), and has also written an opera in English, like Goldschmidt, Rankl, Wellesz and Gerhard. As far as their music is known, however, the German and Austrian group have all retained their German musical accent, while Gerhard, who has chosen a Spanish theme, has never attempted in any way to make himself an English composer.

Even if they had succeeded in making their music more English, it is doubtful whether this would have solved many problems for them. All born, with the exception of Wellesz, between 1896 and 1914, they are contemporaries of a flourish- ing generation of talented English composers from Bliss to Britten, including Bush, Rubbra, Walton, Berkeley, Tippett and Rawsthorne, It would be unreasonable to expect them, other things being equal, to meet with the same en- couragement here as these native composers. Most of them have, in fact, been reasonably treated and appreciated here and have managed to acquire a fair national reputation in propor- tion to their talents. Where they have been less fortunate is in their chance of building up an international reputation. It is not only that in choosing works to send abroad official English institutions will almost inevitably think of native composers first, but also that foreign musicians inquiring into English music will want the native thing and will tend to pass over the naturalised composers. On the other hand, they have little hope of being chosen abroad as representatives of their country of origin, which most of them left either too early to have made their mark or for political reasons which will prevent their being officially recognised by their own country.

Apart from all these practical difficulties of not belonging, there is also the spiritual difficulty. Even the older émigré composers who were already well established when they left did not find it easy to continue being themselves. The younger composers left no threads long enough to pick up and must remain British corn- posers—meaning, in fact, spiritually Stateless com- posers. Materially they have little to complain of in this country, nor do they. Nor would they necessarily have stood higher internationally if they had been able to remain in their original country. Rankl and Goldschmidt, although both prolific, are probably conductors rather than composers, and Wellesz, who came out as a well- established composer, seems, like Krenek, to have lacked the necessary creative stamina. Spinner has produced relatively little and that too flinch like Webern to make much mark, as Reizenstein's music is too much like Hindemith's. Had he been able to stay in Germany, however, Reizenstein would undoubtedly have got farther than he has here. Seiber, who left Hungary in his teens to seek his fortune in Germany, would probably have become an accepted figure of German musi- cal life as his compatriots Frid and Harstinyi did in Holland and France or as Martinu did in France. How Panufnik may progress is too early yet to know. There remains Gerhard, the oldest of the group except for Wellesz, the most original and the least fortunate. In his early years, seeking to get out of the narrow nationalist rut in which Spanish composers were all stuck and from which even Falla had not been able to escape, he went for five years' study with Schoenberg and on his return seemed likely to rescue Spanish music from itself at last. When he was forced

into exile, not only was he prevented front carrying this out, but his own genius, isolated and deprived of the nourishment of its own environ- ment, was frustrated and deflected from its natural and most fruitful line of development. He has an almost exact Hungarian equivalent in Sandor Veress, who, as the one Hungarian com- poser capable of holding his own against the overpowering influence of Bartok and Kodily and of finding a new, post-nationalist direction for Hungarian music, should have been enjoying national and international recognition as his country's most important composer since them, but is struggling against obscurity in Switzerland.

Transplanted before they had reached their full stature in their original soil, but too late to take proper root in the new, all these composers have been denied the full fruition of their talents. With Gerhard and Veress, not only the composers but also the music of their native countries and European music generally are