Heinrich Kaminsky - an emerging composer

I wrote, and reblogged, my research article Furtwängler and the forgotten new music to draw attention to some unknown music from what is described below as "this troubled period in music history." The following informed comments on the article therefore delighted me. Thank you Daniel in Frankfurt, and Garth in Washington DC, for making it all worthwhile

Daniel Wolf wrote - The case of Max Trapp is fairly clear: he was a Nazi, and an early one. His "Appell an die Schaffenden" ("Call to Creative Artists"), in _Die Musik_,in which he identified himself as such, was published in June of 1933. The 1951 performance is simply a reminder that de-Nazification was slow.

The most interesting musician on your list may well be Heinrich Kaminsky (photo left), and one whose career provides a useful contrast to Trapp. Kaminsky's father was an Old Catholic priest of Jewish background, and Kaminsky, who was Pfitzner's successor at the Prussian Academy of the Arts, lost that position in 1933 due to his political outlook. (Perhaps Furtwangler's programming of Kaminsky in 1934 and 1937 may be additional evidence of his independence.)

Garth Trinkl wrote - Daniel, what are your criteria for holding Heinrich Kaminsky perhaps the most important (or rather interesting) of the listed composers? While I have heard some works by Braunfels, Jarnach, Toch, Marx, Holler, Rathaus, Vogel, von Schillings, and Pepping; I believe that Kaminsky is no more than a name to me, and that I have not heard anything by him. (Do you have the inclination and time to develop Kaminsky's Wikipedia site?)

I might counter you, Daniel, that today's international music community holds Walter Braunfels to be the most talented of the above listed composers and Wladimir Vogel the most "interesting", musically. All this, of course, could change with more research, advocacy, and informed performances. I also recall American musicologist Robert P. Morgan mentioning at Juilliard, in 1976, that he thought that Wladimir Vogel's Thyl Claes was the greatest unrecognized masterpiece of this troubled period in music history.

Daniel Wolf replied - I wouldn't take much stock of a curent consensus opinion: given sufficient information the consensus will change, and both information about Kaminski and performances of his works have been rare. Kaminski was called to my attention by none other than Heinz-Klaus Metzger, and Metzger spoke of being shocked (a) not to have encountered his music previously, and (b) not to have heard a bad piece from him. If my view from Frankfurt means anything, the musicological assessment is changing and the emerging music and figure of Kaminski is one of the reasons why.

Kaminiski's invisibility is rather easy to explain. Beyond simply belonging to an age-group of composers who have been mostly forgotten, his work was difficult to "place". It was mystical, but not confessional, like Distler or Pepping; his tonal language was contrapuntal but not neo-baroque, and his students were as excluded from concert life as he was after his exclusion and internal immigration in 1933, so he lacked advocates. His two operas -- and operas were career-defining for his generation -- are said to be problematical, but I cannot judge without having read the scores. In any case, his genres were orchestral music, a few pieces of chamber music, and choral music, of which no pieces appear to be weak.

Kaminski's contrapuntal technique was phenomenal and his tonal language -- especially in pieces like the Dorische Musik für Orchester or the Musik für Violoncello und Klavier points to an alternative path in the course of 20th century German music. In fact, it is easy to imagine that had Kaminski participated in post-war musical life, at Darmstadt for example, its development would have been substantially different, although it is unclear whether he would have ever accepted the role of a school-defining composer. The Kaminsky who wrote "Es ist nicht Sache der Kunst, Gefühle auszudrücken. Musik ist da, um zu klingen und lebendig zu sein. Sie stellt nichts dar. Sie ist Leben an sich." ("It's not the function of music to express feelings. Music exists, to sound, and to be alive. It represents nothing. It is life itself.") was clearly a modernist, but his modernity was one substantially different to the more familiar paths.

As to the names on your list, my assessment is that Toch is the best known, Jarnach is probably held in as much esteem as Braunfels, and Vogel is widely appreciated for his early Busoni-inspired experiments, but the musical significance of Vogel's work -- he was active through the early 1980's -- is less clear, with the post-war developments in his catalog generally, in a word, disappointing. Jarnach is a bit of a curiosity as his principle works were written exclusively in the 1920s, and his post-war career was as an administrator and teacher in Hamburg.

Now visit the excellent blogs of Daniel and Garth - Renewable Music and Renaissance Research

* Links to the composers mentioned are available from my original article - Furtwängler and the forgotten new music

Photo credit - Classical-composers.org Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Garth Trinkl said…
Thanks, Pliable, for these mentions. Of course, it was your important research that got Daniel and I thinking about our experiences with mid-20th century German classical music.


And on the passing of Sir Malcolm Arnold this past weekend:

Here is Pliable's post on the late Sir Malcolm Arnold's Symphony #9 --"Arnold's 9th - neglected 20th century masterpiece?"


Here is the link to the official Sir Malcolm Arnold site:


(I also recommend Arnold's Symphony #7.)

And here are links to Naxos Recordings where you can listen to Arnold's Symphonies #9, 7, and 8; as well as an interview Sir Malcolm had with conductor Andrew Penny:



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