Bruckner al fresco
That is the view of the Pic du Canigou, the Catalan holy mountain, seen this morning from where we are staying at Le Racou in Languedoc. At the foot of Canigou is Prades where Pablo Casals lived in exile from the Spanish fascists, and in previous years I have followed the path of the refugees who fled from Spain only to be interned in French concentration camps in the last months of the Spanish Civil War. But such is humanity's propensity to do evil to its fellows that just eighteen months later the flow of refugees was reversed as Jews and other 'undesirables' fled from the fascist powers in Germany and Vichy France into Spain. Their number included Alma Mahler and her third husband the Jewish Austrian-Bohemian author Franz Werfel. Rendered stateless by the Nazis and without exit visas, Werfel and his wife were forced to cross the French/Spanish border in September 1940 by climbing high into the Aspres range, which is an extension of the Pyrénées, to avoid French gardes mobiles who were stooges of the Gestapo. Among the Werfel's baggage were Mahler manuscripts and the autograph score of Bruckner's Third Symphony, which Alma had kept out of the hands of another passionate Brucknerian, Adolf Hitler. This year our travels have been informed by that little-known east to west flow of refugees which was facilitated by the enigmatic American journalist Varian Fry and included a number of prominent intellectuals. The photo below was taken by my wife as we literally followed the path of the Werfels and the Bruckner manuscript over the mountains to safety in Spain. More to follow on this story, meanwhile a lighter take on Alma Mahler here.
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