International Centre For Suppressed Music

Continental Britons – The Émigré Composers

In 2002 ICSM embarked on a project focusing on ‘Continental Britons – The Émigré Composers’. There were two Wigmore Hall concerts and a seminar at the Royal College of Medicine, focusing on composers Hans Gal, Egon Wellesz, Matyas Seiber, Berthold Goldschmidt, Franz Reizenstein, Peter Gellhorn and Vilem Tausky. This project culminated in a double CD of the Wigmore Hall concerts produced by Michael Haas and issued on the Nimbus label. It also stimulated more activity from our international partners.

One of the visitors to our ‘Continental Britons – The Émigré Composers’ programme was Dr Karl Weinberger, Director of the Jewish Museum in Vienna. He formulated the idea of hosting exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in Vienna about the composers who had had to flee Austria. He engaged Michael Haas as the curator. The first exhibition was general and showed how all aspects of music in Austria were infused with Jewish expertise. As Michael said in the introduction to ‘Continental Britons’: ‘At the time of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Jewish musicians were perhaps Germany’s and Austria’s most important living cultural assets. There was hardly a note of popular music that did not rely on Jewish artists for either the tunes or the words, and often both. Jewish musicians were equally active in the established and avant-garde music scenes…..’

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ICSM also records oral testimony of composers and musicians of the early part of the 20th Century who came to the UK. Particularly we have filmed interviews with émigrés Vilem Tausky and Peter Gellhorn as well as Spoli Mills, daughter of film and cabaret composer Misha Spoliansky (all of whom have since died). ICSM also strives to see that archives of these composers are safely lodged with appropriate institutions.