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Der Auftakt

(Prague, 1920-1938)

Prepared by Ole Hass
Online only (2019)

The Prague music journal Der Auftakt (“The Upbeat,” subtitled as “Musikblätter für die tschechoslowakische Republik” and later “Moderne Musikblätter”) formed from the Musiklehrerzeitung [Journal for music teachers] (1913-16). Edited by Felix Adler (1876-1928) for the first eight issues, under its next editor, Erich Steinhard, Der Auftakt soon developed into one of the leading German-language modern music journals of the time and became the center of Czech-German musical collaboration in the Czechoslovakian Republic between the wars. Adolf Weißmann, eminent music critic from Berlin, writes: “Among the journals that avoid all distortions of perspective, the Auftakt stands at the front. It has gained international importance through the weight of its varied contributions and the clarity of mind of its main editor.” The journal stopped publication without prior announcement in the middle of volume eighteen, likely a result of the growing influence of Nazi Germany.

Der Auftakt was published at first by Johann Hoffmanns Witwe, Prague, then, starting with the third volume in 1923, by the Auftaktverlag, a direct venture of the Musikpädagogischer Verband. The journal was introduced as a bimonthly publication, but except for the first volume appearing in twenty issues from December 1920 to the end of 1921, all volumes contain twelve monthly issues, many of them combined into double issues. The issues are undated, but a line with the date for the “Redaktionsschluss” [copy deadline], separating the edited content from the following advertisements, sometimes gives the publishing date. The cover design by Fritz Ehlotzky, featuring a stylized silhouette of a man playing an aulos-like double wind instrument, was a product of a design competition; it appears with the first issue of volume two and from then on graces all issues of the otherwise unadorned run.

Der Auftakt remained the official organ of the Musikpädagogischer Verband in Prague throughout its run, and the first volumes regularly contain “Verbandsnachrichten” or “Mitteilungen” (both communications from the association). With the initiation of the International Society for Contemporary Music in London in 1922 (ISCM, in German Internationale Gesellschaft für Neue Musik, IGNM), Der Auftakt also became the organ of its German section in Czechoslovakia, and editor Steinhard shared a vote with Karel Boleslav Jirák (professor of composition at the Czech conservatory) as representatives of their bilingual country. The Czech-language Prague modern music journal Listy Hudební Matice (1921-39 and 1946-48, from 1927 Tempo) was the organ for the Czech section.

For a discussion of Der Auftakt’s editors, a list of special issues, summaries of significant performances reviewed, institutions regularly covered, and authors identified, please consult the full introduction, available from the “Complete Introduction” link, above.