Link to home page

Neue Musik-Zeitschrift

(Munich, 1946-1949)

Prepared by Ole Hass, Peter Sühring
Introduction by Peter Sühring
Online only (2017)

The Neue Musik-Zeitschrift [New music newspaper; acronym NZE] was published monthly in Munich from December 1946 to December 1950, under license by the American military government. The journal had two subtitles: Monatsschrift für Musiker und Musik-Freunde [Monthly Journal of musicians and music-friends] and from issue 4 of the fourth year: Organ für internationales Musikleben [Organ for international musical life]. NZE was published in Munich "Erasmus-Verlag," a subsidiary of Ernst Reinhardt Verlag, and, from issue No. 4 of the second volume (1948) by J. & S. Federmann Verlag, in the "Ernst Reinhardt Bücherreihe" [Ernst Reinhardt Book Series]. The journal concludes as an independent publication at the end of 1950 and merges with Musica, a journal published in Kassel. There is a gap in the publication schedule, for example, a July 1947 issue was not published. Three issues are double issues: 5/6 and 8/9 in 1949 and 2/3 in 1950. Each single issue contains about thirty-two pages while the double issues contain forty-eight pages. The continuous numbering of the pages of each year begins with the number 1. The partly full-page image attachments on satin paper are without page numbers. From the outset, the journal contains advertisements on the cover pages and on pages at the conclusions of the issues.

The NZE is closely connected with the activities of the Munich Tonkünstlerverband (Munich Musicians Association) and although a preference for events in Munich and local authors is noticeable, an effort is made to avoid a regional limitation of coverage. A number of special issues are dedicated to particular composers on the occasions of their anniversaries: Franz Schubert (vol. 1, No. 2), Felix Mendelssohn (vol. 1, No. 11) in 1947, Hans Pfitzner and Richard Strauss (vol. 3, No. 5/6) in 1949; Johann Sebastian Bach (vol. 4, No. 5) and Ludwig van Beethoven (vol. 4, No. 12) in 1950.

Carl Siegmund Benedict (1876-1960) was editor throughout the entire run of NZE. Benedict worked as a music critic, primarily in Munich, and published three books devoted exclusively to Richard Wagner: in 1913 an edition of Wagner’s letters, an analysis of Parsifal from the "human-ethical point of view"; and, in 1952, criticism of the recent productions of Wagner’s operas at Bayreuth. As editor, Benedict maintained relatively balanced reporting, but also allowed polemical criticism of “Neutöner” [New style composers]. He was probably the initiator of the special issue about Mendelssohn, who had been outlawed by the National Socialists. The outlawing of Mendelssohn’s music in Germany for about twelve years is laid out in the journal with an amazing display of knowledge. However, Benedict left uncorrected an objectively false statement that Schoenberg was not a rooted occidental as a permissible opinion. In addition, to Benedict, the influence of the literary scholar and musicologist Wilhelm Zentner (1893 1982), active in Munich, cannot be overlooked, as he held a significant position as administrative secretary of the Musicians' Association of Munich. His conservatism is clear, but he was “gleichgeschaltet” [forced into line] in Nazi Germany, and had written a eulogy on the abolition of free music criticism in 1937. Zentner researched the works of Johann Peter Hebel, from 1938 to 1941 was the program director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, and from 1946 the orchestra’s spokesman. After his release from American imprisonment following the Second World War, he was lecturer in opera history at the Munich Academy of Music, Lecturer of Music at the Bavarian Academy of Arts and, for four decades, with Anton Würz, editor of several editions of the famous Reclam Opern- und Operettenführer [Reclam guide to opera and operetta].

The regular order of the journal’s contents are as follows: (1) music-historical articles or essays on individual composers, eras and genres, as well as contributions on the exploration of new music, especially by composers of the young generation; (2) concert reviews from all parts of Germany, increasingly only from the Western zones, the Federal Republic of Germany; (3) reviews of music books and sheet music; (4) assorted messages from the musical world under various headings; (5) as an appendix: announcement and reports from the internal life of the Munich Association of Musicians, all printed in single-column format with many illustrations and maps. Sections 2 through 4 appear in two-column format and contain sections with subtitles, including musical correspondence (letters containing performance reviews and radio broadcasts), new music books and sheet music, and notes from the world of music (short messages).

As a common thread of the debate about new music runs through all the volumes, in which music historians, composers and listeners from all generations are involved. With outspoken sympathy the rehabilitation of Paul Hindemith is discussed. For Hindemith, who formerly had been combated, was now regarded as the one who returned to the German traditions. Even Schoenberg's return to tonality is registered and welcomed, and special events for New Music in Darmstadt (“Kranichsteiner holiday courses”) and Donaueschingen are perused with skepticism. In concert reviews the involvement of musicians and conductors for the acknowledgment and support of contemporary music is generally received with positive appreciation. The concept of "new music" is viewed broadly, often including (because of the pent-up demand in Germany) music that was already thirty or forty years old yet still perceived as novel and subversive. Even representatives of the older generation in Germany, such as Carl Orff, Werner Egk, Ernst Pepping and Hugo Distler were included to this group, but the greatest respect was given to the traditionalists such as Hans Pfitzner and Richard Strauss, both of whom died in the period soon after the Second World War. Separate from these composers is another concept of New music (articulated by the capital N): those who emphasize a complete break with the tradition. Highlighting this position is the review of the German edition of the book “Philosophie der neuen Musik” [Philosophy of new music] by Theodor W. Adorno, both through inclusion of excerpts in the first section of the journal, outside the actual review section, and through a detailed and serious review. A philosophical reviewer was selected for this task, one Oscar von Pander, who had, as a composer and music journalist (editor of the Münchener Neueste Nachrichten until 1945), had disadvantageously declared himself in favor of SS (“Schutzstaffel”) music events. The tone of the review is extremely benevolent, moderate, but Pander points out many weak points of Adorno’s dogmatic reasoning. The editorial board of the NZE tried to build a staff of correspondents from all over Germany far beyond friendly colleagues in Munich, particularly from those the western zones and specific cities and regions of West Germany.

* * *

A significant product of its time after the defeat of the German Third Reich, the NZE attempted to liberate musicians from the specifications and thought-prohibitions of Nazi ideology. The general style of the writing is the rather laborious German music journalism practiced after the Second World War. NZE is a "trend magazine," because it counted itself as part of the stream of a so-called "moderate modernity," and propagated the ideals of this movement. Thus it becomes the basis of many musical aesthetic opinions and current ideas. However, the membership of the permanent staff is largely composed of former propagandists of Nazi ideology in the field of music, where the former official line, a combative state doctrine against oppressed minorities, presents views and dogmas as private opinions of conservative and backward-looking authors. Some articles must be understood as polemics against the impositions of an avant-garde, which reappeared actively in Germany, and whose artistic activities, aesthetic values, and mere right to exist could no longer be prohibited. The old denunciatory tone of voices, raised against other musical directions by Hans Pfitzner, and against "musical impotence," dating from the era of the Third Reich, are revived. The old presumption of the superiority of German music compared to that of other nations, a common practice long before 1933 and until 1945 state doctrine, is now transferred to the pan-European level, and one reads of the superiority of Western Music, which per writers in the NZE must be defended.

On the other hand, attempts are made in NZE to allow serious, combative defenders of new music have their say, by explaining the different directions of modern music production which had developed outside Germany in the twelve years of dictatorship and war. Even among music critics, who write about current concerts with performances of contemporary music, there are those who are open to innovations and enhancements of the musical style. In this respect, the editorial work wears a liberal coat despite the programmatic setting. But none of the authors, formerly self-representing the Nazi ideology, found it necessary to distance themselves from their own earlier publications published during the Third Reich, in which they had published polemics against "degenerate" musicians or had praised "folkloric” music events. In general, they distance themselves merely from the "excesses" of National Socialism.

The oppression, expulsion and extermination of musicians from racial or ideological reasons are rarely addressed openly. The fact that representatives of their own direction ("moderate modernity") or even traditionalists were persecuted by the Nazis for racial reasons, such as being of Jewish parentage, is concealed; this can be seen in the case of the composer Günther Raphael, who reappeared after 1945. A "helpless anti-fascism" appears terminologically in dark hints and mystifying terms such as "disaster," "catastrophe," etc. Writers avoid mentioning the Nazi ideology by name, and to attack them, because often one had to distance oneself from one’s own past. In part, it is operated in the same terms that were in the Nazi era frequently employed: “Volksverbundenheit” [attachment to the people], “Musikantentum” [minstrelsy], "Romantik gegen Konstruktvismus” [romantic against constructivism], “Gefühl gegen Intellektualität” [feeling against intellectuality]) to establish and maintain questionable opposites.