Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth-Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts

Joseph I. Horowitz, Author . Harper $27.50 (458p) ISBN 978-0-06-074846-3

Horowitz’s sophisticated case studies explore a tension in the art of 20th-century performers who emigrated from Europe or Russia: they “both stayed foreign and became American.” A one-time executive director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Horowitz (Classical Music in America ) extends his domain beyond music into other performing arts, examining key exemplars in each discipline such as Igor Stravinsky in music composition, George Balanchine in ballet, and Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg in Hollywood. His understanding of the political nuances of immigrants’ artistic work, influenced by the circumstances in which they fled their native countries, is fascinating. Yet Horowitz emphasizes the Americanization of the artworks at the expense of their European roots. Based on what Horowitz admits is a highly select group of artists, he often poses broad questions and makes bold, generalized statements, such as trivializing the plight of the immigrant artist in contemporary American society: “the tensions of forced migration—of exile and nostalgia—have abated.” Still, what Horowitz lacks in balance he more than makes up for in emotion, and in expounding on the political resonance of the immigrants’ art, he composes an enlightening, informative read. 31 b&w photos. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
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