cover image Beethoven in the Bunker: Musicians Under the Nazi Regime

Beethoven in the Bunker: Musicians Under the Nazi Regime

Fred Brouwers, trans. from the Dutch by Eileen J. Stevens. Other Press, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63542-329-7

Radio and TV host Brouwers makes his English-language debut with this intriguing study of “the complex relationship between Hitler, the Nazis, and music.” In a series of capsule biographies, Brouwers details a range of experiences and attitudes, from Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini’s condemnation of Hitler’s “racist policies and boycott of Jewish musicians” and refusal to perform at the Wagner Festival, to pianist Elly Ney’s vocal support for National Socialism and firm belief “that only someone with a Germanic soul could interpret Beethoven correctly.” Elsewhere, Brouwers notes that Czech pianist and conductor Rafael Schäcter died in a concentration camp after being forced to stage a concert for the Red Cross. Unfortunately, the organization of the biographies occasionally blunts the book’s emotional impact; for example, the chapters on lyricist Fritz Löhner-Beda, who was beaten to death at Auschwitz, and his frequent collaborator, “operetta king” Franz Lehár, who was idolized by Hitler, are oddly separated by an unrelated chapter on the Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg. Though Brouwers’s love of music and fascination with the era come through, this history doesn’t quite reach the crescendo it might have. Photos. (Apr.)