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Wilhelm Grosz on three continents – September and November, 2017

On Thursday 14 September 2017, Wilhelm Grosz’s first large work for orchestra, Serenade Op. 5 was performed by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Conrad van Alphen.  Having received its premiere with the Dresden Staatskapelle under Franz von Hoeßlin in January 1921 and a repeat performance by the Vienna Philharmonic under Felix Weingartner in the same month, we believe this to be only the third time that the work has been heard.  It was immensely exciting to hear this work in Cape Town, and I am especially grateful to our Principal Investigator, Dr Stephen Muir, for the countless hours he contributed in assisting with score preparation.  Some work still remains to correct minor issues in parts, but interest has now been expressed for more of Grosz’s orchestral repertoire.

Soon after my return to Australia, I participated in an important Symposium at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, entitled “Best Practice in Artistic Research in Music”. Many excellent papers were presented from outstanding research-practitioners across Australia.  My paper, entitled “Family ties: Negotiating ethics in researching and performing private archives”, focused on my work with the Forman-Grosz family in bringing holdings of their archive back to the listening public, through the many performances of Grosz’s work during our five performance festivals.

On Friday 24 November I took part in another Symposium, this time by Skype.  Part of a mini-festival entitled “Entente musicale: Wilhelm Grosz Wien – London – New York”, the symposium was a collaborative initiative of the the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna and the Instituts für Wissenschaft und Forschung der Musik und Kunst Privatuniversität der Stadt Wien (MUK).  The evening prior to the Symposium saw students from the MUK directed by Dr Andreas Stoehr in a performance of Grosz’s Bänkel und Balladen Op. 31. According to Dr Michael Haas, Senior Researcher, exilArte Center at the University for Music and the Performing Arts (MDW), the performance was superb. Also included on the program was Schönberg’s Bänkl Lieder and Hanns Eisler’s 14 Ways of Describing the Rain. My paper the next day was entitled “Imperative Aesthetics: the life and stylistic range of Wilhelm Grosz”. Despite concomitant Skype issues, the paper was well received, and I had excellent technical assistance from Philipp Gutmann in showing excerpts from Grosz performances in our various festivals, demonstrating the extraordinary range of aesthetic interests explored during the composer’s life. Enthusiasm and interest in Grosz is building around the world, and this would not have been possible without the performances presented by Performing the Jewish Archive.

The Australian icon Barry Humphries AO CBE was recently featured in a late November documentary on Sky Arts.  Entitled “Passions | Barry Humphries on The Music Hitler Banned”, the documentary explored Humphries’ enthusiasm for music, art, film and theatre of the interwar period in Germany and Austria, including his love and enthusiasm for the music of Wilhelm Grosz. In August we welcomed Mr Humphries at two of the Sydney performances for Performing the Jewish Archive, and we hope to work with him in bringing Grosz to many more audiences in the future. In this endeavour we are incredibly grateful to Jean Forman Grosz, custodian of the family archive, along with Dr. Michael Haas, Professor Gerold Gruber and the ExilArte Zentrum at the MDW (University of Music and the Performing Arts, Vienna).

Dr. Joseph Toltz

Sydney Conservatorium of Music

The University of Sydney


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