Classical Music in the German Democratic Republic

Classical Music in the German Democratic Republic

Production and Reception

Edited by Kyle Frackman, Larson Powell


Camden House



Approaches the topic of classical music in the GDR from an interdisciplinary perspective, questioning the assumption that classical music functioned purely as an ideological support for the state.
Classical music in the German Democratic Republic is commonly viewed as having functioned as an ideological support or cultural legitimization for the state, in the form of the so-called "bourgeois humanist inheritance." The large numbers of professional orchestras in the GDR were touted as a proof of the country's culture. Classical music could be seen as the polar opposite of Americanizing pop culture and also of musical modernism, which was decried as formalist. Nevertheless, there were still musical modernists in the GDR, and classical music traditions were not only a prop of the state.
This collection of new essays approaches the topic of classical music in the GDR from an interdisciplinary perspective, presenting the work of scholars in a number of complementary disciplines, including German Studies, Musicology, Aesthetics, and Film Studies. Contributors to this volume offer a broad examination of classical music in the GDR, while also uncovering nonconformist tendencies and questioning the assumption that classical music in the GDR meant nothing but (socialist) respectability.

Contributors: Tatjana Böhme-Mehner, Martin Brady, Lars Fischer, Kyle Frackman, Golan Gur, Peter Kupfer, Albrecht von Massow, Carola Nielinger-Vakil, Jessica Payette, Larson Powell, Juliane Schicker, Martha Sprigge, Matthias Tischer, Jonathan L. Yaeger, Johanna Frances Yunker

Kyle Frackman is Assistant Professor of Germanic Studies at the University of British Columbia. Larson Powell is Professor of German at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


June 2015
13 black and white, 12 line illustrations
274 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571139160
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC MUS006000, MUS020000, HIS014000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Music and Heritage in the German Democratic Republic
Provincialism, Modernity, and the Classical Heritage: The Administrative Structure of the GDR and the Situation of Music Production
Classicism as Anti-Fascist Heritage: Realism and Myth in Ernst Hermann Meyer's Mansfelder Oratorium (1950)
Positioning Georg Knepler in the Musicological Discourse of the GDR
Ehrt euren Deutschen Meister: Reproducing Wagner in the GDR
The Embodiment of Collective Memory in Neue Odyssee
Marxism and Feminism in Ruth Berghaus's Staging of Don Giovanni
Beyond the Gewandhaus: Mahler and the GDR
Hanns Eisler's Funeral and Cultures of Commemoration in the GDR
Exile-Remigration-Socialist Realism: The Role of Classical Music in the Works of Paul Dessau
"What a Satisfying Task for a Composer!": Paul Dessau's Music for The German Story (.Du und mancher Kamerad)
Friedrich Schenker and the Third Way
A Prism of East German Music: Lothar Voigtländer
Notes on the Contributors


The 12 contributions to this volume are wide-ranging and . . . stimulate discussion and interest on many fronts. . . . This volume opens some very interesting doors for future research into classical music in the GDR and its diverse responses to the topic certainly achieve (its) aims . . . . JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

(I)lluminating. . . . (P)resents, in a mosaic-like fashion, experts' insights into aspects of the GDR's classical music scene. . . . As a first body of research that revisits the GDR's classical music scene through a cultural-studies inspired lens, the volume presents powerful readings of specific expressions of musical culture. WOMEN IN GERMAN NEWSLETTER (Bettina Matthias)

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