In the 1930s, composers and musicians began to flee Hitler’s Germany to make new lives across the globe. The process of exile was complex: although some of their works were celebrated, these composers had lost their familiar cultures and were forced to navigate xenophobia as well as entirely different creative terrain. Others, far less fortunate, were in a kind of internal exile—composing under a ruthless dictatorship or in concentration camps and ghettos.
Michael Haas sensitively records the experiences of this musical diaspora. Torn between cultures and traditions, these composers produced music that synthesized old and new worlds, some becoming core portions of today’s repertoire, some relegated to the desk drawer. Encompassing the musicians interned as enemy aliens in the United Kingdom, the brilliant Hollywood compositions of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and the Brecht-inspired theater music of Kurt Weill, Haas shows how these musicians shaped the twentieth-century soundscape—and offers a moving record of the incalculable effects of war on culture.
A Financial Times Best Book of 2023: Classical Music
“A deeply thoughtful, intensely detailed and clearly argued exploration. . . . This is not only a fascinating book, but an essential one, which will hopefully inspire further studies.”—Jessica Duchen, Engelsberg Ideas
“Mr Haas writes in compellingly lucid prose, emphasising with painful sharpness the long-lasting and brutalising effects of war on every aspect of artistic endeavour.”—Henrietta Bredrin, Country Life
“Michael Haas is absolutely brilliant. His devotion to giving voice to the many creators who were brutally silenced during World War Two is inspiring and essential work. He does this with passion and knowledge.”—Marin Alsop
“Michael Haas has done more than anyone to rehabilitate the music of hundreds of composers who were silenced by the Nazis and blindsided by the post-War music world. Every work of Haas contains completely unexpected revelations from untapped sources. This marvellous book is no exception.”—Norman Lebrecht
“With great curiosity and empathy, Michael Haas illustrates climactic moments as these Jewish refugees lingered between worlds, lost countries and roots, and searched for new and old identities.”—Ute Lemper
“Music of Exile is especially relevant today, with the resurgence of authoritarianism and the politicization of immigration. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in music and history, and concerned about our contemporary world.”—James Conlon