Das Haus der Deutschen Kunst

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Hitler Speaks at the
Das Haus der Deutschen Kunst
München
Tag der Deutschen Kunst – München – 1939

Das Haus der Deutschen Kunst was constructed from 1933 to 1937 following plans of architect Paul Ludwig Troost as the Third Reich’s first monumental structure of National Socialist architecture.
 The museum was opened in 18 July 1937 as a showcase for Germany’s finest art.
Tag der Deutschen Kunst – München – 1939
The inaugural exhibition was the ‘Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung’ (“Great German art exhibition”), which was intended as an edifying contrast to the condemned modern art on display in the concurrent ‘Degenerate Art Exhibition’.
On 15 and 16 October 1939, the ‘Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung’, inside the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, was complemented by the monumental ‘Tag der Deutschen Kunst’ celebration of “2,000 years of Germanic culture” where draped floats (one of them carrying a 5 meter tall golden Reichsadler) and thousands of party activists, in historical costumes, paraded down Prinzregentenstraße for hours in the presence of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Robert Ley, Reinhard Heydrich, and many other high-ranking members of the government, with minor events taking place in the Englischer Garten nearby.
Haus der Deutschen Kunst – München
Main Fascade – Prof Paul Troost

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Prof Paul Ludwig Troost
Paul Ludwig Troost (17 August 1878 – 21 January 1934), born in Elberfeld, was a German architect. An extremely tall, spare-looking, reserved Westphalian with a close-shaven head, Troost belonged to a school of architects, Peter Behrens and Walter Gropius who, even before 1914, reacted sharply against the highly ornamental Jugendstil, and advocated a restrained, classic architectural approach, almost devoid of ornament, combining Spartan traditionalism with elements of modernity.
He became Hitler’s foremost architect, whose neo-classical style became the official architecture of the Third Reich.
His work filled Hitler with enthusiasm, and he planned and built state and municipal edifices throughout Germany.
In the autumn of 1933, he was commissioned to rebuild and refurnish the Chancellery residence in Berlin. 
Hitler and Frau Troost
at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst
Prof Paul Ludwig Troost
Along with other architects, Troost planned and built State and municipal edifices throughout the country, including new administrative offices, social buildings for workers and bridges across the main highways.
One of the many structures he planned before his death was the ‘House of German Art’ in Munich, intended to be a great temple for a “true, eternal art of the German people”. Hitler’s relationship to Troost was that of a pupil to an admired teacher.
Hitler frequently declared, according to Speer, that “he first learned what architecture was from Troost”‘.
The architect’s death on 21 January 1934, after a severe illness, was a painful blow, but Hitler remained close to his widow Gerdy Troost, whose architectural taste frequently coincided with his own, which made her “a kind of arbiter of art in Munich.”
Hitler posthumously awarded Troost the German National Prize for Art and Science in 1936.
Haus der Deutschen Kunst – München
Interior – Prof Paul Troost
Haus der Deutschen Kunst – München
Main Fascade – Prof Paul Troost
Haus der Deutschen Kunst – München
Main Fascade – Prof Paul Troost
Ehrentempel – Königsplatz – München – Paul Troost
The Ehrentempel (“honor temples”) were two structures in Munich, erected in 1935,
housing the sarcophagi of the sixteen members of the party
who had been killed in the failed Munich Putsch.
The martyrs of the movement were in heavy black sarcophagi
in such a way as to be exposed to rain and sun from the open roof.
The pedestals of the temples are seventy feet wide.
The columns of the structures each extended twenty-three feet.
The combined weight of the sarcophagi was over 2,900 pounds.
Ehrentempel – Königsplatz – München – Paul Troost
Ehrentempel – Königsplatz – München – Paul Troost

click below for more information and images
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
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Zeitungsleser
Otto Kirchner (1887 – 1960)
Bäuerliche Venus – 1939
Sepp Hilz
Bäuerliche Venus – 1939
Sepp Hilz
Die rote Halskette – 1942
Sepp Hilz
Eitelkeit – 1940
Sepp Hilz
Die vier Elemente – The Four Elements
Adolf Ziegler
Die vier Elemente – The Four Elements
Adolf Ziegler
Working Maidens – 1940
Leopold Schmutzler
Der Fuehrer Spricht – 1939
Paul Matthias Padua
Bauernfamilie
Adolf Wissel
Erbhofbauer 
Liegender Frauenakt – Reclining Female Nude
Ernst Liebermann
Dianas Ruhe – Diana’s Rest
Ivo Saliger
Frauenakten – Female Nudes
Ivo Saliger
Weiblicher Akt
Leopold Schmutzler
Weiblicher Akt im Meer
Karl Truppe 
Mädchen mit einer Sonnenblume
Karl Truppe
Leda und der Schwan
Paul Matthias Padua
Und ihr habt doch Gesiegt
Paul Hermann – 1942
Alter Kämpfer – 9th November 1923
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Bereitschaft
Arno Breker
Consider Arno Breker’s Readiness.
A muscular male nude with a body seemingly perfect.
Its debt to classical sculpture suggests that the ideal it represents is an eternal one, to which we must aspire but that we may not judge, while its proportions suggest a calm but obvious fierceness.
Such unblemished forms are stripped of all individualizing defects, – stripped of their singularity as specific humans to which the viewer might respond. Instead, they are archetypes, with abstract titles like ‘Readiness’ or ‘Comradeship’, “worthy” of Hitler’s call for an “eternal” art that would express immutable Aryan values.
Adolf Wamper
Genius des Siegers
Danziger Freiheitskämpfer
Josef Thorak
Josef Thorak (7 February 1889 in Salzburg – 26 February 1952) was an Austrian-German sculptor.
In 1933 Thorak joined Arno Breker as one of the two “official sculptors” of the Third Reich.
In his studio outside Munich, Thorak worked on statues intended to represent the folk-life of the German Volk.
These works tended to be heroic in scale, up to 65 feet (20 meters) in height.
His official works from this period included a number of sculptures at the Berlin Olympic Stadium of 1936.
Some expressionist influences can be noticed in his neoclassical style.
Männliche und weibliche Akt
Josef Thorak
Murcur
Fritz Klimsch
Eos
Arno Brteker
Kniend Krieger – 1937
Richard Scheibe
Nach dem Kampf
Hans Bühler
Bauer
Jacob Wilhelm Fehrle
Männlicher Akt
Fritz Klimsch
Männer in der Ausbildung
Anton Grauel
Der Stürmer
Arno Breker
Arno Breker (July 19, 1900 – February 13, 1991) was a German sculptor, best known for his public works in the Third Reich, which were endorsed by the authorities as the antithesis of degenerate art.
He was born in Elberfeld, and died in Düsseldorf.
The neoclassical nature of his work, with titles like ‘Comradeship’, ‘Torchbearer’, and ‘Sacrifice’, typified National Socialist ideals, and suited the characteristics of the architecture of the Third Reich.
The proportions of his figures, the highly colouristic treatment of his surfaces (the strong contrasts between dark and light accents), and the melodramatic tension of their musculatures invites comparison with the Italian Mannerist sculptors of the 16th century.
This Mannerist tendency to Breker’s neoclassicism may suggest close affinities to expressionist tendencies in German Modernism.
Der arischen Rasse
Arno Breker
Kameradschaft
Arno Breker
Der Racher
Arno Breker
Der Bannertrager
Arno Breker
Sterbende Krieger
Arno Breker
Abfahrt zur Schlacht
Arno Breker
Kampf
Arno Breker
Das Urteil des Paris
Arno Breker
Du und Ich
Arno Breker
Euridice und Orpheus
Arno Breker
Daphne und Apollo
Arno Breker
Thanatos
Arno Breker
Arischen Menschen
Arno Breker
Heroischen Kopf
Arno Breker
Richard Wagner
Arno Breker
Adolf Hitler
Arno Breker
Adolf Hitler
Arno Breker
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
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Richard Strauss – der Meister Garmisch

die Musik von
RICHARD STRAUSS
der Meister Garmisch

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.

Richard Wagner
Gustav Mahler

He is known for his operas, which include ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Salome’; his lieder, especially his ‘Four Last Songs’; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as ‘Death and Transfiguration’, ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’, ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, ‘An Alpine Symphony’, and ‘Metamorphosen’.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.

Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler (see left), represents the great late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner (see right), in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Staatsgartnerplatz – Munchen

Strauss was born on 11 June 1864, in Munich, the son of Franz Strauss, who was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich.
In his youth, he received a thorough musical education from his father.
He wrote his first composition at the age of six, and continued to write music almost until his death.

‘Tannhäuser’ 

During his boyhood Strauss attended orchestra rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra, and he also received private instruction in music theory and orchestration from an assistant conductor there.
In 1874 Strauss heard his first Wagner operas, ‘Lohengrin’ and ‘Tannhäuser’ (see right).
The influence of Wagner’s music on Strauss’s style was to be profound, but at first his musically conservative father forbade him to study it.

‘Tristan und Isolde

Indeed, in the Strauss household, the music of Richard Wagner was viewed with deep suspicion, and it was not until the age of 16 that Strauss was able to obtain a score of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

(The score of Tristan und Isolde has often been cited as a landmark in the development of Western music. Wagner uses throughout Tristan a remarkable range of orchestral colour, harmony and polyphony and does so with a freedom rarely found in his earlier operas. The very first chord in the piece, the Tristan chord, is of great significance in the move away from traditional tonal harmony as it resolves to another dissonant chord.)

Hans von Bülow


In later life, Richard Strauss said that he deeply regretted the conservative hostility to Wagner’s progressive works.

Nevertheless, Strauss’s father undoubtedly had a crucial influence on his son’s developing taste, not least in Strauss’s abiding love for the horn.
In 1882 he entered Munich University, where he studied Philosophy and Art History, but not music.
He left a year later to go to Berlin, where he studied briefly before securing a post as assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow (see right), who had been enormously impressed by the young composer’s Serenade for wind instruments, composed when he was only 16 years of age.
Strauss learned the art of conducting by observing Bülow in rehearsal.


Felix Mendelssohn
Robert Schumann

Bülow was very fond of the young man and decided that Strauss should be his successor as conductor of the Meiningen orchestra when Bülow resigned in 1885.
Strauss’s compositions at this time were indebted to the style of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, true to his father’s teachings.
His remarkably mature Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, is representative of this period and is a staple of modern horn repertoire.



Richard Strauss – Pauline and Franz
Pauline de Ahna

Richard Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on 10 September 1894.
She was famous for being irascible, garrulous, eccentric and outspoken, but the marriage, to all appearances, was essentially happy and she was a great source of inspiration to him. Throughout his life, from his earliest songs to the final ‘Four Last Songs’ of 1948, he preferred the soprano voice to all others, and all his operas contain important soprano roles.

The Strausses had one son, Franz, in 1897.

Solo and Chamber Works


Some of Strauss’s first compositions were solo and chamber works.
These pieces include: early compositions for piano solo in a conservative harmonic style, many of which are lost; a string quartet (opus 2); a cello sonata; a piano quartet; Violin Sonata in E flat (1888); as well as a handful of late pieces.
After 1890 Strauss composed very infrequently for chamber groups, his energies being almost completely absorbed with large-scale orchestral works and operas.
Four of his chamber pieces are actually arrangements of portions of his operas, including the superb ‘Daphne-Etude’ for solo violin, and the string Sextet which is the overture to his final opera Capriccio.
His last independent chamber work, an Allegretto in E for violin and piano, dates from 1940.

Tone Poems and other Orchestral Works

Alexander Ritter

Strauss’s style began to truly develop and change when, in 1885, he met Alexander Ritter (see right), a noted composer and violinist, and the husband of one of Richard Wagner’s nieces.
It was Ritter who persuaded Strauss to abandon the conservative style of his youth, and begin writing tone poems.

Arthur Schopenhauer

He also introduced Strauss to the essays of Richard Wagner and the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal world.
Schopenhauer’s most influential work, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ – (The World as Will and Representation), claimed that the world is fundamentally what humans recognize in themselves as their will.
His analysis of will led him to the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fully satisfied.
The corollary of this is an ultimately painful human condition.
Schopenhauer’s metaphysical analysis of will, his views on human motivation and desire, and his aphoristic writing style influenced many well-known thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, and of course Richard Strauss.

Don Juan

Strauss went on to conduct one of Ritter’s operas, and at Strauss’s request Ritter later wrote a poem describing the events depicted in Strauss’s tone poem ‘Tod und Verklärung’(Death and Transfiguration).

The new influences from Ritter resulted in what is widely regarded as Strauss’s first piece to show his mature personality, the tone poem ‘Don Juan’ (1888) (see left), which displays a new kind of virtuosity in its bravura orchestral manner.

Richard Strauss –
Eine Alpensinfonie op. 64
Zugspitze

Strauss went on to write a series of increasingly ambitious tone poems:
‘Tod und Verklärung’, (1889), ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’ (1895), ‘**** ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ (1896), Don Quixote (1897), ‘A Hero’s Life’ *(1898), Symphonia Domestica **(1903) and An Alpine Symphony (1911–1915). One commentator has observed of these works that “no orchestra could exist without his tone poems, written to celebrate the glories of the post-Wagnerian symphony orchestra.”


Solo Instrument with Orchestra

Strauss’s output of works for solo instrument or instruments with orchestra was fairly extensive. The most famous include two concertos for horn, which are still part of the standard repertoire of most horn soloists; a Violin Concerto in D minor; the Burleske for piano and orchestra; the tone poem Don Quixote for cello, viola and orchestra; the well-known late Oboe Concerto in D major; and the Duet-Concertino for bassoon, clarinet and orchestra, which was one of his last works (1947).

Opera
Around the end of the 19th century, Strauss turned his attention to opera. His first two attempts in the genre, ‘Guntram’ (1894) and ‘Feuersnot’ (1901), were controversial works: ‘Guntram’ was the first significant critical failure of Strauss’s career, and ‘Feuersnot’ was considered obscene by some critics.
In 1905, Strauss produced ‘Salome’, a somewhat dissonant modernist opera based on the play by Oscar Wilde, which produced a passionate reaction from audiences.
The premiere was a major success, with the artists taking more than 38 curtain calls.
Many later performances of the opera were also successful, not only with the general public but also with Strauss’s peers: Maurice Ravel said that Salome was “stupendous”, and Mahler described it as “a live volcano, a subterranean fire”.
Strauss reputedly financed his house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen completely from the revenues generated by the opera.
Strauss’s next opera was ‘Elektra’ (1909), which took his use of dissonance even further, in particular with the Elektra chord.
‘Elektra’ was also the first opera in which Strauss collaborated with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. 
The two subsequently worked together on numerous occasions.
For his later works with Hofmannsthal, Strauss moderated his harmonic language: he used a more lush, melodic late-Romantic style based on Wagnerian chromatic harmonies that he had used in his tone poems, with much less dissonance, and exhibiting immense virtuosity in orchestral writing and tone color.
This resulted in operas such as the beautiful ‘Rosenkavalier’ (1911) having great public success.
Strauss continued to produce operas at regular intervals until 1942.
With Hofmannsthal he created ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ (1912), ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’ (1918), ‘Die ägyptische Helena’ (1927), and ‘Arabella’ (1932).
For ‘Intermezzo’ (1923) Strauss provided his own libretto.
‘Die schweigsame Frau’ (1934), was composed with Stefan Zweig as librettist; ‘Friedenstag ‘(1935–6) and ‘Daphne’ (1937) both had a libretto by Joseph Gregor and Stefan Zweig; and the wonderful ‘Liebe der Danae’ (1940) was with Joseph Gregor.
Strauss’s final opera, ‘Capriccio’ (1942), had a libretto by Clemens Krauss, although the genesis for it came from Stefan Zweig and Joseph Gregor.

Lieder

All his life Strauss produced lieder.
The incomparable ‘Four Last Songs’ are among his best known, along with “Zueignung”, “Cäcilie”, the uplifting “Morgen!”, “Allerseelen”, and others.
In 1948, Strauss wrote his last work, the masterful and haunting ‘Four Last Songs’ for soprano and orchestra.
He reportedly composed them with Kirsten Flagstad in mind, and she gave the first performance, which was recorded.
Strauss’s songs have always been popular with audiences and performers, and are generally considered – along with many of his other compositions – to be masterpieces of the first rank.

Strauss and the Third Reich

Because of Strauss’s international eminence, in November 1933 he was appointed to the post of president of the Reichsmusikkammer, the State Music Chamber, which was a section of the Reichskulturkammer (RKK).
Strauss, who had lived through numerous political regimes and had little interest in politics, decided to accept the position.

In order to gain Goebbels’ cooperation in extending the German music copyright laws from 30 years to 50 years, in 1933 Strauss dedicated an orchestral song, ‘Das Bächlein’ (“The Little Brook”) to him.
The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics used Strauss’s monumental ‘Olympische Hymne’, which he had composed in 1934.
Strauss’s seeming relationship with the Nazis in the 1930s attracted criticism from some noted musicians, including Arturo Toscanini.

Late Works

Richard Strauss – Garmisch

Strauss completed the composition of ‘Metamorphosen’, a work for 23 solo strings, in 1945.

The title and inspiration for the work comes from a profoundly self-examining poem by Goethe, which Strauss had considered setting as a choral work.
Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of the string repertoire, ‘Metamorphosen’ contains Strauss’s most sustained outpouring of tragic emotion.
Conceived and written during the blackest days of World War II, the piece expresses in music Strauss’s mourning of, among other things, the destruction of German culture — including the bombing of every great opera house in the nation.
The metaphor “Indian Summer” is often used by journalists, biographers, and music critics to describe Strauss’s late upsurge of genius from 1942 through the end of his life.
The major works of the last years of Strauss’s life, written in his late 70s and 80s, have a luminosity which matches anything he had composed earlier in his life, and they surpass most of them in emotional depth.
These pieces include, among others, his Horn Concerto No. 2, ‘Metamorphosen’, his Oboe Concerto, and his masterful and haunting ‘Four Last Songs’.
The ‘Four Last Songs’, composed shortly before Strauss’s death, deal poetically with the subject of dying.
The last, ‘Im Abendrot’, ends with the line “Is this perhaps death?”
The question is not answered in words, but instead Strauss quotes the “transfiguration theme” from his earlier tone poem, ‘Tod und Verklärung‘ — symbolizing the transfiguration and fulfillment of the soul after death.

Death and Legacy

Richard Strauss Haus – Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Richard Strauss died at the age of 85 on 8 September 1949, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (see left).
Georg Solti, who had arranged Strauss’s 85th birthday celebration, also directed an orchestra during Strauss’s burial.

The conductor later described how, during the singing of the beautiful trio from ‘Rosenkavalier’, “each singer broke down in tears and dropped out of the ensemble, but they recovered themselves and we all ended together.”

Strauss’s wife, Pauline de Ahna, died eight months later, on 13 May 1950, at the age of 88.
During his lifetime Strauss was considered the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, and his music had a profound influence on the development of 20th-century music. There were few 20th-century composers who compared with Strauss in terms of orchestral imagination, and no composer since Wagner made a more significant contribution to the history of opera.
And Strauss’s late works, modelled on “the divine Mozart at the end of a life full of thankfulness,” are perhaps the most remarkable works by any composer.

MAJOR WORKS

* ‘Tod und Verklärung’

‘Tod und Verklärung’, Op. 24, is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss.
Strauss began composition in the late summer of 1888 and completed the work on November 18, 1889.
The work is dedicated to the composer’s friend Friedrich Rosch.
The music depicts the death of an artist.
At Strauss’s request, this was described in a poem by the composer’s friend Alexander Ritter as an interpretation of Death and Transfiguration, after it was composed.
As the man lies dying, thoughts of his life pass through his head: his childhood innocence, the struggles of his manhood, the attainment of his worldly goals; and at the end, he receives the longed-for transfiguration “from the infinite reaches of heaven”.

Performance history

Strauss conducted the premiere on 21 June 1890 at the Eisenach Festival (on the same program with the premiere of his Burleske in D minor for piano and orchestra).
He also conducted this work for his first appearance in England, at the Wagner Concert with the Philharmonic Society on 15 June 1897 at the Queen’s Hall in London.

Structure

There are four parts (with Ritter’s poetic thoughts condensed):
Largo (The sick man, near death)
Allegro molto agitato (The battle between life and death offers no respite to the man)
Meno mosso (The dying man’s life passes before him)
Moderato (The sought-after transfiguration)
A typical performance lasts about 25 minutes.
[edit]Instrumentation

The work is scored for a large orchestra of the following forces:
woodwind: 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba
percussion: timpani, tam-tam
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii, violas, cellos, double basses.

*Ein Heldenleben


Ein Heldenleben Op. 40 is a tone poem by Richard Strauss.
The work was completed in 1898, and heralds the composer’s more mature period in this genre.
Hero’s Life is a through-composed, circa fifty-minute work, performed without pauses, except for a dramatic grand pause at the end of the first movement.
The movements are titled as follows:

“Der Held” (The Hero)
“Des Helden Widersacher” (The Hero’s Adversaries)
“Des Helden Gefährtin” (The Hero’s Companion)
“Des Helden Walstatt” (The Hero at Battle)
“Des Helden Friedenswerke” (The Hero’s Works of Peace)
“Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung” (The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation)

A Hero’s Life employs the technique of leitmotifs that Richard Wagner used, but almost always as elements of its enlarged sonata-rondo symphonic structure.

1. “The Hero”: The first theme has been said to represent the hero. In unison, horns and celli play E-flat major triads ascending through an almost four-octave span. A contrasting lyrical theme first appears in high strings and winds in B major. A second motive appears, outlining a stepwise descending fourth. Trumpets sound a dominant seventh chord followed by a grand pause, the only prolonged silence throughout the entire piece.
2. “The Hero’s Adversaries”: The movement opens with chromatic woodwinds and low brass: multiple motives in contrasting registers are heard. It is said that the adversaries represented by the woodwinds are Strauss’s critics, such as 19th-century Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick, who is memorably written into the score with an ominous four note leitmotif played by the two tubas in parallel fifths.
3. “The Hero’s Companion”: The movement features a tender melody played by a solo violin. In an extended accompanied cadenza filled with extremely detailed performance instructions by Strauss, after the fashion of an operatic recitative, the violin presents new motivic material, alternating with brief interjections in low strings, winds, and brass. During this section, the violin briefly foreshadows a theme which will appear fully later. The cadenza concludes and the new thematic material is combined in a cantabile episode commencing in G flat. Fragments of the motives from the previous movement briefly appear. A fanfare motive in offstage trumpets, repeated onstage, is then heard.
These three initial sections comprise an elaborate exposition, with elements of a multiple-movement symphony evident in their contrasting character and tempo. The remainder of the work will comprise development, recapitulation, and coda, with occasional new thematic material.
4. “The Hero’s Battlefield”: In this first extended development section of the work, percussion and a solo trumpet are heard in the first appearance of 3/4 time: a variation of a previous motive. A sequence of clamorous trumpet fanfares occurs as the music approaches a harmonic climax in G flat, and the related E flat minor. Percussion is pervasive throughout the movement. 4/4 time returns in a modified recapitulation of the first theme as it appeared at the beginning of the piece, this time with a repeated quaver accompaniment. A new cantabile theme makes its appearance in the trumpet, and an extended elaboration of this serves to preface the next section.
5. “The Hero’s Works of Peace”: Themes of previous works, including such works as Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Macbeth, Also sprach Zarathustra, Death and transfiguration, Don Juan, Guntram, the lied Traum durch die Dämmerung and Don Quixote, are heard in this movement. The melodies lead into the final section.
6. “The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation”: Yet another new motive appears, commencing in a rapid descending E-flat triad, which introduces a new development of the original theme: an elegy featuring harp, bassoon, English horn, and strings. The reappearance of the previous “Hanslick” motive brings in an agitato episode. This is followed by a distinctly pastoral interlude featuring English horn, reminiscent of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. The descending triad now appears slowly, cantabile, as the head of a new, peaceful theme in E flat: this is the theme foreshadowed during the violin cadenza. In a final variation of the initial motive, the brass intones the last fanfare, suggesting the beginnings of another tone poem (Also Sprach Zarathustra, a work often coupled with Ein Heldenleben).

Instrumentation

The work is scored for an orchestra consisting of piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, English horn (doubling 4th oboe), E-flat clarinet, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 8 horns in F, E and E-flat, 3 trumpets (used offstage briefly), 2 trumpets in E-flat, 3 trombones, tenor tuba in B-flat (euphonium), tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tenor drum, tam-tam, 2 harps, and strings, including an extensive solo violin part.

 *** ‘Symphonia Domestica’

Symphonia Domestica, Op. 53 (Domestic Symphony) is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss. The work is a musical reflection of the secure domestic life so valued by the composer himself and, as such, harmoniously conveys daily events and family life.

He worked on the piece during 1903, finishing it on New Year’s Eve, in Charlottenburg.
The piece is scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, oboe d’amore, English horn, clarinet in D, 3 clarinets (1 & 2 in B♭, 3 in A), bass clarinet in B♭, 4 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 saxophones (soprano in C, alto in F, baritone in F, bass in C), 8 horns in F, 4 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, antique cymbals, tambourine, glockenspiel, 2 harps, and strings.

Structure

The program of the work reflects the simplicity of the subject-matter. After the family has been introduced, the parents are heard alone with their child. The next section is a three-part adagio which begins with the husband’s activities. The clock striking 7am launches the finale.
The most detailed exposition of the work’s structure is that which was provided for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance on December 12, 1904. On that occasion, the concert programme carried the following outline:

I. Introduction and development of the chief groups of themes
The husband’s themes: (a) Easy-going; (b) Dreamy; (c) Fiery
The wife’s themes: (a) Lively and gay; (b) Grazioso
The child’s theme: Tranquil
II. Scherzo
Parents’ happiness. Childish play. Cradle song (the clock strikes seven in the evening).
III. Adagio
Doing and thinking. Love scene. Dreams and cares (the clock strikes seven in the morning).
IV. Finale
Awakening and merry dispute (double fugue). Joyous confusion.

**** Also sprach Zarathustra’

Friedrich Nietzsche
Also sprach Zarathustra

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a tone poem by Richard Strauss, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical treatise of the same name. The composer conducted its first performance on 27 November 1896 in Frankfurt. A typical performance lasts half an hour.
The work has been part of the classical repertoire since its first performance in 1896.






Instrumentation

The orchestra consists of the following:
woodwinds: piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets in E-flat and B-flat, bass clarinet in B-flat, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 6 horns in F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, 2 tubas
percussion: timpani (2 players), bass drum, cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, bell on low E
keyboard: organ
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii (16 each), violas (12), cellos (12), double basses (8) (several with low C string).

Structure

The piece is divided into nine sections played with only three definite pauses. Strauss named the sections after selected chapters of the book:

Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang (Introduction, or Sunrise)
Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
Das Tanzlied (The Dance Song)
Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)

The piece starts with a sustained double low C on the double basses, contrabassoon and organ. This transforms into the brass fanfare of the Introduction and introduces the “dawn” motif (from “Zarathustra’s Prologue”, the text of which is included in the printed score) that is common throughout the work: the motif includes three notes, in intervals of a fifth and octave, as C–G–C (known also as the Nature-motif). On its first appearance, the motif is a part of the first five notes of the natural overtone series: octave, octave and fifth, two octaves, two octaves and major third (played as part of a C major chord with the third doubled). The major third is immediately changed to a minor third, which is the first note played in the work (E flat) that is not part of the overtone series.
“Of Those in Backwaters” (or “Of the Forest Dwellers”) begins with cellos, double-basses and organ pedal before changing into a lyrical passage for the entire section. The next two sections, “Of the Great Yearning” and “Of Joys and Passions”, both introduce motifs that are more chromatic in nature.
“Of Science” features an unusual fugue beginning in the double-basses and cellos, which consists of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. It is one of the very few sections in the orchestral literature where the basses must play a contra-b (lowest b on a piano).
“The Convalescent” acts as a reprise of the original motif, and climaxes with a massive chord in the entire orchestra.
“The Dance Song” features a very prominent violin solo throughout the section.
The end of the “Song of the Night Wanderer” leaves the piece half resolved, with high flutes, piccolos and violins playing a B major chord, while the lower strings pluck a C.
One of the major compositional themes of the piece is the contrast between the keys of B major, representing humanity, and C major, representing the universe.
Because B and C are adjacent notes, these keys are tonally dissimilar: B major uses five sharps, while C major has none.

World Riddle Theme

There are two opinions about the ‘World Riddle Theme’. Some sources denote the fifth/octave intervals (C–G–C8va) as the World riddle motif, however, other sources refer to the 2 conflicting keys in the final section as representing the World riddle (C–G–C B–F♯-B8va), with the unresolved harmonic progression being an unfinished or unsolved riddle: the melody does not conclude with a well-defined tonic note as being either C or B, hence it is unfinished.The ending of the composition has been described:
But the riddle is not solved.
The tone-poem ends enigmatically in two keys, the Nature-motif plucked softly, by the basses in its original key of C—and above the woodwinds, in the key of B major.
The unsolvable end of the universe: for Strauss was not pacified by Nietzsche’s solution.
Neither C major nor B major is established as the tonic at the end of the composition.

‘Vier letzte Lieder’

The ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ for soprano and orchestra were the final completed works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948, when the composer was 84.
Strauss died in September 1949.
The premiere of the work was given posthumously at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 22 May 1950 by the soprano Kirsten Flagstad accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
The songs are “Frühling” (Spring), “September”, “Beim Schlafengehen” (Going to sleep) and “Im Abendrot” (At sunset).

Joseph von Eichendorff

Strauss had come across the poem ‘Im Abendrot’ by Joseph von Eichendorff, which he felt had a special meaning for him.
He set its text to music in May 1948.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (10 March 1788 – 26 November 1857) was a German poet and novelist of the later German romantic school.
Eichendorff is regarded as one of the most important German Romantics, and his works have sustained high popularity in Germany from production to the present day.

Hermann Hesse

Strauss had also recently been given a copy of the complete poems of Hermann Hesse, and he set three of them – ‘Frühling’, ‘September’, and ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ – for soprano and orchestra.

Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 – August 9, 1962) was a German poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include ‘Steppenwolf’ and ‘The Glass Bead Game’, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

There is no indication that Strauss conceived these songs as a unified set.
The overall title ‘Four Last Songs’ was provided by his friend Ernst Roth, the chief editor of Boosey & Hawkes.
It was Roth who categorized them as a single unit with the title Four Last Songs, and put them into the order that most performances now follow: ‘Frühling’, ‘September’, ‘Beim Schlafengehen’, ‘Im Abendrot’.

Pauline de Ahna

The songs deal with death and were written shortly before Strauss himself died.
However, instead of the typical Romantic defiance, these ‘Four Last Songs’ are suffused with a sense of calm, acceptance, and completeness.
The settings are for a solo soprano voice given remarkable soaring melodies against a full orchestra, and all four songs have prominent horn parts.
The combination of a beautiful vocal line with supportive brass accompaniment references Strauss’s own life: His wife Pauline de Ahna was a famous soprano and his father Franz Strauss a professional horn player.

The most heart-rending moment in the ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ come when the soprano sings the line ‘Ist dies etwa der Tod ?’, and the orchestra gently intone the ‘Verklärung’ theme from ‘Tod und Verklärung’ – written so many, many years before !

Instrumentation

The songs are scored for piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling 2nd piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat and A, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F (also E-flat and D), 3 trumpets in C, E-flat and F, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, and strings.

‘Vier letzte Lieder’

‘Frühling’

In dämmrigen Grüften
träumte ich lang
von deinen Bäumen und blauen Lüften,
Von deinem Duft und Vogelsang.
Nun liegst du erschlossen
In Gleiß und Zier
von Licht übergossen
wie ein Wunder vor mir.
Du kennst mich wieder,
du lockst mich zart,
es zittert durch all meine Glieder
deine selige Gegenwart!



‘September’

Der Garten trauert,
kühl sinkt in die Blumen der Regen.
Der Sommer schauert
still seinem Ende entgegen.
Golden tropft Blatt um Blatt
nieder vom hohen Akazienbaum.
Sommer lächelt erstaunt und matt
In den sterbenden Gartentraum.
Lange noch bei den Rosen
bleibt er stehn, sehnt sich nach Ruh.
Langsam tut er
die müdgeword’nen Augen zu.


‘Beim Schlafengehen’

Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.
Hände, laßt von allem Tun
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
Alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken.
Und die Seele unbewacht
will in freien Flügen schweben,
um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.


‘Im Abendrot’

Wir sind durch Not und Freude
gegangen Hand in Hand;
vom Wandern ruhen wir
nun überm stillen Land.
Rings sich die Täler neigen,
es dunkelt schon die Luft.
Zwei Lerchen nur noch steigen
nachträumend in den Duft.
Tritt her und laß sie schwirren,
bald ist es Schlafenszeit.
Daß wir uns nicht verirren
in dieser Einsamkeit.
O weiter, stiller Friede!
So tief im Abendrot.
Wie sind wir wandermüde–
Ist dies etwa der Tod ?

Richard Wagner – Der Meister von Bayreuth

RICHARD WAGNER
Der Meister von Bayreuth

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or “music dramas”, as they were later called).
Wagner Geburtshaus

Wilhelm Richard Geyer – later Wagner – was born at No. 3 (‘The House of the Red and White Lions’ – see left), the Brühl, in the Jewish quarter of Leipzig, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner ?, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service, and his wife Johanna Rosine (née Paetz), the daughter of a baker.

Wagner’s father died of typhus six months after Richard’s birth, following which Wagner’s mother began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer, who had been a friend of Richard’s father.
In August 1814 Johanna married Geyer, and moved with her family to his residence in Dresden. Until he was fourteen, Wagner was known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer.
He almost certainly suspected that Geyer was his natural father.
Geyer’s love of the theatre was shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in his performances.

Ludwig Geyer

The boy Wagner was hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Weber’s Der Freischütz.

In late 1820, Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel’s school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher.
He could not manage a proper scale but preferred playing theatre overtures by ear.
Ludwig Geyer (see left) died in 1821, when Richard was eight.
Subsequently, Wagner was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, paid for by Geyer’s brother.
The young Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright, his first creative effort (listed as ‘WWV 1’) being a tragedy, Leubald, begun at school in 1826, which was strongly influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe.
Wagner was determined to set it to music; he persuaded his family to allow him music lessons
By 1827, the family had moved back to Leipzig.
Wagner’s first lessons in harmony were taken in 1828–1831 with Christian Gottlieb Müller.
In January 1828 he first heard Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and then, in March, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed in the Gewandhaus.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (see right) became his inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony.

He was also greatly impressed by a performance of the Requiem of Mozart.
From this period date Wagner’s early piano sonatas and his first attempts at orchestral overtures.

Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient 
In 1829 he saw the dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (see left) on stage, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera.
In his autobiography, Wagner wrote, “If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced so profound an impression upon me.”
Wagner claimed to have seen Schröder-Devrient in the title role of Fidelio; however, it seems more likely that he saw her performance as Romeo in Bellini’s ‘Capuleti e i Montecchi’.
He enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1831 where he became a member of the Studentenverbindung Corps Saxonia Leipzig.
He also took composition lessons with the cantor of Saint Thomas Church, Christian Theodor Weinlig.

Weinlig was so impressed with Wagner’s musical ability that he refused any payment for his lessons, and arranged for Wagner’s piano sonata in B flat (which was consequently dedicated to him) to be published as the composer’s op. 1.
A year later, Wagner composed his Symphony in C major, a Beethovenesque work performed in Prague in 1832 and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1833.
He then began to work on an opera, ‘Die Hochzeit’ (The Wedding), which he never completed.
In 1833, Wagner’s older brother Karl Albert managed to obtain Richard a position as choir master in Würzburg.
In the same year, at the age of 20, Wagner composed his first complete opera, ‘Die Feen’ (The Fairies).

Carl Maria von Weber,

This opera, which clearly imitated the style of Carl Maria von Weber, would go unproduced until half a century later, when it was premiered in Munich shortly after the composer’s death in 1883.

Meanwhile, Wagner held a brief appointment as musical director at the opera house in Magdeburg during which he wrote ‘Das Liebesverbot’ (The Ban on Love), based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
This was staged at Magdeburg in 1836, but closed before the second performance, leaving the composer (not for the last time) in serious financial difficulties.
Minna Planer

In 1834 Wagner had fallen for the actress Christine Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer (see right).

After the disaster of ‘Das Liebesverbot’ he followed her to Königsberg where she helped him to get an engagement at the theatre.
The two married in Königsberg on 24 November 1836.
In June 1837 Wagner moved to the city of Riga, then in the Russian Empire, where he became music director of the local opera.
Minna had recently left Wagner for another man but Richard took her back; this was but the first debacle of a troubled marriage that would end in misery three decades later.
 ‘Rienzi’

By 1839, the couple had amassed such large debts that they fled Riga to escape from creditors (debt would plague Wagner for most of his life).

‘Das Fliegende Hollander’
During their flight, they and their Newfoundland dog, Robber, took a stormy sea passage to London, from which Wagner drew the inspiration for ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (see right) (The Flying Dutchman) with a story based on a sketch by Heinrich Heine.
The Wagners spent 1839 to 1842 in Paris, where Richard made a scant living writing articles and arranging operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger publishing house, however, he also completed his third and fourth operas ‘Rienzi’ (see left) and ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ during this stay.
Wagner had completed writing ‘Rienzi’ in 1840.
Giacomo Meyerbeer

Largely through the strong support of Giacomo Meyerbeer, it was accepted for performance by the Dresden Court Theatre (Hofoper) in the German state of Saxony.

In 1842, Wagner moved to Dresden, where Rienzi was staged to considerable acclaim on 20 October.
Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor.
During this period, he staged there ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (2 January 1843) and Tannhäuser (19 October 1845), the first two of his three middle-period operas.
Gottfried Semper

Wagner also mixed with artistic circles in Dresden, including the composer Ferdinand Hiller and the great classical architect Gottfried Semper (see right).

The Wagners’ stay at Dresden was brought to an end by Richard’s involvement in leftist politics.
A nationalist movement was gaining force in the states of the German Confederation, calling for constitutional freedoms and the unification of Germany as one nation state.
Proudhon
Richard Wagner played an enthusiastic role in the socialist wing of this movement, regularly receiving guests who included the radical editor August Röckel, and the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. He was also influenced by the ideas of Proudhon (see left).
Widespread discontent in Dresden came to a head in April 1849, when King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony rejected a new constitution.
The May Uprising broke out, in which Wagner played a minor supporting role.
The incipient revolution was quickly crushed by an allied force of Saxon and Prussian troops, and warrants were issued for the arrest of the revolutionaries.
Wagner had to flee, first visiting Paris and then settling in Zurich.

Wagner spent the next twelve years in exile.
He had completed Lohengrin, the last of his middle-period operas before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence.
Liszt, who proved to be a true friend, eventually conducted the premiere in Weimar in August 1850.
Nevertheless, Wagner found himself in grim personal straits, isolated from the German musical world and without any income to speak of.
Before leaving Dresden, he had drafted a scenario that would eventually become the four opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.
He initially wrote the libretto for a single opera, ‘Siegfrieds Tod’ (Siegfried’s Death) in 1848. After arriving in Zurich he expanded the story to include an opera ‘Der junge Siegfried’ (Young Siegfried) exploring the hero’s background.
He completed the text of the cycle by writing the libretti for ‘Die Walküre’ and ‘Das Rheingold’ and revising the other libretti to agree with his new concept, completing them in 1852.
Meanwhile, his wife Minna, who had disliked the operas he had written after Rienzi, was falling into a deepening depression and then Wagner himself fell victim to ill-health which made it difficult for him to continue writing.
Wagner’s primary published output during his first years in Zurich was a set of notable essays: “The Art-Work of the Future” (1849), in which he described a vision of opera as Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art”, in which the various arts such as music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts, and stagecraft were unified; “Judaism in Music” (1850), a tract directed against Jewish composers; and “Opera and Drama” (1851), which described the aesthetics of drama which he was using to create the Ring operas.

Wagner began composing ‘Das Rheingold’ in November 1853, following it immediately with ‘Die Walküre’ in 1854.
He then began work on the third opera, now called ‘Siegfried’, in 1856 but finished only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: ‘Tristan und Isolde”
Wagner had two independent sources of inspiration for ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

Arthur Schopenhauer 

The first came to him in 1854, when his poet friend Georg Herwegh introduced him to the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).
Wagner would later call this the most important event of his life.
His personal circumstances certainly made him an easy convert to what he understood to be Schopenhauer’s philosophy, a deeply pessimistic view of the human condition.
He would remain an adherent of Schopenhauer, who was also Hitler’s favourite philosopher, for the rest of his life, even after his fortunes improved.
One of Schopenhauer’s doctrines was that music held a supreme role amongst the arts.
He claimed that music is the direct expression of the world’s essence, which is blind, impulsive Will.
Wagner quickly embraced this claim, which must have resonated strongly despite its contradiction of his previous view, expressed in Opera and Drama, that the music in opera had to be subservient to the drama.
Wagner scholars have since argued that this Schopenhauerian influence caused Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose.
Many aspects of Schopenhauerian doctrine undoubtedly found their way into Wagner’s subsequent libretti.
For example, the self-renouncing cobbler-poet Hans Sachs in ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, generally considered Wagner’s most sympathetic character, although based loosely on a historical person, is a quintessentially Schopenhauerian creation.

Mathilde Wesendonck

Wagner’s second source of inspiration was the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck (see right), the wife of the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck.

Wagner met the Wesendoncks in Zurich in 1852.
Otto, a fan of Wagner’s music, placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner’s disposal.
During the course of the next five years, the composer was eventually to become infatuated with his patron’s wife.
Though Mathilde seems to have returned some of his affections, she had no intention of jeopardizing her marriage.
Nevertheless, the affair inspired Wagner to put aside his work on the Ring cycle (which would not be resumed for the next twelve years) and began work on Tristan, based on the Arthurian love story Tristan and Iseult.
While planning the opera, Wagner composed the ‘Wesendonck Lieder’, five songs for voice and piano setting poems by Mathilde.
Two of these settings are explicitly subtitled by Wagner as ‘studies for Tristan und Isolde ‘.

The uneasy affair collapsed in 1858, when Minna intercepted a letter from Wagner to Mathilde.
After the resulting confrontation, Wagner left Zurich alone, bound for Venice, where he sojourned in the Palazzo Giustinian.
The following year, he once again moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhäuser, staged thanks to the efforts of Princess Pauline von Metternich.
The premiere of the Paris Tannhäuser in 1861 was an utter fiasco.
Further performances were cancelled, and Wagner hurriedly left the city.
The political ban which had been placed on Wagner in Germany after he had fled Dresden was lifted in 1861.
The composer settled in Biebrich in Prussia, where he began work on ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, the idea for which had come during a visit he had made to Venice with the Wesendoncks.
Despite the failure of ‘Tannhäuser’ in Paris, the possibility that ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ would never be finished, and Wagner’s unhappy personal life at the time of writing it, this opera is his only mature comedy.
Between 1861 and 1864 Wagner tried to have ‘Tristan und Isolde’ produced in Vienna.
Despite numerous rehearsals the opera remained unperformed, and gained a reputation as being “impossible”, which further added to Wagner’s financial woes.
In 1862, Wagner finally parted with Minna, though he (or at least his creditors) continued to support her financially until her death in 1866.

LUDWIG II  

König Ludwig   von Bayern
Ludwig and Wagner

Wagner’s fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II (see left) succeeded to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18.

The young king, an ardent admirer of Wagner’s operas since childhood, had the composer brought to Munich.
He settled Wagner’s considerable debts, and proposed to stage ‘Tristan’, ‘Die Meistersinger’, the ‘Ring’, and the other operas Wagner planned. Wagner also began to dictate his autobiography, ‘Mein Leben’, at the King’s request.

for more information about Ludwig II see

Wittlesbach Arms
König Ludwig
von Bayern

To Wagner, it seemed significant that his rescue by Ludwig coincided with his learning the news of the death of his supposed enemy Meyerbeer, noting ungratefully that “this operatic master, who had done me so much harm, should not have lived to see this day”.

After grave difficulties in rehearsal, ‘Tristan und Isolde’ premiered at the National Theatre in Munich on 10 June 1865, the first Wagner premiere in almost 15 years.

Cosima von Bülow
Hans von Bülow

The conductor of this premiere was Hans von Bülow (see left), whose wife Cosima (see right) had given birth in April that year to a daughter, named Isolde, the child not of von Bülow but of Wagner.

Cosima was 24 years younger than Wagner and was herself illegitimate, the daughter of the Countess Marie d’Agoult, who had left her husband for Franz Liszt.
Liszt disapproved of his daughter seeing Wagner, though the two men were friends.
The indiscreet affair scandalized Munich, and to make matters worse, Wagner fell into disfavour among members of the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the king.
In December 1865, Ludwig was finally forced to ask the composer to leave Munich.
He apparently also toyed with the idea of abdicating in order to follow his hero into exile, but Wagner quickly dissuaded him.

Villa Tribschen

Ludwig installed Wagner at the Villa Tribschen, beside Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne.

‘Die Meistersinger’ was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premièred in Munich on 21 June the following year.
In October, Cosima finally convinced Hans von Bülow to grant her a divorce, but this did not materialize until after she had two more children with Wagner; another daughter, named Eva, after the heroine of ‘Meistersinger’, and a son Siegfried, named for the hero of the Ring.
Minna Wagner had died the previous year and so Richard and Cosima were now able to marry.
The wedding took place on 25 August 1870.
On Christmas Day of that year, Wagner arranged a surprise performance of the ‘Siegfried Idyll’ for Cosima’s birthday.
The marriage to Cosima lasted to the end of Wagner’s life.

Wagner, settled into his newfound domesticity, turned his energies toward completing the Ring cycle.
At Ludwig’s insistence, “special previews” of the first two works of the cycle, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were performed at Munich in 1869 and 1870, but Wagner wanted the complete cycle to be performed in a new, specially designed opera house.
In 1871, he decided on the small town of Bayreuth as the location of his new opera house.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

The Wagners moved there the following year, and the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (see right) (“Festival Theatre”) was laid.

In order to raise funds for the construction, “Wagner Societies” were formed in several cities, and Wagner himself began touring Germany conducting concerts.
However, sufficient funds were raised only after King Ludwig stepped in with another large grant in 1874.

Villa Wahnfried
Villa Wahnfried

Later that year, the Wagners moved into their permanent home at Bayreuth, a villa that Richard dubbed Wahnfried (see left) (“freedom from delusion/madness”).

The expenses of Bayreuth and of Wahnfried however meant that Wagner still sought other sources of income by conducting or taking on commissions like the Centennial March for America.
The Festspielhaus finally opened on 13 August 1876 with ‘Das Rheingold’, now taking its place as the first evening of the premiere of the complete Ring cycle, and has continued to be the site of the Bayreuth Festival ever since.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus – Plan

The Festival has been overseen since 1973 by the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung (Richard Wagner Foundation), the members of which include a number of Wagner’s descendants.

 ‘Parsifal’ – Closing Scene

Following the first Bayreuth festival Wagner began work on ‘Parsifal’ (see left), his final opera.
The composition took four years, much of which Wagner spent in Italy for health reasons.
During this period he also wrote a series of essays, including some reactionary writings on religion and art which recanted his earlier views.
Many of these—including “Religion and Art” (1880) and “Hero-dom and Christendom” (1881) —appeared in the journal ‘Bayreuther Blätter’, founded in 1880 by Wagner and Hans von Wolzogen for Wagnerite visitors to Bayreuth.
Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera which was premiered on 26 May.
Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered through a series of increasingly severe angina attacks.

Gondola
Ca’ Vendramin Calergi

During the sixteenth and final performance of Parsifal on 29 August, he secretly entered the pit during Act III, took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi, and led the performance to its conclusion.

After the Festival, the Wagner family journeyed to Venice for the winter.
Wagner died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-nine on 13 February 1883 at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, a 16th century palazzo on the Grand Canal.
Franz Liszt’s two pieces for pianoforte solo entitled ‘La lugubre gondola’ evoke the passing of a black-shrouded funerary gondola (see right) bearing Richard Wagner’s remains over the Grand Canal. Wagner was buried in the garden of the Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth.

Wagner’s operatic works are his primary artistic legacy. Unlike other opera composers, who generally left the task of writing the libretto (the text and lyrics) to others, Wagner wrote his own libretti, which he referred to as “poems”. Further, Wagner developed a compositional style in which the orchestra’s role is equal to that of the singers. The orchestra’s dramatic role, in the later operas, includes the use of leitmotivs, musical themes that can be interpreted as announcing specific characters, locales, and plot elements; their complex interweaving and evolution illuminates the progression of the drama. Ultimately he urged a new concept of opera often referred to as “music drama”, (although he did not use or sanction this term himself) in which all musical poetic and dramatic elements were to be fused together—the Gesamtkunstwerk.

Wagner’s compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex texture, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements.

‘Tannhäuser’ 
‘Das Fliegende Hollander’

Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works such as ‘The Flying Dutchman’ (see left) and ‘Tannhäuser’ (see right) which were in the romantic traditions of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner transformed operatic thought through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”).

This would achieve the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, and was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852.
Wagner realised this concept most fully in the first half of the monumental four-opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.

‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’

However, his thoughts on the relative importance of music and drama were to change again and he reintroduced some traditional operatic forms into his last few stage works including ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (see left).

Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music.

‘Tristan und Isolde’
Opening Bars
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

He had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which contained many novel design features.

It was here that the ‘Ring’ and ‘Parsifal‘ received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed today in an annual festival run by his descendants. Wagner’s views on conducting were also highly influential.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His extensive writings on music, drama and politics have all attracted extensive comment; in recent decades, especially where they have antisemitic content.

Wagner’s late dramas are considered his masterpieces.
Der Ring des Nibelungen, commonly referred to as the Ring cycle, is a set of four operas based loosely on figures and elements of Germanic mythology—particularly from the later Norse mythology—notably the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Volsunga Saga, and the Middle High German Nibelungenlied.
They were also influenced by Wagner’s concepts of ancient Greek drama, in which tetralogies were a component of Athenian festivals, and which he had amply discussed in his essay “Oper und Drama”.

Richard Wagner
The Ring

The first two components of the Ring cycle were ‘Das Rheingold’ (The Rhinegold) (completed 1854) and ‘Die Walküre’ (The Valkyrie) (completed 1856).

In ‘Das Rheingold’, with its “relentlessly talky “realism” [and] the absence of lyrical “numbers” “, Wagner came very close to the pure musical ideals of his 1849 – 51 essays.
‘Die Walküre’ (see left), with Siegmund’s almost full-blown aria (‘Winterstürme’) in the first act, and the quasi-choral appearance of the Valkyries themselves, shows more ‘operatic’ traits, but has been assessed as “the music drama that most satisfactorily embodies the theoretical principles of “Oper und Drama”.
A thoroughgoing synthesis of poetry and music is achieved without any notable sacrifice in musical expression”.

Siegfried – Richard Wagner

While still composing the Ring, (leaving the third Ring opera ‘Siegfried’ (see right) uncompleted for the while), Wagner paused between 1857 and 1864 to compose the tragic love story ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and his only mature comedy ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg), two works which are also part of the regular operatic canon.

‘Tristan und Isolde’ uses a story line deriving from the poem ‘Tristan und Isolt’ by the 13th century poet Gottfried von Strassburg.
Wagner noted that “its all – pervading tragedy […] impressed me so deeply that I felt convinced it should stand out in bold relief, regardless of minor details.
This impact, together with his discovery of the philosophy of Schopenhauer in October 1854, led Wagner to find himself in a “serious mood created by Schopenhauer, which was trying to find ecstatic expression. It was some such mood that inspired the conception of a Tristan und Isolde.
The work was first performed in Munich on 10 June 1865, conducted by Hans von Bülow.
Tristan is often granted a special place in musical history.
It has been described as “fifty years ahead of its time” because of its chromaticism, long-held discords, unusual orchestral colouring and harmony, and use of polyphony.
Wagner himself felt that his musico-dramatical theories were most perfectly realised in this work with its use of “the art of transition” between dramatic elements and the balance achieved between vocal and orchestral lines.
‘Die Meistersinger’ was originally conceived by Wagner in 1845 as a sort of comic pendant to Tannhäuser.
It was first performed in Munich, again under the baton of Bülow, on 21 June 1868, its accessibility making it an immediate success. It is “a rich, perceptive music drama widely admired for its warm humanity“; but because of its strong German nationalist overtones, it is also held up by some as an example of Wagner’s reactionary politics and antisemitism.

Götterdämmerung 

When Wagner returned, with the added experience of composing ‘Tristan’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’, to write the music for the last act of ‘Siegfried’ and for ‘Götterdämmerung’ (Twilight of the Gods), as the final part of the Ring was eventually called, his style had changed once again to one more recognisable as ‘operatic’ (though thoroughly stamped with his own originality as a composer, and suffused with leitmotivs) than the aural world of ‘Rheingold’ and ‘Walküre’.

This was in part because the libretti of the four ‘Ring’ operas had been written in reverse order, so that the book for ‘Götterdämmerung’ was conceived more ‘traditionally’ than that of Rheingold; still, the self-imposed strictures of the Gesamtkunstwerk had become relaxed.
However, the differences are also because of Wagner’s development as a composer during the period in which he composed ‘Tristan’, ‘Meistersinger’ and also the Paris version of ‘Tannhäuser’.
From Act III of ‘Siegfried’ onwards, the Ring becomes chromatic, and both harmonically more complex and more developmental in its treatment of leitmotifs.
Having taken 26 years from the first draft of a libretto in 1848 until the completion of ‘Götterdämmerung’ in 1874, the Ring represents in all about 15 hours of performance, the only undertaking of such size to be regularly represented on the world’s stages.

Parsifal

Erlösung dem Erlöser ! 
 ‘Parsifal’ 

Wagner’s final opera, ‘Parsifal‘ (1882), which was his only work written especially for his Festspielhaus in Bayreuth and which is described in the score as a “Bühnenweihfestspiel” (festival play for the consecration of the stage), has a storyline suggested by elements of the legend of the Holy Grail.

It also however carries elements of Buddhist renunciation suggested by Wagner’s readings of Schopenhauer.

Holy Spear – Parsifal
Wagner described it to Cosima as his “last card“.
The composer’s treatment of Christianity in the opera, its eroticism, and its relationship to ideas of German nationalism and  anti-Semitism have continued to render it controversial for non-musical reasons.
However, musically it has been held to represent a continuing development of the composer’s style , with “a diaphanous score of unearthly beauty and refinement“.
It is undoubtedly Wagner’s greatest opera – his masterpiece.

click here for more information about ‘Parsifal

Writings

Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles, as well as voluminous correspondence, throughout his life.
His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas.
Essays of note include “Art and Revolution” (1849), “Opera and Drama” (1851), an essay on the theory of opera. One of his most significant writings is “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”, 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer in particular.

He also wrote various autobiographical works, including “My Life” (1880).
In his later years Wagner became a vociferous opponent of experimentation on animals and in 1879 he published an open letter, “Against Vivisection”, in support of the animal rights activist Ernst von Weber.
There have been several editions of Wagner’s writings, including a centennial edition in German edited by Dieter Borchmeyer (which however omitted the essay “Das Judenthum in der Musik”).
The English translations of Wagner’s prose in 8 volumes by W. Ashton Ellis, (1892 – 99), are still in print and commonly used, despite their deficiencies.
A complete edition of Wagner’s correspondence, (estimated to amount to between 10,000 and 12,000 surviving items), of which the first volume appeared in 1967, is still under way.
Wagner’s influence on literature and philosophy is significant.
Wagner’s protean abundance meant that he could inspire the use of literary motif in many a novel employing interior monologue.
The Symbolists saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents found many a frisson in his work.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was part of Wagner’s inner circle during the early 1870s, and his first published work ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ proposed Wagner’s music as the Dionysian rebirth of European culture in opposition to Apollonian rationalist decadence.

Nietzsche broke with Wagner following the first Bayreuth Festival, believing that Wagner’s final phase represented a pandering to Christian pieties and a surrender to the new German Reich. Nietzsche expressed his displeasure with the later Wagner in “The Case of Wagner” and “Nietzsche contra Wagner“.
Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine worshipped Wagner.
Edouard Dujardin, whose influential novel ‘Les lauriers sont coupés’ is in the form of an interior monologue inspired by Wagnerian music, founded a journal dedicated to Wagner, La Revue Wagnérienne, to which J. K. Huysmans and Téodor de Wyzewa contributed.
In the twentieth century, W. H. Auden once called Wagner “perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived”, while Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in their novels.
He is discussed in some of the works of James Joyce.
Wagnerian themes inhabit T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, which contains lines from ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Götterdämmerung’, and Verlaine’s poem on ‘Parsifal‘.
Many of the Wagner’s concepts, including his speculation about dreams, predated their investigation by Sigmund Freud.
Adolf Hitler and Winnifred Wagner

In a long list of other major cultural figures influenced by Wagner, Bryan Magee includes D. H. Lawrence, Aubrey Beardsley, Romain Rolland, Gérard de Nerval, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Rainer Maria Rilke and numerous others. Wagner’s operas, writings, his politics, beliefs and unorthodox lifestyle made him a controversial figure during his lifetime. Wagner was responsible for several theatrical innovations developed at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (for the design of which he appropriated some of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper, which he had solicited for a proposed new opera house at Munich). These innovations include darkening the auditorium during performances, and placing the orchestra in a pit out of view of the audience. Adolphe Appia’s stagings of Wagner operas at Bayreuth had far reaching consequences in theatre practice generally.

Following Wagner’s death, the debate about his ideas and their interpretation, particularly in Germany during the 20th century, continued to make him politically and socially controversial in a way that other great composers are not. Much heat is generated by Wagner’s comments on Jews, which continue to influence the way that his works are regarded, and by the essays he wrote on the nature of race from 1850 onwards, and their influence on Adolf Hitler.

Wagner and Hitler

Wagner’s operas had an almost religious effect upon Hitler; Wagner’s skill for drama and dramatic music no doubt underscored the impact of the legends already known to Hitler from youth. 

Hitler and many of his associates shared a fascination with the history and mythology of the German Volk, and the following discussion will focus on examples of “mythical influences”, and how they helped shape the personal and political activities of these men. 
Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) most famous works are undoubtably his music dramas.

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (left ‘Das Rheingold’) and ‘Tristan und Isolde’ (right – model stage-set) and most importantly, ‘Parsifal’, (below – ‘Die große Gralsszeneare’), the works that are widely acknowledged as being of great musical significance
The development and use of the leitmotif, the parts written for the heldentenor, the manipulation of chromaticism in the tonal system, and the development of the music drama itself are all very important aspects of Wagner and his music.
The ancient sagas that Wagner used as a 
basis for these music dramas held for him revealed truths and insights into human behavior and emotions. He has not been alone in his interest and opinions.These myths have been used as an argument for, or illustration of, various beliefs and ideologies. ‘The Ring’ has been variously interpreted as a look into the human psyche; a means of promoting socialism; a prophecy of the fate of the world and humankind; and a “parable” about the industrial society that was coming of age in Wagner’s lifetime.
It was also used by the Nazi party to justify and glorify racism, and to supply a basis of fanatic loyalty in the Schutzstaffel, or SS.
The legends of German mythology are essentially the same as the old Nordic legends; many of the proper names are the same in both cultures, and most of the remaining names are very similar to the Norse versions, differing only in spelling. 

Thus the Norse Odin, the ruler of the gods, becomes Woden, (or Wotan), further south in the Germanic regions. In the same fashion, the Norse heroes known as Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun become Siegfried, Brünnhilde, (see right ‘Wotan &  Brünnhilde), and Günther in the German stories. 
The extremely close parallels between the two cultures makes it an absolute certainty that both the Germanic stories and the earlier Norse legends were derived from the same ancient tales.
These early legends are known to the modern world from two collections: the Elder Edda, which is written in verse, and the Younger Edda, (consisting of the sagas), which is written in prose. The dating for these collections seems to be in some dispute; in Bulfinch’s Mythology rather specific dates are assigned: 1056 for the Elder Edda and 1640 for the Younger Edda. However, in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, she speaks of the oldest manuscript of the Elder as dating from circa 1300, some three hundred years after the arrival of Christianity in Iceland, and almost three hundred years after Bulfinch’s date.
Hamilton does state, however, that all of these legends are completely pagan in nature, (thus predating Christianity), and that almost all scholars agree the stories must be much older than the oldest manuscript.
The dates for the Younger Edda are likewise apparently uncertain; Bulfinch’s date of 1640 is hard to reconcile with Hamilton’s statement that the Younger was “written down by one Snorri Sturluson in the last part of the twelfth century.”
Regardless of date, it is agreed the most important collection is the Elder Edda.
These two very long epics furnish the material for almost all of the presently known myths and legends about the ancient gods of the North. 
Unfortunately, as Christian missionaries from the Mediterranean area journeyed further north, they systematically destroyed all the pagan artifacts they could find in a remarkably successful attempt to completely obliterate all remnants of the belief system they were replacing.
Only a few fragments of the entire northern European prehistoric collection of myths have been preserved. The legend of Beowulf in England and the Nibelungenlied in Germany are two tales that survived the zeal of the missionaries. 
The Eddas are known only from Iceland; apparently Icelandic missionaries were less influential than their counterparts on the continent of Europe — Iceland was one of the last European countries to be Christianized.
All of these surviving legends are essentially gloomy and pessimistic in nature; depressingly so to modern readers.

In Nordic and Germanic mythology the Earth, (Midgard), and Heaven, (Asgard), were destined to be utterly destroyed by the Frost Giants, (who lived in Jötunheim), in a final great battle between Good and Evil, called Ragnarok, (Ragnarok is paralleled by Götterdämmerung in Wagner’s Ring Cycle – see right).

In this final battle, Evil was predestined to win, and the entirety of creation was to be destroyed. The only bright factor in this thoroughly depressing viewpoint was the belief that, in spite of all, if one could die a courageous, heroic death, then all else faded into insignificance. 
It is of interest to realize that the Western ideal of heroism and heroic deeds in the face of certain death springs almost entirely from these Nordic myths, and not from the Greek and Roman mythology that most people are more familiar with. (The Greek gods were remarkably un-heroic in their conduct), and of course, this idea of heroism and fighting to the death against any odds would fit very well with the kind of fanatic loyalty sought by Hitler and Himmler.
When Richard Wagner embarked upon the composition of ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’, (around 1849), he chose as his framework the Teutonic epic of the Nibelungenlied, (The Norse version of this legend is called the Volsungasaga).
Wagner finished the first two segments, (‘Das Rheingold’ and ‘Die Walküre’), and part of the third, (‘Siegfried’), by 1857, but seventeen years would go by before he would finish the great work with the completion of ‘Siegfried’ and the final music drama in the cycle: ‘Götterdämmerung’.
As mentioned earlier, the Teutonic versions of these myths are very similar to the Nordic versions, differing chiefly in descriptions of climate, and social condition. The Teutonic versions were generally slightly less violent than their Viking equivalents.

In turn, it seems apparent that Wagner again tempered the German tales somewhat; in ‘Tristan und Isolde’, after the hero Tristan is mortally wounded, he is kept alive by the power of love until he is united with his lover, Isolde. After Tristan’s demise in her arms, she is overcome by waves of ecstatic love, and she dies. 

As discouraging as this ending may seem, Wagner saw it as the triumph of love in the face of all adversity; not even death could truly defeat it. 
Of course, the story steps outside of the bounds of reality somewhere along the way, but this only adds to the transcendent quality of the story and of the music drama itself.
Adolf Hitler’s attraction to Richard Wagner’s music began at an early age. At the age of twelve, I saw … the first opera of my life, Lohengrin. In one instant I was addicted. My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth Master knew no bounds.”

Adolf Hitler

In 1905, at the age of sixteen, Hitler left school – ostensibly because of illness – and was able to spend his time as he wished – which he later described as the happiest time of his life.

Two of his favorite pastimes were aimlessly roaming the streets of Linz (see right), and attending the opera at night.
He had a passion for music; most especially the mystic operas of Wagner, which he would attend night after night.
His meager supply of pocket money was spent mainly on the opera, (a standing-room ticket cost only the equivalent of ten cents), and on purchasing books on German history and mythology, which he would read for hours at a time.

His fascination with Wagner’s operas seems to have had a profound effect upon him.

His only friend from this period of his life was one August Kubizek, (nicknamed “Gustl”), who gave an interesting description:

“The charged emotionality of this music seemed to have served him as a means for self-hypnosis, while he found in its lush air of bourgeois luxury the necessary ingredients for escapist fantasy”.
Kubizek goes on to relate the events of a particular evening spent in Hitler’s company.
They had attended a performance of Wagner’s ‘Rienzi’, and according to “Gustl”, Hitler had a quite powerful reaction to the opera.
The youthful Adolf was “overwhelmed by the resplendent, dramatic musicality” of the opera, as well as deeply affected by the story therein; that of Cola di Rienzi, a medieval rebel who was an outcast from his fellows and was “destroyed by their incomprehension”. After the opera …
“… Hitler began to orate. Words burst from him like a backed-up flood breaking through crumbling dams. In grandiose, compelling images, he sketched for me his future and that of his people”.
Thirty years later, the boyhood friends would meet again in Bayreuth, and Hitler would remark: “It all began at that hour !”.
More convincing evidence of Wagner’s influences can hardly be wished for after a statement such as this one, but there is more.
Between 1909 and 1913, a time which Hitler described as “the saddest period of my life”, he resided in Vienna.
It was here, by his own statement in Mein Kampf, that he became a confirmed anti-Semite.

The anti-Semitic opinions Richard Wagner had held were no secret, and the concurrence of opinion between these two men could only have served to pull Hitler closer to a greater regard for Wagner.
Indeed, Hitler claims to have heard ‘Tristan und Isolde’ thirty to forty times during his years in Vienna.
(During these years in Vienna, at the Hofoper opera house alone, at least 426 evenings featured performances of works by Wagner).

In 1923, just before the abortive “Beer-Hall Putsch”, Hitler presented himself at Wahnfried, the home of the Wagner family.

There he met Siegfried Wagner, (Richard Wagner’s only son), and Siegfried’s English born wife Winifred (*see below).
He is said to have sought out the Master’s study, and, deeply moved, stood before Wagner’s grave in the garden for a long time. 
Afterwards, he was introduced to Houston Stewart Chamberlain (**see photo below & ‘AN ENGLISHMAN AT THE COURT OF THE KAISER), (Richard Wagner’s English born son-in-law), who was of advanced age and could not speak. Chamberlain later wrote a letter to Hitler voicing his support for Hitler’s goals and ideas. 

Hitler valued this letter greatly, almost as if it were “a benediction from the Bayreuth Master himself”.

Hitler continued in his contacts with the family of Wagner, and it is rumoured that he had a relationship with Winifred after Siegfried’s death.




Hitler also became a favourite ‘uncle’ (uncle Wolf), to the Wagner’s two sons, Wieland (left) and Wolfgang (right).

His idea of the supreme expression of opera was the final scene in ‘Götterdämmerung’, and, when in Bayreuth, whenever he witnessed this finale, he would turn around in his darkened box, seek out the hand of Frau Winifred Wagner, and “breathe a deeply moved Handkuss upon it”.
By this time he had seen all of Wagner’s operas countless times, and boasted of having listened to ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’ over a hundred times each.

Other indications of Wagner’s influences are furnished by Albert Speer, who began as Hitler’s chief architect and ended as Reich Armaments Minister.
He speaks of the interior furnishings of Hitler’s country house, the Berghof at Obersalzberg.
The salon was furnished, along with normal items of furniture, with a “sideboard over ten feet high and eighteen feet long” which was used to store phonograph records. Against another wall was “a massive chest containing built-in speakers, and adorned by a large bronze bust of Richard Wagner by Arno Breker“.
The admiration Hitler had for Wagner was reciprocated by the Wagner family; when furnishing this dwelling, the Wagners donated linens and china, and sent Hitler a complete set Richard Wagner’s works, along with a page from the original score of Lohengrin.

There is yet another facet of Hitler’s dwelling at Obersalzberg that shows his sense of unity with Germany’s “heroic” past: the view.

Obersalzberg, as one might imply from the name, is a mountain; high enough to give a good view of the surrounding area.
The Berghof, which was designed by Hitler himself, featured a large picture window which offered a view of the Untersberg, Berchtesgaden, and Mozart’s hometown, Salzburg.

Legend has it that the Emperor Charlemagne still sleeps in the Untersberg, but will someday awaken and restore the German Empire to its past glories.
Hitler didn’t hesitate to apply this prophecy to himself: “You see the Untersberg over there. It is no accident that I have my residence opposite it”.
On the eve of World War II, Hitler’s forces reoccupied the Rhineland. Returning from a triumphal trip through this area, and jubilant over the Allies’ weakness, he requested that some Wagner be put on the phonograph. Listening to the vorspiel to Parsifal, he remarked:

I have built up my religion out of Parsifal. Divine worship in solemn form … without pretenses of humility … One can serve God only in the garb of the hero“.

The record continued to play. 
The next selection was the funeral march from Götterdämmerung, and brought forth the following comments from Hitler:
I first heard it in Vienna – at the Opera – and I still remember as if it were today“.
The Germanic myths and the dramatic presentation of these myths by Richard Wagner were, very obviously, a central tool of the Nazi Party.
The psychological effects of these music dramas and stories on the principal figures of the Third Reich are equally obvious, when they are looked for. 
In Joachim Fest’s biography of Hitler, there are no fewer than thirty-four references to Richard Wagner or his music.
And of course, one cannot help but wonder what Richard Wagner would have thought about Adolf Hitler, one of his all-time biggest fans ! However, it was Richard Wagner who declared in his ‘music dramas’ that the coming master race was that of the Germans.

Originally, Nietzsche had delighted in Wagner’s music, but the latter’s obsessive anti-Semitism and conversion to an Aryanised Christianity caused him to denounce the composer with every twist of biting irony at his command.
The great mass of people, however, were to respond more to Wagner’s music than to Nietzsche’s difficult writings, partly because it was great and inspired music and partly because its maker had resurrected the mythology of the German race.
It is said that myths are the truest expression of a race’s spirit and culture, and in ‘The Ring’ the Teutonic ‘Supermen’ bestrode a stage, wherein was war, treachery, courage, blood and fire, climaxed with a stupendous ‘Götterdämmerung’.
The world of Wotan and Thor, heroes and giants, great deeds, great victories, and great destruction had never been expressed with such power.

The beauty of Wagner’s music moved men to such an extent that Hitler would declare that to understand National Socialist Germany one must first know Wagner.
For Wagner believed that the virtues of the Teuton tribes had atrophied with the coming of industrial civilisation; that courage and will had been poisoned or emasculated by capitalism and race pollution; that the Jews were responsible for the enervation and enslavement of the German spirit; and that a new Siegfried must arise to lead the Germans to an awareness of their greatness and their glory.
Schopenauer (see right) destroyed the meaning of values, Nietzsche proclaimed the need for passing beyond them, and Wagner supplied a new set to replace the old.
These three men, renowned more posthumously than in their own lifetimes, challenged the world of 1889 and became, in time, the favourites of Adolf Hitler.
From them he derived what fundamental values he possessed.
It is impossible to tell whether these men expressed what they felt around them, or what they sensed would be the future; or whether they were determined to stamp their wills upon the world.
Were they prophets? Or were they magicians?
We know that Nietzsche derived much of his inspiration from mystical trances which possessed him without warning, and that his greatest work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, was inspired by one such experience in the winter of 1882-3.
We know also that Wagner claimed that the sources of his inspiration flowed from similar supra-rational experiences, and the effect of this can be seen in that extraordinary mystical opera, ‘Parsifal’.
Whatever the truth, it is at least certain that much of what they foretold, later came to pass.
Yet the world of 1889 ignored these insignificant portents of change.
People continued to live as though nothing important had happened or would happen, and no one so much as deigned to notice the birth of Adolf Hitler.
Treaties and contracts were made and broken; money was won and lost; children were educated as though all was absolutely certain.
Books were written and read which taught Christian, bourgeois, industrial capitalist, materialist, humanist European values as if no other could ever be of the slightest relevance.

And yet it was these books which lacked all relevance.
Nietzsche, (see left and NIETZSCHE – CREATOR OF THE ÜBERMENSCH ), who knew the true spirit of his age and of the age to come, wrote:
‘And what doeth the saint in the forest?’ asked Zarathustra.
The saint answered: ‘I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.
‘With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?’
When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: ‘What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!’
And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.
When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: ‘Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that God is dead!”

click below for a fascinating insight into the early life and personality of Adolf Hitler

Der Bayreuther Kreis

Der Bayreuther Kreis (The Bayreuth Circle) was a name originally applied by some writers to devotees of Richard Wagner’s music who attended and supported the annual Bayreuth Festival in the later 19th and early twentieth centuries.
Many of these devotees espoused nationalistic German politics, and  were supporters of Adolf Hitler from the 1920s onwards, and therefore this group of people were directly associated with the rise of Nazism.
There was never any organisation named Der Bayreuther Kreis, or any group of people who identified themselves by that name; but the term has been used by many historians as a convenient label for Hitler supporters associated with Wagner and Bayreuth.
Examples of such association are given in the following citations:
‘Only with timely support from the Bayreuth circle, especially Houston S. Chamberlain, Winifred Wagner, and henchmen like Dietrich Eckhart in the Thule Society, could Hitler assume the public image of a Wotan/Siegfried figure, complete with telling nickname: “Wolf.” ‘
‘Thus Hitler himself admitted: `It was Cosima Wagner’s merit to have created the link between Bayreuth and National Socialism’.
‘It was the Bayreuth circle which raised Wagner’s message to the status of gospel, manoeuvring his ideas into a Germanic doctrine of salvation.’

Significant Operas

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’

   

The cycle is a work of extraordinary scale.
Perhaps the most outstanding facet of the monumental work is its sheer length: a full performance of the cycle takes place over four nights at the opera, with a total playing time of about 15 hours, depending on the conductor’s pacing.
The first and shortest opera, ‘Das Rheingold’, typically lasts two and a half hours, while the final and longest, ‘Götterdämmerung’, takes up four and a half hours.
The cycle is modelled after ancient Greek dramas that were presented as three tragedies and one satyr play.
‘The Ring’ proper begins with ‘Die Walküre’ and ends with ‘Götterdämmerung’, with ‘Rheingold’ as a prelude.

Wagner called ‘Das Rheingold’ a Vorabend or “Preliminary Evening”, and ‘Die Walküre’, ‘Siegfried’ (see left below) and ‘Götterdämmerung’ were subtitled First Day, Second Day and Third Day, respectively, of the trilogy proper.

The scale and scope of the story is epic.

It follows the struggles of gods, heroes, and several mythical creatures over the eponymous magic Ring that grants domination over the entire world.
The drama and intrigue continue through three generations of protagonists, until the final cataclysm at the end of Götterdämmerung.
The music of the cycle is thick and richly textured, and grows in complexity as the cycle proceeds.

Wagner wrote for an orchestra of gargantuan proportions, including a greatly enlarged brass section with new instruments such as the ‘Wagner tuba’ (see left), bass trumpet and contrabass trombone.

Remarkably, he uses a chorus only relatively briefly, in acts 2 and 3 of ‘Götterdämmerung’, and then mostly of men with just a few women.
He eventually had a purpose-built theatre constructed, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, in which to perform this work.
The theatre has a special stage that blends the huge orchestra with the singers’ voices, allowing them to sing at a natural volume.
The result was that the singers do not have to strain themselves vocally during the long performances.
Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle begins when the dwarf Alberich rejects love in order to gain unlimited power over the world by forging a Ring of Power from the Rhinegold.
The rejection of love is the only possible way of seizing this gold from the Rhine Maidens who had teased and taunted Alberich’s love.

Once Alberich has seized the gold he forges it into a ring and a magical helmet (the Tarnhelm) that allows all who don it to shift shape at will and cross great distances in an instant.
When the god Wotan is himself allured by the wealth of the gold and power of the ring – stealing them from Alberich in order to pay for a great hall of the gods (Valhalla), the embittered dwarf curses the ring with a spell – ensuring that it will henceforth bring about the death and downfall of all who wear it.
Only the Earth goddess Erda, embodiment of primordial wisdom, and Loge – the luciferic fire spirit upon whom Wotan has relied – recognise the full pathos of what will befall both gods and mortals if the Ring is not returned to its source in the Rhine.
This is ultimately achieved not by the naïve and fearless hero Siegfried, nor by his loveless rival, the son of Alberich but by Siegfried’s lover Brünnhilde – (see right).
She is a female warrior, a ‘death angel’ or Valkyrie born of Erda’s violation by Wotan. 
In the symbolism of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, rejection of love in favour of power over, and the enforced submission of female gods and mortals combine to bring about a loss of inner power and knowledge.
In the end Wotan regains the wisdom lost to Erda only by willingly submitting to the fate imposed by the power of the Ring.
He does so by encouraging Brunnhilde to follow her own loving instincts for both Siegfried and himself – knowing full well that this will eventually bring about the downfall or ‘Twilight’ of the gods, but knowing at the same time that only this will save mankind and redeem the world.
The epic ends with Brünnhilde flinging the ring back into the Rhine – whose luciferic flames then rise to engulf Valhalla and cause its collapse.
The gods – hitherto embodiments of inner power and knowledge – fall prey to the allure of outer symbols of that power and knowledge (gold, heroic victory in war, and the grand fortress of Valhalla that is home to dead heroes).
Thus bringing about their own downfall, they now await their return – no longer as gods but as human beings – loving men and women of inner power and inner knowledge.

Parsifal

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.

It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.

It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.
At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera. Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by an erroneous etymology of the name Percival deriving it from a supposedly Arabic origin, Fal Parsi meaning “pure fool”.
for more information see the post
   
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Winifred Wagner

Winifred Wagner (23 June 1897 – 5 March 1980) was an English-born Welsh woman married to Siegfried Wagner, Richard Wagner’s son
She was the effective head of the Wagner family from 1930 to 1945, and a close friend of German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Winifred Williams was born Winifred Marjorie Williams in Hastings, England, the daughter of John Williams, a writer, and his wife, the former Emily Florence Karop.
Winifred lost both her parents before the age of two and was initially raised in a series of homes. Eight years later she was adopted by a distant German relative of her mother, Henrietta Karop, and her husband Karl Klindworth, a musician and a friend of Richard Wagner.
The Bayreuth Festival was envisioned as a family business, with the leadership to be passed from Richard Wagner to his son Siegfried Wagner, but Siegfried, who was secretly homosexual, showed little interest in marriage.

It was arranged that Winifred Klindworth, as she was called at the time, aged 17, would meet Siegfried Wagner, aged 45, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1914.A year later they were married. It was hoped that the marriage would end Siegfried’s homosexual encounters and the associated costly scandals, and provide an heir to carry on the family business. Following their marriage on 22 September 1915, they had four children in rapid succession: Wieland (1917–1966), Friedelind (1918–1991), Wolfgang (1919–2010) and Verena (born 1920). After the death of Siegfried Wagner in 1930, Winifred Wagner took over the Bayreuth Festival, running it until the end of World War II.

In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler who, as we have seen earlier, greatly admired Wagner’s music. 
When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf may have been written. In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler’s personal translator during treaty negotiations with England. Although Winifred remained personally faithful to Hitler, she denied that she had ever supported the Nazi party. Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage.

‘Haus Wahnfried’, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler’s favorite retreat, and he had his own separate accommodation in the grounds of Wahnfried, known as the Führerbau.
Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred’s children, particularly Wieland and Wolfgang solicitously.
According to biographer Brigitte Hamann, Winifred Wagner was reported to be “disgusted” by Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. In one notable incident, in the late 1930s, a letter from her to Hitler prevented Hedwig and Alfred Pringsheim (their daughter Katia was married to Thomas Mann) from being arrested by the Gestapo.
According to Gottfried Wagner, Winifred’s grandson, she never admitted the error of her ways. After the war, her posthumous devotion to the man she cryptically referred to as “USA” – for ‘Unser Seliger Adolf’ (our blessed Adolf) – remained undimmed.
She corresponded with Hitler for nearly two decades.
Scholars have not been allowed to see the letters which are kept locked away by one of Winifred’s grandchildren, Amélie Lafferentz.


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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


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Parsifal und die Deutsche Seele – Richard Wagner

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


(Parsifal and the German Soul)

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.
It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.
It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Metropolitan Opera House – New York

Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.

At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera.

Wolfram von Eschenbach

Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by the etymology of the name Percival, deriving it from an Arabic origin, ‘Fal Parsi‘ meaning “pure fool”.

Wagner first read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s poem Parzival while taking the waters at Marienbad in 1845.

Arthur Schopenhauer

After encountering Arthur Schopenhauer’s work in 1854, Wagner became interested in oriental philosophies, especially Buddhism.

He was particularly inspired by reading Eugène Burnouf’s “Introduction à l’histoire du buddhisme indien” in 1855/56.
Out of this interest came “Die Sieger” (“The Victors”, 1856) a sketch Wagner wrote for an opera based on a story from the life of Buddha.
The themes which were later explored in Parsifal of self-renouncing, reincarnation, and exclusive social groups (‘castes‘ in ‘Die Sieger’, the ‘Knights of the Grail‘ in ‘Parsifal’) were first introduced in “Die Sieger”.






Mathilde Wessendonk
Asyl

According to his own account, recorded in his autobiography ‘Mein Leben’, Wagner conceived Parsifal on Good Friday morning, April 1857, in the ‘Asyl‘ (German: “Asylum”), the small cottage on Otto von Wesendonck’s estate in the Zürich suburb of Enge, which Wesendonck – a wealthy silk merchant and generous patron of the arts – had placed at Wagner’s disposal. 

The composer and his wife Minna had moved into the cottage on 28 April:




Minna Planer

“… on Good Friday I awoke to find the sun shining brightly for the first time in this house: the little garden was radiant with green, the birds sang, and at last I could sit on the roof and enjoy the long-yearned-for peace with its message of promise.

Full of this sentiment, I suddenly remembered that the day was Good Friday, and I called to mind the significance this omen had already once assumed for me when I was reading Wolfram’s Parzival.
Since the sojourn in Marienbad [in the summer of 1845], where I had conceived ‘Die Meistersinger’ and ‘Lohengrin’, I had never occupied myself again with that poem; now its noble possibilities struck me with overwhelming force, and out of my thoughts about Good Friday I rapidly conceived a whole drama, of which I made a rough sketch with a few dashes of the pen, dividing the whole into three acts.”

Wagner did not resume work on Parsifal for eight years, during which time he completed ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and began ‘Die Meistersinger’.
Then, between 27 and 30 August 1865, he took up Parsifal again and made a prose draft of the work; this contains a fairly brief outline of the plot and a considerable amount of detailed commentary on the characters and themes of the drama, but once again the work was dropped and set aside for another eleven and a half years.
During this time most of Wagner’s creative energy was devoted to the ‘Ring’ cycle, which was finally completed in 1874 and given its first full performance at Bayreuth in August 1876.
Only when this gargantuan task had been accomplished did Wagner find the time to concentrate on ‘Parsifal’.
By 23 February 1877 he had completed a second and more extensive prose draft of the work, and by 19 April of the same year he had transformed this into a verse libretto (or “poem”, as Wagner liked to call his libretti).

In September 1877 he began the music by making two complete drafts of the score from beginning to end.
The first of these (known in German as the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ and in English as either the ‘Preliminary Draft’ or the ‘First Complete Draft’) was made in pencil on three staves, one for the voices and two for the instruments.
The second complete draft (‘Orchesterskizze‘, ‘Orchestral Draft’, ‘Short Score’) was made in ink and on at least three, but sometimes as many as five, staves.
This draft was much more detailed than the first and contained a considerable degree of instrumental elaboration.
The second draft was begun on 25 September 1877, just a few days after the first: at this point in his career Wagner liked to work on both drafts simultaneously, switching back and forth between the two so as not to allow too much time to elapse between his initial setting of the text and the final elaboration of the music.
The ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of Act III was completed on 16 April 1879 and the ‘Orchesterskizze’ on the 26th of the same month.
The full score (‘Partiturerstschrift‘) was the final stage in the compositional process.
It was made in ink and consisted of a fair copy of the entire opera, with all the voices and instruments properly notated according to standard practice.
Wagner composed ‘Parsifal’ one act at a time, completing the ‘Gesamtentwur‘ and ‘Orchesterskizze‘ of each act before beginning the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of the next act; but because the ‘Orchesterskizze‘ already embodied all the compositional details of the full score, the actual drafting of the ‘Partiturerstschrift‘ was regarded by Wagner as little more than a routine task which could be done whenever he found the time.
The ‘Vorspiel of Act I’ was scored in August 1878.
The rest of the opera was scored between August 1879 and 13 January 1882.

The Premiere

Paul von Joukowsky

On 12 November 1880 Wagner conducted a private performance of the ‘Parsifal Vorspiel’ for his patron Ludwig II of Bavaria at the Court Theatre in Munich (see left).
The premiere of the entire work was given in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth on 26 July 1882 under the baton of the conductor Hermann Levi.
Stage designs were by Max Brückner and Paul von Joukowsky  who took their lead from Wagner himself.


The Grail hall was based on the interior of Siena Cathedral (see left) which Wagner had visited in 1880, while Klingsor’s magic garden was modelled on those at the Palazzo Rufolo in Ravello (see right).
In July and August 1882 sixteen performances of the work were given in Bayreuth conducted by Levi and Franz Fischer.
The production boasted an orchestra of 107, a chorus of 135 and 23 soloists (with the main parts being double cast).
At the last of these performances, Wagner took the baton from Levi (see right) and conducted the final scene of Act 3 from the orchestral interlude to the end.

At the first performances of ‘Parsifal’ problems with the moving scenery during the transition from Scene one to Scene two in Act 1 meant that Wagner’s existing orchestral interlude finished before Parsifal and Gurnemanz arrived at the Hall of the Grail.
Engelbert Humperdinck (see left), who was assisting the production, provided a few extra bars of music to cover this gap.
In subsequent years this problem was solved and Humperdinck’s additions were not used.

Thirty-seven years had gone by between the first idea for the work and its completion.

Concerning Wagner’s knowledge of occultism, which is crucial, we know he was acquainted with Freemasons, with whom he entered into fierce debate, and with the Rosicrucians.

In his library, now situated in Bayreuth, and open to the public, there are translations of the ‘Upanishads’ and the ‘Mahabharata’, which were just being published in his time.

The Upanishads are a collection of Sanskrit philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion.
They are also known as Vedanta, (the end of the veda).

The Upanishads

The Upanishads are considered by orthodox Hindus to contain revealed truths (Sruti) concerning the nature of ultimate reality (brahman), and describing the character and form of human salvation (moksha).
More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads.
Historians believe the chief Upanishads were composed over a wide period ranging from the Pre-Buddhist period to the early centuries BCE, however, there has been considerable debate among authorities about the exact dating of individual Upanishads.

Chariot of Krishna and Arjuna
Bhagavad Gita

Their significance has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Schopenhauer, Emerson and Thoreau, and of course Wagner, among others. Scholars also note similarity between the doctrine of Upanishads and those of Plato and Kant.
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.
Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or purusharthas (12.161). Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata is the superlative ‘Bhagavad Gita’ – ‘The Song of the Lord’, often considered as work in its own right.

Richard Wagner undoubtedly had exceptional intuitive abilities, and could see many extremely subtle realms and interrelations directly; also that he suffered deeply because all too often he simply could not find the words to express what took place so clearly before his spiritual eye.

Amfortas 

It is therefore understandable that he identified with the figure of Amfortas – (see right): Wagner believed in living life to the full; he also saw things but could not grasp them.
The basic spiritual tendency running through the opera is compassion.
Reincarnation and karma are clearly described in several places – without them the whole drama would be inexplicable.
A number of symbols and mythical elements are important for a general understanding of the work.
First, the symbol of the Grail combines elements of legends from Persia and Asia Minor with those from Celtic mythology.

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Parsifal Vorspiel – Leitmotiven

A leitmotif  is a musical term referring to a ‘short, constantly recurring musical phrase’, associated with a particular person, place, or idea.
It is closely related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or ‘motto-theme’.

Richard Wagner

The term itself is an anglicization of the German ‘Leitmotiv’, literally meaning “leading motif”, or perhaps more accurately, “guiding motif.”
A musical motif has been defined as a ‘short musical idea…melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three’, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: “the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity.”
In particular such a motif should be ‘clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances’ whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment. It may also be ‘combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition’ or development.
The technique is notably associated with the ‘music dramas’ of Richard Wagner.

The Vorspiel to “Parsifal” is based on three of the most profound leitmotifs in the entire work.

It opens with the Motive of the Sacrament, over which, when it is repeated, arpeggios hover, as in the religious paintings of old masters angel forms float above the figure of virgin or saint.
Through this motive we gain insight into the office of the Knights of the Grail, who from time to time strengthen themselves for their spiritual duties by partaking of the communion, on which occasions the Grail itself is uncovered.
This motive leads to the Grail Motive, effectively swelling to forte and then dying away in ethereal harmonies, like the soft light with which the Grail illumines the hall in which the knights gather to worship.
The trumpets then announce the Motive of Faith, severe but sturdy — portraying superbly the immutability of faith.
The Grail Motive is heard again and then the Motive of Faith is repeated, its severity exquisitely softened, so that it conveys a sense of peace which passeth all understanding.
The rest of the Vorspiel is agitated. That portion of the Motive of the Sacrament which appears later as the Spear Motive here assumes through a slight change a deeply sad character, and becomes typical throughout the work of the sorrow wrought by Amfortas’s crime.
I call it the Elegiac Motive.
Thus the Vorspiel depicts both the religious duties which play to prominent a part in the drama, and unhappiness which Amfortas’s sinful forgetfulness of these duties has brought upon himself and his knights.

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The Grail Legend

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival

Every German schoolboy knew the great folk tale of the Grail by heart.

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival was one of the greatest works of literature in the German (or any other) language.
On the surface it is a familiar tale of a pure knight’s search for perfect love and redemption.
Few pieces of heroic literature had more impact on the nation-conscious Germans than Parzival.

The Grail legend is interpreted in two ways.
Generally, it is viewed as a story of Christian love and the redemption of mankind.
The second is the mythical interpretation.
The Grail is said to contain a coded message known only to a few, and understood by a tiny number.
It is this interpretation which is accepted by Ravenscroft in ‘The Cup of Destiny’ (1981) and Angebert in ‘The Occult and the Third Reich’ (1974).

Lucifer – Prince of Heaven

Lucifer was a Prince of Heaven before his sin prompted God to cast him to Hell.

On the descent to the Underworld his crown fell to earth, and from it a huge emerald.
This was used by men of antiquity to fashion a drinking cup to be used in occult rituals.
Here we find the most ancient relic accepted by both Christians and gnostics.
The cup was ringed with the usual special signs, symbols, runes and the like, all depicting the ascent of man through various stages to a final state of blessedness.
The Grail had become the sacred vessel of Initiate Knowledge.
It contained on its exterior the great trove of primordial knowledge and tradition which linked the past to the future. 
hat primordial knowledge can bring man back into the natural and only true condition for him, the primordial state of consciousness.
Within Germany many regarded the Grail as the lost, secret book of the Aryan race.
It had been entrusted to them since eons past, and was lost and recovered on occasion.
What precisely it contained was unknown, and since it was written in symbols, the interpretation given these runes may have differed from age to age.
It was the one great treasure of all Aryans, at all times.
From age to age it had been the uniting factor, the one artifact that provided a rationale for the existence of the race.
The Grail predated Christianity.
This is an absolute whose acceptance is necessary for understanding the importance of it as an artifact to the NSDAP and its leaders, notably the SS.
In Alfred Rosenberg’s ‘Myth of the 20th Century’ the Grail may be viewed as the cause of German objection to some aspects of Christianity, notably to Roman Catholicism.
It may be viewed as having provided direction to the German people, or at least a significant portion of it, when the people were confronted by orthodox Western church teachings which were alien to them.

The Grail

The Grail, the cup which Jesus used at the Last Supper, was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth (see left).
Lucifer (the Light-bringer) brought the mental principle to evolving humanity.
The stone from Lucifer’s crown can therefore be regarded as ego-consciousness or “I am I”: without the awakening mind principle humanity would not be able to acquire knowledge, and the first step along this path is “I am I.”
That this stone was fashioned into a cup or bowl which was used to catch the blood of Christ elevates its meaning because it then stands for the divine self.
As Wagner remarked, it becomes “Grail consciousness” — purified, redeemed “I am.”
The Grail is entrusted to Titurel.
He gathers a brotherhood of knights around him, called the knights of the Grail, who devote themselves to the service of this Grail consciousness through noble deeds.


A second important symbol is the spear, derived from the spear of Longinus (see left) who, it is said, thrust it into Christ’s side during the crucifixion, shedding the Savior’s blood.
It stands for higher mind, that part of us which must decide whether the mind will aspire to spirit or succumb to material desire.
A third central symbol is the swan (see right), denoting the north.
Wagner uses the swan as a symbol of those beings who, though still devoid of individual consciousness, are located in the divine realms, but have their whole development before them; this symbol is identical with that of the angel.
In the last scene a dove appears, symbol according to Wagner of “divine spirit, which floats down idealistically onto the human soul.” It is the Holy Ghost or Spirit.

The first act of the opera, which takes place in the realm of the Grail, close to Montsalvat (see left), begins with trombones sounding the reveille.

Gurnemanz, teacher and guardian of the secret wisdom of the Grail, wakens two squires lying asleep under a tree, saying: “Do you hear the call? Give thanks to God that you are called to hear it !
That the reveille sounds from the realm of the Grail indicates that it is a spiritual call.
At this time Amfortas, King of the Grail, lies sick and wounded, the wound being an external symbol for inner events.
In his striving towards higher things, Amfortas battled in the realm of the lower mind ruled by the black magician Klingsor and lost the spear.
Klingsor wounded him in his side with the spear, a wound which will not heal.
This wound is the pivot of all further action.
It is the fissure between the higher self and the personal self, caused by the fact that the mental principle was directed into the earthly realm where it is now ruled by Klingsor, or mind linked with sexual desire.
Gurnemanz and the squires try to alleviate the pain suffered by the King of the Grail.
They wish to bathe the wound, though Gurnemanz in his wisdom knows this will be of no avail. The King’s wound, an inner wound, cannot be closed by baths or ointments.
Wrapped in thought, he sings: “There is but one thing can help him, only one man.”
When a knight asks the man’s name, he avoids answering.
Then Kundry enters the scene, appearing wild one moment, lifeless the next.
She presses on Gurnemanz a small crystal vessel containing balsam with which Amfortas might be healed.

Kundry personifies the desire nature, messenger and temptress at the same time.

On the one hand, desire binds us to earthly things, while on the other it provides the first impulses to understand what is hidden. Thus Kundry serves both the Grail and also, as temptress, Klingsor who seeks to divert people from the quest for the divine through the power of the senses.
Wagner remarks that the black magician “beclouds the divine judgment of man through the sense impressions of the material world, and thereby leads him into a world of deception.”
A dispute arises between the knights of the Grail and Gurnemanz about Kundry (desire).
The squires mistrust her, but Gurnemanz says:
Yes, she may be under a curse. She lives here now — perhaps reincarnated, to expiate some sin from an earlier life not yet forgiven there.
Now she makes atonement by such deeds as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, serving us and thereby helping herself.’
Naturally, Kundry was also involved when Klingsor seized the spear from Amfortas.
In his pain, Amfortas addresses the Grail and asks for a sign of help.
In a vision he describes how someone will come to help him: “Enlightened through understanding, the innocent fool; wait for him, the appointed one.

This announcement of the foolish innocent (“Fal parsi,” hence Parsifal) refers to the reincarnating ego, which hastens from life to life.

If the reincarnating ego gives full expression to its divine individuality in its personal life, the inner fissure – the wound — will be closed again, for the mind which has been directed to things carnal and of matter will be turned back to the divine.
Before divinity can be attained, however, human evolution has to be experienced.
At the outset, mankind is completely un-selfconscious and lives in a state of divine innocence, untouched by things of matter and without an independent mind, a state symbolized by the swan.
It has to leave this state, descend to the physical realm, and experience all the conflicts that evolution entails.
Through the associated suffering and the development of the thinking principle, humans learn from their own experience to feel compassion for other beings.
These developments find their corollary in the departure of young people from their parental home, the maternal plane.
Such a departure is often very difficult and may be accompanied by a great deal of pain and many reproaches; but this break is absolutely necessary if young people are to go through their own experiences and develop the ability to think for themselves, though this simultaneously causes the maternal principle much grief.

Parsifal und der Schwan
Parsifal und der Schwan

This “descent” or gaining of independence is represented by Wagner in the slaying of the swan by Parsifal.

Gurnemanz sternly reproaches Parsifal for killing the swan with an arrow.
Parsifal is at first filled with childlike pride at his accuracy but becomes increasingly disturbed when he looks at the dead bird, and for the first time he feels pity.
Gurnemanz inquires of Parsifal his name and origin, but Parsifal cannot remember and replies: “I had many, but I know none of them any more.”
The only name he remembers is that of his mother: Herzeleide (Heart’s Sorrow).
Kundry is able to provide more information about his origin: his father was killed in battle, and his mother “reared him up in the desert to folly, a stranger to arms.”
Parsifal nevertheless recalls that one day he saw the knights of the Grail riding along the forest’s edge: “I ran after them, but could not overtake them; through deserts I wandered, up hill and down dale.”
Parsifal yearns for more than a solitary, peaceful life.
Kundry confirms this, and informs him of his mother’s death.
Parsifal springs furiously at her, but Gurnemanz restrains him.
Thus although the Parsifal is endowed with a feeling of right and wrong, his mind is not yet fully developed.
It therefore turns, in conjunction with desire, to anger and rage.
Gurnemanz, the wise initiate, restrains him.
The rest of the opera describes what takes place during this descent of the human soul. Gurnemanz has already recognized that Parsifal is someone who can restore the divine harmony.
He offers to lead him to the feast of the Grail.

Both move into their inner, spiritual realms, represented by the temple of the Grail.
This realm lies beyond the differentiation of space and time. Hence Parsifal remarks: “I scarcely tread, yet seem already to have come far.
Gurnemanz answers, significantly: “You see, my son, time here becomes space.”
Gurnemanz warns Parsifal to pay close attention to everything he encounters and later to take it back into the realm of his personal consciousness.
Before them both a scene opens with a pillared hall where the knights of the Grail carry in Amfortas.
The covered shrine of the Grail is carried before them.
In the background can be heard the voice of Titurel, the former guardian of the Grail, who received the Cup from the aeon’s hands and learned the occult mysteries in an inner vision.

He says, “Amfortas, my son, are you in your place? Shall I again today look on the Grail and live ?

This indicates that the life forces of spiritual traditions steadily weaken if they are not renewed by intuitive, creative individuals.
Time and again attempts are made to establish a spiritual, compassionate brotherhood.
If, however, the innovators fail, the effort comes to a standstill; the teachings ossify, and what used to be the content becomes a veil, until nothing is left of the original impulse.
Titurel must therefore die.
So Titurel calls upon Amfortas to view the Grail, but Amfortas is incapable of doing so – he has lost the mental principle to Klingsor, the lower mind.
Titurel now calls for the uncovering of the Grail, the revelation of occult wisdom.
When, at his insistence, this takes place, Amfortas is racked with pain: for those imprisoned in the lower mind, the sight of divine wisdom is unbearable.
The tragedy of such a situation is clear.
On the one hand, such people are impelled by divine impulses; on the other, they are completely entangled in the world of deception and sensuality.
When the full, idealistic nature of the Grail appears to Amfortas, so great becomes his despair that he begs to die.

But the Chorus sings again: “Enlightened through knowledge, the innocent fool: – wait for him, the appointed one.

Gurnemanz, who led Parsifal to this inner vision, stands beside Parsifal throughout the scene.
At the end he asks Parsifal: “Do you know what you have seen ?
But Parsifal cannot answer, as he is overcome by the suffering he has seen.
Gurnemanz angrily dismisses him.
Parsifal is not yet able to help, as this requires more than just a vision of things occult.
He must first acquire occult knowledge on the physical plane.
This alone will enable him to internalize what he has seen and make it part of his consciousness.
Only in this way can the divine be carried over into all realms.

The second act of Parsifal takes place in the magic castle (in the realm of illusion) of the black magician Klingsor.
Here the evil principle, personified as the magician Klingsor, tests Parsifal’s will power.
Wagner regards Klingsor “as the counterweight to the god-seeking impulse, which beclouds the power of discernment, with two sources of illusion: the power of sense impressions and passionate desire.
Klingsor evokes those forces of passion which compel us into a seemingly endless cycle of re-embodiment,  ever seeking redemption.
Through self-castration Klingsor has forcibly rendered himself un-receptive to desire.
He has obtained magic power over Kundry, and the possession of the holy spear.
Now he intends, with her aid, to gain possession of the Grail: Kundry is to seduce Parsifal, as she did Amfortas before him.
Kundry suffers because of herself: she longs for satisfaction and the stilling of her eternal urges.
But a knight must be able to withstand, control, and refine the dark forces of desire – ultimately it is desire which impels us to aspire to higher things.
Kundry resists the entreaties of the magician, but when Parsifal enters the realm of Klingsor, she succumbs to the magician’s power.
The violent love which she feels, however, is the result of desire. 
Thus tragedy is preordained.

Parsifal und die Blumenmädchen

When Parsifal enters the magic castle, Klingsor conceals himself and turns the area into a beautiful tropical garden where young maidens clad in soft-colored veils dance.

When Parsifal approaches, they embrace him, and the game with the flower maidens begins.
The higher self can only play with beauty; as soon as one is entrapped by it, his powers become bound to the physical realm.
The maidens want more than just to play, and they crowd around him.
Firmly driving them off, Parsifal cries: “Have done! You shall not catch me !
The first attempt at seduction through the power of deceptive beauty has been repulsed, but when Kundry enters and calls his name – ‘Parsifal’ – he is shocked, because his mother had once addressed him in just the same way in a dream.
The flower maidens fade away and Parsifal recognizes the deceptive nature of the material world.
Now the power of ‘desire‘ is revealed to him: Kundry becomes visible.
She tells Parsifal of his origin: Parsifal left the world of illusion and went his way, following the laws of spirit.
In the world of appearances it is impossible to understand such decisions.
So great is the sorrow of his mother (his biological origin) at his decision that she finally dies.


Parsifal and his Mother
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

When Kundry tells of his mother’s grief when he ran away to seek higher things, she awakens the pity of the higher self with regard to the personal self.
Parsifal sinks down at Kundry’s feet and torments himself with severe self-reproaches.
Parsifal experiences here the possibly strongest temptation the aspiring human being can encounter.
Overpowering pity in the face of suffering has proved the undoing of many who betrayed their divine ideals for the sake of alleviating suffering.
In his state of weakness, Kundry tells Parsifal of the great love between his parents; nevertheless, he does not give in to Kundry’s fantasies, but instead sees a vision of Amfortas before him.

The Temptation of Parsifal -1894
Arthur Hacker-1858-1919

This time he does not merely see the sorrow in the realm of the Grail, as in the first act, but suffers it directly.
Parsifal suddenly starts up with a gesture of the utmost terror, his demeanor expresses some fearful change; he presses his hands hard against his heart as if to master an agonizing pain.
He cries: “Amfortas ! The wound! The wound!  It burns within my heart !
Parsifal remembers what he saw in the temple of the Grail and “falls into a complete trance.
The vision of his link with divinity awakens once again within him.
He is filled with deep understanding, which no longer relates to the personal self, nor to the suffering of the spiritual self (Amfortas), but to the innermost  heart of creation, calling us to the ultimate vision of the cosmos.
It is compassion for his own essential being – his ‘true will’ which is enchained by the fetters of desire.
This understanding activates the ‘true will’ and sets in motion the will to complete the process of attaining the divine vision.
Kundry tries to hinder Parsifal’s understanding, but he recognizes the demonic nature of her attempt.
Kundry tries to kiss Parsifal, but he forcefully repulses her.
This is the turning point of the whole drama.
The deceptive maneuver of the black magician which brought about the downfall of Amfortas and the knights of the Grail, is penetrated by Parsifal, enabling him to achieve clearness of vision.

Wagner’s Parsifal
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

He sees through the bewildering attacks of his adversary and hears the call of the divine will to redemption “in proving himself through the understanding he feels for the sorrow of humanity” (quotation from Wieland Wagner).
Only now does Klingsor begin his most powerful attack on the initiant.
Through Kundry he attempts to conjoin universal love with the personal.
Kundry reveals to Parsifal the tragedy of her existence and her own suffering, saying:
‘One for whom I yearned in deathly longing, whom I recognized though despised and rejected, let me weep upon his breast, for one hour only be united to you and, though God and the world disown me, in you be cleansed of sin and redeemed !’
Parsifal here recognizes Klingsor’s seductive attack on his will to Truth.
He discerns the way in which the human desire nature repeatedly feigns reformation, and binds us to the material world.
He again repulses Kundry, saying: “For evermore would you be damned with me if for one hour, unmindful of my mission, I yielded to your embrace.”
The seducing skills become increasingly spiritual (geistig).
Kundry begs for pity and promises Parsifal the attainment of divinity.
But the initiant understands that in no event must he allow himself to be ruled by the desire nature; only if desire is used to liberate the aspiring human ego will it be redeemed.
He says to Kundry: “Love and redemption shall be yours if you will show me the way to Amfortas.”
Kundry tries once again to win Parsifal’s act of redemption for herself: she tries to embrace him and implores him to take pity, but it is too late: Parsifal is already in a higher state of consciousness.
He vigorously pushes her aside.
The initiant has withstood the test.
Kundry flies into a fury and curses “the fool” in her selfish longing for redemption.
She tries to prevent him from reaching the Grail.

Parsifal – Klingsor
Klingsor then appears in person and hurls the Spear at Parsifal, but Parsifal catches the Spear and holds it above his head: sensuous lower mind is transformed into aspiring higher mind.
Parsifal says: “With this sign I rout your enchantment.As the spear closes the wound which you dealt him with it, may it crush your lying splendour into mourning and ruin !
In the light of the higher mind the demonic illusion fades away;
Klingsor’s magic realm is violently destroyed, as if by an earthquake.


The third act, concerning redemption, takes place in the realm of the Grail on the morning of Good Friday: flowers are in bloom all around and desire moves through the whole of nature, awakening it to new life.
Gurnemanz enters from a humble hermit’s hut, when he hears Kundry moaning.
He notices a change in her: the wildness has vanished.
She allows Gurnemanz to reawaken her from her paralysis.
Her only concern seems to be to serve the knights of the Grail, but Gurnemanz informs her of a change in the knightly order: the spring of divine wisdom has failed.
Everyone now looks after himself.
Meanwhile Parsifal enters clad in black armor, which Wagner regarded as a symbol of the True Will, – the fighting strength of the personal self.
He saw the conquest of the powers of illusion as an act requiring personal effort and struggle – the assertion of the higher will in the midst of personal, earthly life: a strong awareness of suffering can raise the intellect of the higher nature to knowledge of the meaning of the world.
Those in whom this sublime process takes place, it being announced to us by a suitable deed, are called heroes. – (Collected Writings of R. Wagner, vol. 10)

Der Speer

Gurnemanz calls upon the “stranger” to lay down his weapons at this holy spot.
Parsifal then “thrusts the spear into the ground before him, lays shield and sword beneath it, opens his helmet, takes it from his head and lays it with the other arms, then kneels before the spear in silent prayer. . . . Parsifal raises his eyes devoutly to the spearhead.”
In the realm of the Grail the weapons of the personal consciousness are sacrificed to the power of intuition: the helmet of intelligence, the shield of courage, and the sword of the active will, while the point of the spear represents the moment of maximum concentration which leads the ultimate creativity.
Gurnemanz now recognizes the spear, and also the man who had once slain the swan.
The spear is back in the realm of the Grail: the power of intuition shines again.
When asked where he comes from, Parsifal answers: “Through error and the path of suffering I came; . . . An evil curse drove me about in trackless wandering, never to find the way to healing; numberless dangers, battles, and conflicts forced me from my path even when I thought I knew it.
Gurnemanz reports that since Titurel’s death the state of the Order has worsened: intuition has been completely lost, and the Grail itself remains enclosed within the shrine.
The knights now feed only on dogmas.
Parsifal springs up in intense grief – he feels responsible for the knights’ suffering since he, the chosen “Redeemer,” had succumbed to illusion.
Amfortas is due to open the shrine in which the Grail is concealed on that very day, when his father is carried to his grave.
Gurnemanz wants to take Parsifal to him, but first, one of the most significant scenes of the opera takes place: as Kundry bathes Parsifal’s feet, the full consciousness of his task awakens in him.
Once the purification and cleansing of the personal self have been carried out, Gurnemanz proceeds to anoint his head – his spiritual judgment must likewise light up pure and spotless within the personal self – enabling the personal self to be united with the divine self of its own free will.
Parsifal is thereby made King of the Grail.
His first office is to baptize Kundry: the desire nature is incorporated into the community as an element necessary to progress, and becomes the driving force of pure divine love.
That desire no longer serves the lower, but the higher self, brings about a transformation in the whole of nature.
In Gurnemanz’s words: “Thus all creation gives thanks, all that here blooms and soon fades, now the nature, absolved from sin, today gains its day of innocence.”
Parsifal then kisses Kundry gently on the forehead.
In the distance the sound of bells is heard.
As they approach the temple of the Grail, time once more becomes space and the interior of the temple becomes visible.
It is the same scene as at the end of the first act, but more gloomy.
Two processions of knights enter the stage, one carrying Titurel’s coffin, the other with Amfortas on his deathbed.
The knights are aware that without the creative power of intuition of the Grail, they are doomed to die.
They are not strong enough to open the shrine themselves and therefore insistently press Amfortas to do so, but in his immeasurable pain he is no longer able to open the shrine.
He calls upon the knights to kill him, since no one is able to close the wound.
At this moment the higher self breaks through: Parsifal enters the hall, accompanied by Gurnemanz and Kundry and, touching the wound with the end of the spear, says: “But one weapon serves: only the spear that smote you can heal your wound.
The personal mind, gravitating to things of earth, opened up the gulf in human nature; the intuitive mind closes the fissure between the spiritual and earth-bound poles.
Parsifal continues: “Be whole, absolved and atoned! For I now will perform your task. O blessed be your suffering, that gave pity’s mighty power and purest wisdom’s might to the timorous fool !
Parsifal steps towards center stage, holding the spear aloft before him, saying: “I bring back to you the holy spear !

Parsifal Choir
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

All gaze in reverence at the uplifted spear, to whose point Parsifal raises his eyes and intones:
‘O highest  wonder ! This that could heal your wound I see pouring with holy blood yearning for that kindred fount which flows and wells within the Grail.
No more shall it be hidden: uncover the Grail, open the shrine!
Parsifal then mounts the altar steps, takes the Grail from the shrine now opened by the squires, and kneels before it in silent prayer and contemplation.

The Holy Grail
Der Speer des Schicksals

The Grail begins to glow with a soft light, increasing darkness below and growing illumination far above.
A beam of light: the Grail glows at its brightest.
From the dome a white dove descends and hovers over Parsifal’s head.
Kundry slowly sinks lifeless to the ground in front of Parsifal, her eyes uplifted to him.
Amfortas and Gurnemanz kneel in homage to Parsifal, who waves the Grail in blessing over the worshipping brotherhood of knights.
Wagner by these stage directions for the final scene epitomizes the ultimate triumph of the heroic soul.

Through Parsifal’s act the earthbound human will is directed upwards again towards the creator; the power of creative intuition flows again through all the realms.

As a result, the fossilized spiritual tradition of Titurel is reinvigorated, and he rises from his coffin.
The divine spirit, symbolized by the dove, hovers over Parsifal’s head, – the consciousness of the ‘True Will’ experiences its innate divinity.
This represents a transformation into something completely new: the attainment of transcendence.
Erlösung dem Erlöser !


Nietzsche & Parsifal

By pity guided,
The guileless fool;
Wait for him,
My chosen tool.


Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche heard the ‘Parsifal Vorspiel’ (Prelude) for the first time in Monte-Carlo in January 1887 :

‘Putting aside all irrelevant questions (to what end such music can or should serve?), and speaking from a purely aesthetic point of view, has Wagner ever written anything better?
The supreme psychological perception and precision as regards what can be said, expressed, communicated here, the extreme of concision and directness of form, every nuance of feeling conveyed epigrammatically; a clarity of musical description that reminds us of a shield of consummate workmanship; and finally an extraordinary sublimity of feeling, something experienced in the very depths of music, that does Wagner the highest honour; a synthesis of conditions which to many people – even “higher minds” – will seem incompatible, of strict coherence, of “loftiness” in the most startling sense of the word, of a cognisance and a penetration of vision that cuts through the soul as with a knife, of sympathy with what is seen and shown forth. Has anyone ever depicted so sorrowful a look of love as Wagner does in the final accents of his Prelude ?’

Letter to Peter Gast – 1887

Johann Heinrich Köselitz (10 January 1854–15 August 1918) was a German author and composer.
He is known for his long-time friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche, who gave him the pseudonym ‘Peter Gast’.


‘I cannot think of it without feeling violently shaken, so elevated was I by it, so deeply moved.
It was as if someone were speaking to me again, after many years, about the problems that disturb me.
When listening to this music one lays Protestantism aside as a misunderstanding – and also, I will not deny it, other really good music, which I have at other times heard and loved, seems, as against this, a misunderstanding !’ 

Letter to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (Nietszche’s sister) – 1887

Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846, Röcken, Prussia – November 8, 1935, Weimar, Germany), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894.
Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother. Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. However, the siblings grew apart in 1885 when Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster, a former high school teacher.

_______________________________________

NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND THE HOLY GRAIL
‘I have built up my religion out of Parsifal’
Adolf Hitler
The one esoteric legend in particular which captivated the National Socialists was the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Lucifer
Philosopher’s Stone

While popular mythology presents the Grail as the cup Jesus Christ used at his last supper, occult groups dismiss this materialistic interpretation as a “blind” to preserve for initiates the Grail’s true meaning: the quest for racial purity defined in gnostic symbolic style as the “philosopher’s stone” (see right), the “third eye” or the spiritual “crown” of Lucifer (see left) which fell from his forehead when he lost his place in heaven.

In real terms, that “seeing eye” is the Knowledge of self-as-god which Lucifer exhibited, and which he offered mankind in the Garden of Eden.
Hitler saw in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ a detailed parable of the National Socialist philosophy as “a religious brotherhood of templars to guard the Holy Grail, the august vessel containing the pure blood“. (Hitler to Rauschning).
The Grail, defined here as the “vessel”, refers to the racially pure body which holds the blood that can comprehend the ‘True Will’. 
In search of this ‘holy blood‘ which contains the coveted knowledge of the ‘True Will’, every member of the SS was screened for purity of Aryan lineage, and was taught his duty to father as many racially pure children as possible.

Heinrich Himmler
Еле́на Блава́тская
Helena Blavatsky

Heinrich Himmler (see left) believed that if conception took place in an Aryan cemetery, the resulting child would receive the spirit of “all the dead heroes” buried there; accordingly, lists of Nordic cemeteries were published in the SS periodical ‘Das Schwarze Korps’.

Gnosticism had another, lesser-known influence on Völkisch religion, which also appears in ‘New Age’ thought: the Jewish God is not the ‘Most High’ and only God, but a “Demiurge” pretending to be such.
Helena Blavatsky (see right) agreed that the Gnostics “were right in regarding the Jewish God as belonging to a class of lower, material and not very holy denizens of the invisible world.”
In Blavatsky’s understanding, “only angels of a low hierarchy” could have created “those wretched races, in a spiritual and moral sense, which grace our globe.
The “moral wretchedness” referred to is Jewish obsession with the enjoyment of the material aspects everyday life, and their continual thanksgiving for every material blessing.
This attitude was condemned by the Gnostics, who considered the body and the physical world a prison which the mind must reject and transcend through meditation and magical rites, and escape to the “real” or spiritual world.

Jehovah
The Jewish God of the Old Testament

The “spiritual wretchedness” is the Jewish “Old Testament”, rejected by Gnostics as evil, which teaches that the Creator of heaven and earth is the ‘Most High God’.

Since materialism is evil, and “Jehovah” created the physical world, he must be evil as well: and merely a usurper of the title “God”.
The Jews, who persist in spreading their teachings, are the tools of Satan, and their influence in the world is deadly to human souls.
Hitler reiterated this Gnostic doctrine: 
The Jew is the anti-man, – the creature of a lesser god.
Hitler was also known for his severely simple lifestyle, voluntarily shunning material pleasures, physical appetites and a meat diet – all classic Gnostic elements of “purification from the world“.
This cosmology, by placing the Jews in alliance with cosmic Evil neatly reinforced the Völkisch pursuit of racial purity: not only was the Aryan race threatened with defilement on a genetic level, but on a spiritual level as well.

Führer und Reichskanzler
Adolf Hitler – Speaking
Wagner’s Parsifal
from the film by
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

For Hitler (see right) the Gnostic themes of the Grail quest and the cosmic struggle between Light and Darkness were perfectly portrayed in Richard Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’.

Being an occult initiate, Hitler was aware of the Gnostic message behind “the externals of the story, with its Christian embroidery… the real message was pure, noble blood, in whose protection and glorification the brotherhood of the initiated have come together.”
Gnosticism also clarifies some otherwise unintelligible proclamations, like those by Völkisch apologist, writer and philosopher, Alfred Rosenberg: “The earth-centered Jew lacks a soul“; and “The continuing existence of the Jew would lead to a void, to the destruction not only of the illusory earthly world but also of the truly existent, the spiritual.
These statements, and also his insistence that “The denial of the world needs… to grow so that it will acquire a lasting predominance over affirmation of the world,” only makes sense to a grail seeking Gnostic. 


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Adolf Hitler

Arno Breker
Heroic Head


Adolf Hitler’s interpretation of Parsifal –
  “I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.  Divine worship in solemn form … without pretenses of humility … One can serve God only in the garb of the hero”  


   ‘What is celebrated in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ is not the Christian religion of compassion, but pure and noble blood, – blood whose purity the brotherhood of initiates has come together to guard.

 ‘I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.’
The king (Amfortas) then suffers an incurable sickness, caused by his tainted blood.

Then the unknowing but pure human being (Parsifal) is led into temptation, either to submit to the frenzy and to the delights of a corrupt civilisation in Klingsor’s magic garden, or to join the select band of knights who guard the secret of life, which is pure blood itself.

Der Speer des Schicksals
© Peter Crawford 2012

‘All of us suffer the sickness of miscegenated, corrupted blood.

Note how the compassion that leads to knowledge applies only to the man who is inwardly corrupt, to the man of contradictions.
And Eternal life, as vouchsafed by the Grail, is only granted to those who are truly pure and noble !
Only a new nobility can bring about the new culture.
If we discount everything to do with poetry, it is clear that elitism and renewal exist only in the continuing strain of a lasting struggle.
A divisive process is taking place in terms of world history.
The man who sees the meaning of life in conflict will gradually mount the stairs of a new aristocracy.
He who desires the dependent joys of peace and order will sink back down to the unhistorical mass, no matter what his provenance.
But the mass is prey to decay and self-disintegration.
At this turning- point in the world’s revolution the mass is the sum of declining culture and its moribund representatives.
They should be left to die, together with all kings like Amfortas.’

“The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again.
The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.
We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”

Adolf Hitler

click below for more information about

Deutsch Kultur im Dritten Reich – German Culture in the Third

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
DEUTSCH KULTUR IM DRITTEN REICH
(German Culture in the Third Reich)

Diana’s Rest – Saliger

The art of the Third Reich, the visual art produced in Germany between 1933 and 1945, was characterized by a style of Romantic realism (heroic realism) based on classical models.

While banning modern styles as degenerate, paintings and sculptures that were promoted that were academic in manner, and exalted values of formalised beauty, community (Volksgemeinschaft), nationalism and racial purity.

 Der Fuehrer Spricht
Paul Matthias Padua

Other popular themes for the art of the Third Reich were the ‘Volk’ at work, a return to the simple virtues of Heimat (love of homeland), the manly virtues of the National Socialist struggle, and the lauding of the female activities of child bearing and raising, symbolized by the phrase Kinder, Küche, Kirche (“children, kitchen, church”).

Female Nude
Ivo Saliger

Ivo Saliger 1894-1987  moved to Vienna in 1908 at the same time as Adolf Hitler but unlike Hitler he studied painting and etching techniques at the Academy of Vienna, under some of Austria’s finest artists such as Ferdinand Schmutzer. In 1920 Saliger assumed the post of professor of art at the Academy. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Ivo Saliger developed strong Art Deco elements within his art. Saliger’s paintings were frequently exhibited at the ‘Great German Art Exhibition’ held annually in Munich between 1937 and1944.


Similarly, music was expected to be formally structured and tonal, and free of Negroid jazz influence.
Films and plays were equally expected to portray the values of community (Volksgemeinschaft), nationalism racial purity.

Architecture for official, public buildings was monumental, and executed in a simplified classical idiom, while domestic architecture took it’s inspiration from völkisch forms and styles.

Contemporary Bauhaus styles, however, were used for buildings related to industry and technology.

Bäuerliche Venus, 1939
Sepp Hilz


‘Bauernfamilie’ – (Peasant Family)
Adolf Wissel

Among the well-known artists endorsed by the Third Reich were the sculptors Josef Thorak and Arno Breker, and painters Werner Peiner, Adolf Wissel and Conrad Hommel.

During the Third Reich artists, sculptors, architects, writers and designers with Jewish ancestry were forbidden to contribute work to the Volksgemeinschaft.
The rationale for this was to be found in the National Socialist’s racial philosophy.
According to this philosophy the Jewish people, with all its apparent intellectual qualities, was nevertheless without any true culture, especially without a culture of its own, for the sham culture which the Jew possessed  was the property of other peoples, and was mostly spoiled in Jewish hands.

When judging Jewry in its attitude toward the question of human culture, the National Socialists maintained that one has to keep before one’s eyes, as an essential characteristic, that there never has been Jewish art and, that above all, the two paragons of all the arts, architecture and music, owe nothing original to Jewry.
This philosophy stated that whatever the Jew achieves in the fields of art is either bowdlerization, or intellectual theft, because the Jews lack those qualities which distinguish creativity.
Adolf Hitler saw Greek and Roman art as uncontaminated by Jewish influences.
Modern art was seen as an act of aesthetic violence by the Jews against the German spirit (Deutsch Geistes).


Entartete Kunst 
Entartete Kunst Exhibition

The Jewish nature of art that was indecipherable, distorted, or that represented “depraved” subject matter was explained through the concept of degeneracy (Entartung), which held that distorted and corrupted art was a symptom of an inferior race.

By propagating the theory of degeneracy, the National Socialist racial philosophy combined  anti-Semitism with a drive to control culture, thus consolidating public support for both campaigns.
Their efforts in this regard were unquestionably aided by a popular hostility to Modernism that pre-dated their the establishment of the Third Reich.
The view that such art had reflected Germany’s condition and moral bankruptcy was widespread, and it was believed that many artists acted in a manner to overtly undermine or challenge popular values and morality.
Max Nordau
The term Entartung (or “degeneracy”) gained popularity in Germany by the late 19th century when the critic and author Max Nordau devised the theory presented in his 1892 book, ‘Entartung’.
Nordau developed a critique of modern art, which he explained as the work of those so corrupted and enfeebled by modern life that they have lost the self-control needed to produce coherent works.
Explaining the unfinished nature of Impressionism as the sign of degeneracy, he decried modern art, while praising traditional German culture (traditionellen Deutsch Kultur).
This theory of artistic degeneracy was seized upon by German National Socialists during the Weimar Republic as a rallying point for their demand for Aryan purity in art.
This view of art was grounded in a belief in a Germanic spirit (germanischen Geistes), defined as mystical, rural, moral, and bearing ancient wisdom,  – noble in the face of a tragic destiny, and existing long before the rise of the National Socialism.
Richard Wagner celebrated such ideas in his works.


Nietzsche Gedächtnishalle
Paul Schultze-Naumburg
Beginning before World War I, the well-known German architect and painter Paul Schultze-Naumburg’s influential writings, which invoked racial theories in condemning modern art and architecture, supplied much of the basis for Adolf Hitler’s belief that classical Greece and the Middle Ages were the true sources of Aryan art.


Schloss Freudenbern
Paul Schultze-Naumbur

Paul Schultze-Naumburg (10 June 1869 – 19 May 1949) was a German architect and one of the Third Reich’s most vocal political critics of modern architecture. Along with Alexander von Senger, Eugen Honig, Konrad Nonn, and German Bestelmeyer, Schultze-Naumburg was a member of a National Socialist group known as the Kampfbund deutscher Architekten und Ingenieure (KDAI). Schultze-Naumburg wrote ‘Kunstund Rasse’ (“Art and Race”), which was published in 1928

In September 1933 the Reichskulturkammer (RKK – Reich Culture Chamber) was established, with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s ‘Reichminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda’ (Reich Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment) in charge.
Sub-chambers within the Culture Chamber, representing the individual arts (music, film, literature, architecture, and the visual arts) were created; these were membership groups consisting of artists supportive of the Party.
In the same year Hitler made a speach in which he defined the true nature of German Art.

Emblem of the Reichskulturkammer
 Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

‘Germany wants again a “German Art,” and this art shall and will be of eternal value, as are all truly creative values of a people.

Should this art, however, again lack this eternal value for our people, then indeed it will mean that it also has no higher value today
When, therefore, the cornerstone of this building was laid, it was with the intention of constructing a temple, not for a so-called modern art, but for a true and everlasting German art, that is, better still, a House for the art of the German people.
It is therefore imperative for the artist to erect monuments, not so much to a period, but to his people.
For time is changeable, years come and go.
Anything born of and thriving on a certain epoch alone would perish with it.
And not only all which had been created before us would fall victim to this mortality, but also what is being created today or will be created in the future.
But the National-Socialists know of only one mortality, and that is the mortality of the people itself:
As long as a people exists, however, it is the fixed pole in the flight of fleeting appearances.
It is the quality of being and lasting permanence.
And, indeed, for this reason, art as an expression of the essence of this being, is an eternal monument.’
Adolf Hitler 1933


 Reichskulturkammer
 Reichskulturkammer
(RKK – Reich Culture Chamber)

Goebbels also spoke on the subject  and defined the nature of the  Reichskulturkammer :
In future only those who are members of a chamber are allowed to be productive in our cultural life. Membership is open only to those who fulfill the entrance condition. In this way all unwanted and damaging elements have been excluded.”


By 1935 the Reich Culture Chamber had 100,000 members.
Degenerate artworks were purged from German museums.


Entartete Kunst Exhibition
 Haus der deutschen Kunst

These became the material for a defamatory exhibit, ‘Entartete Kunst’ (“Degenerate Art”), featuring over 650 paintings, sculptures, prints, and books from the collections of thirty two German museums, that premiered in Munich on July 19, 1937 and remained on view until November 30 before travelling to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria.

Coinciding with the ‘Entartete Kunst’ exhibition, the ‘Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung’ (Great German art exhibition) made its premier amid much pageantry.
This exhibition, held at the palatial Haus der deutschen Kunst (House of German Art), displayed the work of officially approved artists such as Arno Breker and Adolf Wissel.


CLASSICAL MUSIC IN THE THIRD REICH

Richard Wagner
Hans Pfitzner
At the establishment of the Third Reich in 1933, the musical establishment was re-ordered to accomodate National Socialist ideology. 
Richard Wagner and Hans Pfitzner were notable pre-existing composers who conceptualized a united order (Volksgemeinschaft) where music was an index of the German community.
In a time of disintegration, Wagner and Pfitzner wanted to revitalize the country through music.

Hans Erich Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist. His own music – including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem – was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. Pfitzner’s works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music. His greatest work of the period was the romantische Kantate ‘Von deutscher Seele’ (Of the German Soul) (1921).

Arnold Schonberg 
A book written about Hans Pfitzner and Wagner, published in Regseneberg in 1939, followed not only the birth of contemporary musical parties, but also of political parties in Germany.
The Wagner-Pfitzner stance contrasted ideas of other notable artists – Arnold Schonberg and Theodor W. Adorno – who wanted music to be autonomous from politics.
Hitler and Winifred Wagner
Although Wagner and Pfitzner came before the Third Reich, their sentiments and thoughts, Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, were aproved of by Hitler and Joseph Goebbels.


Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles,  throughout his life. His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas. Essays of note include “Art and Revolution” (1849), “Opera and Drama” (1851), an essay on the theory of opera. One of his most significant writings is “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”, 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer in particular.

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Hitler at Bayreuth 
Bayreuth – Festspeilhaus

The very emphasis on rootedness and on tradition underscored the National Socialist understanding of itself in a dialectic terms: old gods were mobilized against the false values of the immediate past to offer legitimacy to the epiphany of Adolf Hitler and the music representation of his realm.

Composers, librettists, educators, critics, and especially musicologists, through their public statements, intellectual writings, and journals contributed to the justification of a national Socialist view of musical culture.
Certain progressive journalism, pertaining to modern music, was purged.
Journals that had been sympathetic to the ‘German viewpoint,’ entrenched in Wagnerian ideals, like the ‘Zeischrift fur Musik’ and ‘Die Muzik’, showed confidence in the new regime and affirmed the process of intertwining government policies with music.


Dr. Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels used the ‘Volkscher Beobatcher’, a journal that was disseminated to the general public in addition to elites and party officials, as an organ of Reich Culture.
By the end of the 1930s the ‘Mitteilungen der Reichsmusikkammer’ became another prominent journal that reflected the music policy, organizational and personnel changes in musical institutions.
In the early years of the Third Reich, the musicologists and musicians redirected the orientation of music, defining what was ‘German Music’ and what was not.
National Socialist ideology was applied to the evaluation of musicians.
Musicians defined in the new German musical era were given new status, while their accomplishments and deeds were seen as direct accomplishments of the Third Reich.
Ludwig van Beethoven
The contribution of German musicologists led to the justification of Third Reich, and a ‘neue deutsche Musikkultur’ – (new German musical culture).
They defined the greater German values that musicians would have to identify with, because their duty was to integrate music and National Socialism so that they became inseparable.
Highly favoured was music which alluded to a mythic, heroic German past such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.
Adolf Hitler honours Bruckner

Anton Bruckner was highly favoured, as his music was regarded as an expression of the zeitgeist of the German volk. 

The music of Arnold Schoenberg (and atonal music along with it), Felix Mendelssohn and many others was no longer played, because they were Jewish or of Jewish origin.
Music by non-German composers was tolerated if it was classically inspired, tonal, and not by a composer of Jewish origin or having ties to ideologies hostile to the Third Reich.


Richard Strauss
The Nazis recognized Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin for having German origins.
Music of the Russian Peter Tchaikovsky could be performed in the Third Reich, even after Operation Barbarossa.
Operas by Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini got frequent play.
Richard Strauss, probably the greates living German composer, served as the first director of the Propaganda Ministry’s music division, and Carl Orff produced much work during the Third Reich.

Carl Orff 

Carl Orff (July 10, 1895 – March 29, 1982) was a 20th-century German composer, best known for his cantata Carmina Burana (1937).
His Carmina Burana was hugely popular in the Third Reich after its premiere in Frankfurt in 1937.
In addition to his career as a composer, Orff developed an influential approach of music education for children.
Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.
He is known for his operas, which include ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Salome’; his lieder, especially his ‘Four Last Songs’; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as ‘Death and Transfiguration’, ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’, ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, ‘An Alpine Symphony’, and ‘Metamorphosen’.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.

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SCULPTURE

Josef Thorak – Male Nude
Arno Breker – Male Nude

Sculpture’s monumental possibilities gave it a special status in the expression of National Socialist racial theories.

The ‘Greater German Art Exhibition’ displayed, throughout the period of the Third Reich, a steady rise in the number of sculptures at the expense of paintings.
The most common image was of the heroic nude male, expressing the ideal of the Aryan race.
Arno Breker’s skill at this type of sculpture made him Hitler’s favourite sculptor.
Nude females were also common, though they tended to be less monumental.
In both cases, the physical form was to show no imperfections.
Josef Thorak was another official sculptor of the Third Reich owing to his skill at monumental sculpture.

ARNO BREKER

Arno Breker (July 19, 1900 – February 13, 1991) was a German sculptor, best known for his public works in Germany, which were the antithesis of “degenerate art”.

Breker was born in Elberfeld, in the west of Germany, the son of a stonemason.
He began to study architecture, along with stone-carving and anatomy, and at age 20 was accepted to the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts where he concentrated on sculpture.
He first visited Paris in 1924, shortly before finishing his studies.
In 1932, he was awarded a prize by the Prussian Ministry of Culture, which allowed him to stay in Rome for a year.

In 1934 he returned to Germany on the advice of Max Liebermann.
Breker was supported by many Nazi leaders, especially Adolf Hitler.

Even Rosenberg later hailed his sculptures as expressions of the “mighty momentum and will power” (“Wucht und Willenhaftigkeit”) of Nazi Germany.
He took commissions from the German Government from 1933 through 1942, for example participating in a show of his work in occupied Paris in 1942, where he met Jean Cocteau, who appreciated his work.
He maintained personal relationships with Albert Speer and with Hitler.

In 1936 he won the commission for two sculptures representing athletic prowess, intended for the 1936 Olympic games, one representing a “Zehnkämpfer” (The Decathlete) and the other “Die Siegerin” (‘The Victress’).
In 1937 Breker joined the Nazi Party and was made “official state sculptor” by Hitler, given a large property and provided a studio with thousand assistants.
Hitler also exempted him from military service.
His twin sculptures ‘Die Partei’ (‘The Party’) and ‘Das Heer (‘The Army’) held a prominent position at the entrance to Albert Speer’s Neuen Reichskanzlei (new Reich Chancellery).

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POPULAR MUSIC




Germany’s urban centres in the 1920s and 30s were buzzing with jazz clubs, cabaret houses and avant garde music.

In contrast, the National Socialist regime made concentrated efforts to shun modern music (which was considered degenerate and Jewish in nature) and instead embraced classical “German” music.






VÖLKISCH JAZZ

‘Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoires of light orchestras and dance bands;
In this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;
As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation.
On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated;
So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);
Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);
Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);
The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;
Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;
Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);
All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.’

Baldur von Blodheim
Reichsmusicfuhrer und Oberscharfuhrer SS

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Volksgemeinschaft
Reichsarbeitsdienst

The poster became an important medium for propaganda during this period.

Combining text and bold graphics, posters were extensively deployed both in Germany and in the areas occupied.
Their typography reflected National Socialist official ideology.
Imagery frequently drew on heroic realism.
Hitler Youth and the SS were depicted monumentally, with lighting posed to produce grandeur.





ARCHITECTURE

Reichsparteitagsgelände
Albert Speer

Adolf Hitler was an admirer of ancient Greece and imperial Rome, and believed that some ancient Germans had, over time, become part of its social fabric and exerted influence on it.

He considered the Romans an early Aryan empire, and emulated their architecture in an original style inspired by both neoclassicism and Art Deco, sometimes known as “severe” Deco.
He also ordered construction of a type of Altar of Victory, borrowed from the Greeks, who were, according to National Socialist ideology, inseminated with the seed of the Aryan peoples.
The National Socialists believed that architecture played a key role in creating their new order.
Architecture had a special importance to the politicians who sought to influence all aspects of human life.
Volkisch Domestic Architecture

Moreover, not only major cities but also small villages were to express the achievement and the nature of the German people.

It seemed as though the basic design of commonly practised architecture at the time was to be either left in place or modified within Germany’s dominion.
The new building style may have been intended to give the idea to the rest of the world and to the unconverted Germans that the era of the thousand-year Reich had, in fact, dawned.
Hitler was quite fond of the numerous theatres built by Hermann and Ferdinand Fellner, who built in the late baroque style.

Law Courts of Brussels 
Paris Opera

In addition, he appreciated the stricter architects of the 19th century such as Gottfried Semper, who built the Dresden Opera House, the Picture Gallery in Dresden, the court museums in Vienna, and Theophil Freiherr von Hansen, who designed several buildings in Athens in 1840.

He was also enthusiastic about the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera, and the Law Courts of Brussels by the architect Poelaert.
Ultimately, he was always drawn back to inflated neo-baroque such as Kaiser Wilhelm II had fostered, through his court architect Ernst von Ihne.

Reichsparteitagsgelände
Albert Speer
Dietrich Eckart Bühne

Hitler later appreciated the permanent qualities of the classical style as it had a relationship between the Dorians and his own Germanic world.

The neoclassical style was primarily used for urban state buildings or party buildings such as the Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg, the planned Volkshalle for Berlin and the Dietrich Eckart Bühne in Berlin.

Ordensburg Sonthofen

The völkish style was primarily used in rural settings for accommodation or community structures like the Ordensburg in Krössinsee, Ordensburg Vogelsang in North Rhine-Westphalia and Ordensburg Krössinsee in Pomerania.

Ordensburg Vogelsang

Ordensburgen were four schools developed for the National Socialist elite. There were strict requirements for admission to the school. Junker candidates had to be aged between 25 and 30 years old, belong to either the NSDAP, the Hitler Youth, the Sturmabteilung, or the Schutzstaffel, be physically completely healthy, and be pure-blooded with no hereditary defects. The schools themselves were typically völkish style buildings with extensive facilities. Vogelsang, for instance, reportedly contained the world’s largest gymnasium at the time. Each student attended all four institutions in sequence, for specialty training, finishing in Marienburg.

It was also to be applied to rural new towns as it represented a mythical medieval time when Germany was free of foreign and cosmopolitan influences.
This style was also used in a limited way for buildings with modern uses like weather service broadcasting and the administration building for the federal post office.

 Reichsautobahn 1936

National Socialism is often viewed as anti-modern and romantic, or having a pragmatic willingness to use modern means in pursuit of anti-modern purposes.

This confuses the Nazi dislike of certain styles like the Bauhaus with a blanket dislike of all modern styles.
This was based mainly on what the Bauhaus and others were seen as representing, like foreign influences or the decadence of the Weimar Republic.
The lack of any human scale details or plain exteriors may have produced an overwhelming effect, but this style was common from the 1910s onwards.

By 1936, 130,000 workers were directly employed in the construction of autobahns, as well as an additional 270,000 in the supply chain for construction equipment, steel, concrete, sign-age  maintenance equipment, etc. In rural areas, new camps to house the workers were built near construction sites. The job creation program aspect was not especially important because full employment was almost reached by 1936. The autobahns were not primarily intended as major infrastructure improvement of special value to the military as often stated because they were of no military value as all major military transports in Germany were done by train to save fuel.

This modern approach was not limited to the neo-classical buildings for city centres, but was also used for völkisch buildings like Ordensburgs and Autobahn garages.
The National Socialists chose new versions of past styles for most of their architecture.
This should not be viewed simply as an attempt to reconstruct the past, but rather an effort to use aspects of the past to create a new present.
Most buildings are ‘copied’ in some form or other, but for the Nazis, copying the past not only linked them to the past in general but also specifically to an Aryan past.
Neo-classical architecture was a direct representation of Aryan culture.
Völkish architecture was also Aryan but of a Germanic nature.
Still, these analogues were not part of an attempt to recreate an actual past, but were meant to emphasize the importance of Aryan culture as a justification for the actions of the present.
While Hitler saw the architecture of the Weimar Republic as an object lesson in cultural decline, the new buildings he would build would teach a different lesson, that of national rebirth.

PAUL TROOST

The first major architect of the Third Reich, and one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century, was Paul Ludwig Troost (17 August 1878 – 21 January 1934).

Troost born in Elberfeld in Westfalen.  An extremely tall, spare-looking, reserved individual with a close-shaven head, Troost belonged to a school of architects, Peter Behrens and Walter Gropius who, even before 1914, reacted sharply against the highly ornamental Jugendstil and advocated a restrained, lean architectural approach, almost devoid of ornament.

Hitler and Troost

In 1933 he became Hitler’s foremost architect ,whose neo-classical style became for a time the official architecture of the Third Reich.

His work filled Hitler with enthusiasm, and he planned and built state and municipal edifices throughout Germany.
In the autumn of 1933, he was commissioned to rebuild and refurnish the Chancellery residence in Berlin.

Along with other architects, Troost planned and built State and municipal edifices throughout the country, including new administrative offices, social buildings for workers and bridges across the main highways.

Ehrentempel at Dusk

One of the many structures he planned before his death was the Haus der deutschen Kunst (House of German Art) in Munich, intended to be a great temple for a “true, eternal art of the German people”.
It was a good example of the classical forms in monumental public buildings during the Third Reich, though subsequently Hitler moved away from the more restrained style of Troost, reverting to a more ornate style.
Hitler’s relationship to Troost was that of a pupil to an admired teacher.
According to Albert Speer, who later became Hitler’s favorite architect, the Führer would impatiently greet Troost with the words: “I can’t wait, Herr Professor. Is there anything new? Let’s see it !” Troost would then lay out his latest plans and sketches.
Hitler frequently declared, according to Speer, that “he first learned what architecture was from Troost”‘.

Hitler at the Grave of
Paul Troost

Paul Ludwig Troost
1878 – 1934
The architect’s death on 21 January 1934, was a painful blow, but Hitler remained close to his widow Gerdy Troost, whose architectural taste frequently coincided with his own, which made her (in Speer’s words) “a kind of arbiter of art in Munich.

Troost was buried in the “Nordfriedhof” Cemetery (North Cemetery) in Munich.
The gravestone still survives although the family name has been removed.
Hitler posthumously awarded Troost the German National Prize for Art and Science in 1936.
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ALBERT SPEER

Albert Speer (born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer – March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) was a German architect.

As a young man Speer  followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and studied architecture.

Speer as a Student
Heinrich Tessenow 
Speer began his architectural studies at the University of Karlsruhe.
In 1924 he transferred to the “much more reputable” Technical University of Munich.
In 1925 he transferred again, this time to the Technical University of Berlin where he studied under Heinrich Tessenow, whom Speer greatly admired.

Heinrich Tessenow (April 7, 1876 – November 1, 1950) was a German architect, professor, and urban planner. He was born in Rostock, Mecklenburg-Schwerin. 
His father was a carpenter, and he studied as an apprentice before studying architecture in a building trade school in Leipzig and at the Technical University of Munich, where he later taught.

Magdeburg Hindenburg-Gedenkalle
(Fahnenhalle) – 1937 – 39
Festspielhaus Hellerau – Dresden

Tessenow taught at the Institute of Technology in Berlin-Charlottenburg from 1926 until 1934. Tessenow is also known through his student, and one-time assistant, the Reichsarchitect Albert Speer. Tessenow taught Speer in 1925 and became Tessenow’s assistant in 1927 at the age of 23. Speer’s memoirs describe Tessenow’s personal, discursive, informal teaching style, and his preference for architecture that expressed national culture and simplified forms. He was known for the saying, “The simplest form is not always the best, but the best is always simple.


After passing his exams in 1927, Speer became Tessenow’s assistant, a high honor for a man of 22.[11] As such, Speer taught some of Tessenow’s classes while continuing his own postgraduate studies.
Hitler mit Albert Speer

In Munich, and continuing in Berlin, Speer began a close friendship, ultimately spanning over 50 years, with Rudolf Wolters, who also studied under Tessenow.
Hitler spoke of Speer as a “kindred spirit” for whom he had always maintained “the warmest human feelings“.
The young, ambitious architect was dazzled by his rapid rise and close proximity to Hitler, which guaranteed him a flood of commissions from the government and from the highest ranks of the Party.

Zepplinfeld Stadium 

When Troost died on January 21, 1934, Speer effectively replaced him as the Party’s chief architect. Hitler appointed Speer as head of the Chief Office for Construction.

One of Speer’s first commissions after Troost’s death was the Zeppelinfeld stadium—the Nürnberg parade grounds seen in Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda masterpiece Triumph of the Will. This huge work was capable of holding 340,000 people.

Germania

The tribune was influenced by the Pergamon Altar in Anatolia, but was magnified to an enormous scale.
Hitler ordered Speer to make plans to rebuild Berlin.
The plans centered on a three-mile long grand boulevard running from north to south, which Speer called the Prachtstrasse, or Street of Magnificence; he also referred to it as the “North-South Axis”.
At the north end of the boulevard, Speer planned to build the Volkshalle, a huge assembly hall with a dome which would have been over 700 feet (210 m) high, with floor space for 180,000 people.
At the southern end of the avenue would be a huge triumphal arch; it would be almost 400 feet (120 m) high.

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Sculpture and Architecture

Olympic Stadium
Monumental Reich Adler

Sculpture was used as part of, and in conjunction with, National Socialist architecture to embody the “German Spirit” of divine destiny.
Sculpture expressed the National Socialist obsession with the ideal body, and espoused nationalistic, state approved values like loyalty, work, and family.
Josef Thorak and Arno Breker were the most famous sculptors of the Third Reich.
Arno Breker was nominated as official state sculptor on Hitler’s birthday in 1937.
His technique was excellent, and his choice of subject, poses, and themes were outstanding. Breker uses his numerous “heroic male nudes” to unite the notions of health, strength, competition, collective action and willingness to sacrifice the self for the common good.


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Der Körperkultur im Dritten Reich


Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen


Kultur, in the Third Reich was not just a matter of the ‘academic and applied arts’ – National Socialism was also concerned with ‘physical culture’ – after all, the sculptors and artists needed to model from life.

On a deeper level National Socialism believed that physical beauty and physical perfection was concomitant with an ‘enobled (veredelte Seele) spirituality’.
‘Veredelte Seele’ was believed to be a condition exclusively attained by the Aryan race – and counld not be achieved by non Aryans, and particularly the Jewish race.
The Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (NSRL) (National Socialist League of the Reich for Physical Exercise), known as Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL) until 1938, was the umbrella organization for sports during the Third Reich.
The NSRL was led by the Reichssportführer, who after 1934 was at the same time presiding over the German National Olympic Committee.
The NSRL’s leaders were Hans von Tschammer und Osten (1933–1943), Arno Breitmeyer (1943–1944) and Karl Ritter von Halt (1944–1945).
Sports Organizations Prior to the Third Reich
The 1916 Summer Olympics had been awarded to Berlin, but were cancelled because of the  World War I. 
The Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Olympische Spiele (DRA or DRAfOS) “German Imperial Commission for Olympic Games”, was the German Olympic Sports organization at that time.
In 1917 the “German Imperial Commission for Olympic Games” was renamed Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen (DRA), (sometimes also DRL or, more rarely, DRAfL) (“German Imperial Commission for Physical Exercise”).
The name change reflected Germany’s protest against the fact that Germany and other Central Powers were being excluded from the “Olympic family” which was dominated by the Entente Powers – an interesting example of the corruption of sport by politics.

Carl Diem

The Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen was led by Theodor Lewald and Carl Diem was its Secretary General.

Even though it saw itself as the pan-German umbrella organization for sports, the fact is that it did not represent all types of sports and sports associations of Germany.
A great number of sport clubs, especially those stemming from industrial workers’ background, had not joined the DRA.
After the ‘Enabling Act’ which legally gave Hitler dictatorial control of Germany in March 1933, all sports organizations connected to the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, and  the church, were banned.
This ban affected especially the sports clubs of industrial workers, most of which were called to split up on their own (Selbstauflösung) before the first semester of 1933 was over.
The more conservative nationalistic and bourgeois clubs were allowed to subsist into the following year.
Hans von Tschammer und Osten

In April 1933, Hans von Tschammer und Osten was named Reichskommissar für Turnen und Sport (Commissioner for Gymnastics and Sports of the Reich).

Von Tschammer, however, would keep his predecessor in a high position in the sports body, and years later he would appoint Theodor Lewald as president of the ‘Organizing Committee of the Berlin Olympic Games’.
Hans von Tschammer und Osten was an aristocratic SA group leader.
In the name of ‘gleichschaltung’ he disbanded the Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen on May 5, 1933 (officially on May 10).
Gleichschaltung, meaning “coordination”, “making the same”, “bringing into line”, is a term for the process by which the Third Reich successively established a system of control and tight coordination over all aspects of society.
Von Tschammer was then elevated to Reichssportführer on July 19 and the whole sports sphere in Germany was placed under his power.
Sports and propaganda in Nazi Germany: The Aryan ideal
The Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL) was established on July 27, 1934 as the official Sports governing body of the Third Reich.
It would quickly become a formidable system within the German nation.
After the DRL’s foundation all other German sport associations gradually lost their freedom and were coopted into the DRL as units (“Fachämter”).
Even the most prestigious ones, like the ‘German Football Association’ (DFB) were incorperated .
Hans von Tschammer und Osten

Von Tschammer’s goal was to build a formidable sports body in which all German sports associations would be involved.

His vision was that physical exercise would “improve the morale and productivity of German workers” as well as making sports a source of national pride for the Germans.
Sporting skills were made a criterion for school graduation, as well as a necessary qualification for certain jobs and admission to universities.
In 1935 journalist Guido von Mengden, was named public relations officer of the ‘Reich Sports Office’.
He became the personal advisor and consultant of the Reichssportführer in 1936.
Von Mengden became the chief editor of NS-Sport, the official organ of the Reich Sports Office.
Other DRL/NSRL publications included ‘Dietwart’, a sports magazine with excellent illustrations and ‘Sport und Staat’ (Sports and State), a massive four-volume report on the organized sports activities in the Third Reich.
Sport und Staat was made by Arno Breitmeyer and Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann.
This lavishly illustrated work had many pictures and information about the various Nazi organizations, i.e. SA, NSKK, Bund Deutscher Mädel, Hitler Jugend, etc.
The aims of the promotion of sports in the Third Reich included strengthening the spirit of every German, as well as making German citizens feel that they were part of a wider national purpose.
This was in line with the ideals of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the “Father of physical exercises“, who connected the steeling of one’s own body to a healthy spirit and promoted the idea of a unified, strong Germany.

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (August 11, 1778 – October 15, 1852) was a German gymnastics educator and nationalist. He is commonly known as Turnvater Jahn, roughly meaning “father of gymnastics”.
Brooding upon what he saw as the humiliation of his native land by Napoleon, Jahn conceived the idea of restoring the spirits of his countrymen by the development of their physical and moral powers through the practice of gymnastics. The first Turnplatz, or open-air gymnasium, was opened by Jahn in Berlin in 1811, and the Turnverein (gymnastics association) movement spread rapidly. Young gymnasts were taught to regard themselves as members of a kind of guild for the emancipation of their fatherland. This nationalistic spirit was nourished in no small degree by the writings of Jahn.

Another aim  was the demonstration of Aryan physical superiority.

Von Tschammer’s impressively staged events of sports pageantry not only enhanced the physical activity, but also the nationalism of Germans.
‘Nordic aesthetic beauty’, and commitment to Germanic ideals of race went hand in hand during the Third Reich, and von Tschammer und Osten implemented a policy of racial exclusion within sports.
Athletes of Jewish origin were excluded from participation in relevant sporting events.

Nacktkultur

German Nacktkultur, or Freikörperkultur (free body movement), refers to a network of private clubs that promoted nudism as a way of linking the modern body more closely to nature, giving it a freer presence in the great outdoors.

‘Nacktende Mensch’
Heinrich Pudor (Heinrich Scham, 1865–1943) supposedly coined the term Nacktkultur around 1903.
His book ‘Nacktende Mensch’ (1893) and the three-volume ‘Nacktkultur’ (1906) established an enduring link between Nacktkultur, vegetarianism, social reform, and racial hygiene (including anti-Semitism).
However, Rothschuh claims that Nacktkultur first appeared in Germany in the 1870s, along with the animal protection, vegetarian, and natural healing movements.
Nudity was an important feature of Freikörperkultur well before World War I, and the idea of nudity as a healthful activity apparently owed something to the medical profession’s efforts to combat such diseases as tuberculosis with what before the war was called ‘Luft und Licht Therapie’ (air and light therapy) or ‘Heliotherapie’.
As late as 1922 a Munich film-maker  Robert Reinert, released a film (‘Nerven’) that concluded with scenes of nude bodies in the mountains finally cured of neurasthenic ailments contracted in a decadent urban environment.
Membership in the more than two hundred German nudist clubs seems to have appealed equally to men and women.
The movement produced numerous journals, and by the late 1920s books on the subject of Nacktkultur were only slightly less numerous than all those devoted to sportsand dance.

Nacktkultur

Yet Nacktkultur, at that time, had no unified ideology.
Nacktkultur was a constellation of subcultures, each of them pursuing values that were not always, or even usually, common to the constellation as a whole.

Indeed, one might even say that, for each subculture, the naked body functioned as a sign of ideological difference rather than as a universal identifier in relation to the alienating pressures of modernity.
The tendency to read Nacktkultur as an anti-intellectual, völkisch (or, at least, conservative) response to the problems of urbanization and rationalization results from an emphasis on two issues often associated with the phenomenon: the use of racial and eugenic theory to justify nudism; and the idea that “natural” nudism was anti-erotic and did not disturb conventional sexual morality.
But Nacktkultur was actually much more complex than we might suppose from such a focus. Something deeper is at stake in critiques of Nacktkultur that seek to bestow a stable political identity on the constellation of subcultures and in the subcultures that seek to bestow a stable political identity on the naked body itself.
Far from being, as some have considered, anti-intellectual, it spawned a considerable philosophical discourse that ascribed deep metaphysical significance to the human body.

Körpersinn – Body Sense
Male Nude – Männlicher Akt

In his insightful book ‘Körpersinn’ (Body Sense) – (1927), Wolfgang Graeser gave perhaps the most direct articulation of this preoccupation with constructing a metaphysics of the body:

The dark, chaotic side of Western technocracy has damned the body, branded it with hell and sin. But in the luminous side, the body stands anew in unconcealed clarity. Exposed and naked is our thinking. Now we comprehend the body, uncaged and without veiling insinuations. Radiant bronze skin mirrors the light of the Olympian sun with the same pure sobriety as the sparkling pistons of clearly formed machines“.

Wolfgang Graeser (1906-1928), whose book Körpersinn (1927), remains an engrossing commentary on the body culture of the era.
Graeser was a protégé of Oswald Spengler, and he shared the master’s vision of apocalyptic transformation in Western civilization:
The evolution of the West now stands in its final stage. The path is prescribed upon which we must move forward“.
This path “can only come out of those sources of life which gymnastics has rediscovered,” for “so long as we feel the red pulse of our bloodstream our being is assured“. 

Körpersinn – Body Sense

Graeser’s book contained no pictures, no “totems” (as he put it) of body culture, no discussion of any body culture personalities, no discussion of any techniques, specific dances, body types, schools of physical education, or documented achievements; it did not even contain any dates, except for frequent reference to the war as the decisive moment in the awakening of modern “body sense.”
Although he clearly differentiated the objectives of sport, gymnastics, and dance, Graeser treated them as abstract theoretical categories, which he did not analyze in relation to subcategories or specific manifestations.
He specified sport as the most “rational” mode of body culture. Graeser sought to reveal the metaphysical significance of the body.


Martin Heidegger
An even deeper thinker, Martin Heidegger, made a relevant contribution to theories on the metaphysics of the body when, in his work ‘Sein und Zeit’ (Being and Time) (1927), he linked the mysterious concept of “unveiling” simultaneously to the construction of truth and to the manifestation of being itself.

Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the “question of Being”.
His best known book, ‘Sein und Zeit‘ (Being and Time), is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century.
Writing extensively on Nietzsche in his later career, and offering a “phenomenological critique of Kant” in his ‘Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik’ (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics), Heidegger is known for his post-Kantian philosophy. Heidegger’s influence has been far reaching, from philosophy to theology, deconstructionism, cultural anthropology, literary theory, architecture, and artificial intelligence.
Heidegger supported National Socialism and the Third Reich.

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Nackte Mädchen
Nackte Junge
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Perceptions and images of human bodies are apparently the source of the most powerful and disturbing emotions people can experience.

Perhaps this relation to perception is due to the fact that bodies (their flesh, at any rate) for the most part remain hidden by clothes.
Similarly, the flesh itself hides an intricate and mysterious field of invisible activities whose material identity no microscope can yet reveal, activities we designate by such terms as “emotion,” “desire,” “drive,” “consciousness,” “memory,” “mind,” “soul,” and “the unconscious.”
The invisibility of these activities is itself evidence of a dark, formless, or metaphysical dimension to the body.
But if we associate modern identity with an anti-metaphysical belief system that achieves its strongest expression through antifigural abstraction, then we do not need to see the body itself as a relevant sign of modern identity: all that matters is a modern mind.
By pushing representation and performance toward ever greater intensities of abstraction, much of modernist culture attempted to demystify the body and liberate people from the deep—hence, dark—controls over perception emanating from the body or its image.
No more nudes,” demanded the futurists, for they understood well that memory structures emotion, and nothing stirs emotion so profoundly as the sight of the naked body.
Thus, the liberation of people from memory, from the past, depended on their being freed from the emotions they attach to the body.

Nackt Junge
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Nackt Hitlerjugend

Much of modernist cultural history until recently has avoided dealing with strands of modernism that focus perception on the body rather than away from it, perhaps because modern identity seems less difficult to achieve or comprehend when it is aligned with a constant idea of the body that lies beyond the grasp of those conditions of perception and signification that make identity modern.

‘Nacktkultur’ projected an ambiguous political identity because it treated the body as a double sign: on the one hand, it presented nudity as a return to an eternal primeval; on the other hand, it regarded modern identity as an unprecedented condition of nakedness.
With the rise of Völkisch movements and National Socialism, nudism burst out of its bourgeois enclaves.
By the late 1920s the lure of the ‘nudist arcadia’ had extended its influence across the best part of the ideological spectrum and thereby furnished clear proof that the naked body could become the focus of reformist, educational and aesthetic ideas.
It was a telling symptom of the degree of material uncertainty and mental anxiety then prevailing that human beings felt compelled to return to the most basic point of orientation, the body, in order to redefine their perception of society and their relation to it.
The cult of the naked body had its origins in Germany around the turn of the twentieth century. The German FKK clubs-the literal translation of Freikoerperkultur is “bare (or open-air) body culture” – from which naturism took its cue, retain even now some of the high-minded ideals associated with nudism in the first third of the century.

FKK – Javelin Thrower
FKK – Freikoerperkultur

At first many German and Austrian nudists were suspicious to the National Socialist regime, though not because of the free body cult.
Instead it was because the practice wasn’t official.
There was not a prudish or anti-pleasure atmosphere, though permissiveness was always coupled with thoughts on race, however, due to their willingness to be co-opted by the party, nudists achieved official state recognition fairly quickly.
The greatest success of the movement was the 1942 “Police Decree for the Regulation of Bathing,” which allowed nude swimming.

During the Third Reich Hans Surén published “Mensch und Sonne,” a collection of nude photographs.

Nackt Hitlerjugend Jungen Duschen

Though the numerous photographs of nude bodies no doubt enhanced the appeal of the book, the main attraction was the radiant mythic apparatus Surén constructed to justify a new culture based on “naked living.”
From Surén’s perspective, it was necessary to detach nudity from the association with sickness it had acquired through its use in ‘Luft und Licht Therapie’, and from its stigmatization by anxiety-ridden forces of “prudery” that were poisoning modern civilization.

Convergence of Health, Strength, and Beauty

Open nudity, for Surén, was a sign of health, strength, and beauty (relating nudity to the visual arts); the text implied that people do not “open” their nudity to the world unless their bodies possess all three qualities.
Surén saw nudity as the key to achieving a convergence of health, strength, and beauty.
As long as people remained remote from their own bodies, as long as they were unable to see their own bodies, they could not possibly enjoy health, strength, or beauty.
Because nudity was a natural condition, the proper setting for its manifestation was the great outdoors.
Almost all the photos in ‘Der Mensch und die Sonne’ showed nude bodies in flower-speckled meadows, sun-drenched beaches, grassy flatlands, tranquil marshes, and snow-bright alpine slopes.
He perceived nudity above all as a matter of the body’s relation to sunlight, of its power to see and be seen in a great, open space in which nothing hides the horizon.

Nackt Hitlerjugend an der Nordsee

The “friendship” between sunlight and flesh motivated activities that strengthened and
beautified the body.
The urge to be naked, he believed, lies dormant within us, yet it is as strong as the urge to feel the light of the sun.
The primary activity was gymnastics, with hiking, swimming, and non-competitive sports (such as archery) assuming subordinate significance.
Not surprisingly, Surén promoted his own gymnastic method, which stressed the use of medicine balls, weights, and throw-thrust exercises.
Naked exercises achieved maximum effect when performed in groups rather than alone.
Yet he separated nude gymnastics from competitive sports, which could have unhealthy consequences for the body.
And though he accepted nude dancing as an agreeable component of Nacktkultur , he clearly regarded it as an activity for women.
The profound freedom offered by the conjunction of nudity, sunlight, and open space depended on the perfection of self-discipline resulting from gymnastic training.
Despite his emphasis on group performance, Surén saw nudity and gymnastics as modes of self-discovery and will formation.
The photographs, which feature both men and women, tend to portray “blood and soil” motifs, with a glorification of Aryan supermen (and women).

Mensch und Sonne

It has been suggested that some of the photographs have homoerotic undertones to them, and some feature full frontal male and female nudity.
What is interesting about ‘Mensch und Sonne’, is that it was officially endorsed by the the government of the Third Reich as being in agreement with its political and racial ideology. 
Völkisch groups and National Socialists promoted nudism, and at one point promoted premarital sex for the purpose of breeding a new generation of the master race.
The SS magazine, ‘Das Schwarze Korps’, advertized  Surén’s book, even giving it an entire page in a pre-Christmas issue.
In that edition the magazine stated that : “We want a strong and joyful affirmation of body awareness, because we need it to build a strong and self-confident race.”
Nudity was seen partly as a means of encouraging the “health of the race.”


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

‘Archaic Postmodernity’

National Socialist dignitaries devoted much energy to the promotion of German sculptors and helped them considerably in the execution of massive bas-reliefs and in the erection of monumental stone and bronze sculptures.
The political goal was obvious: to bring German art as close as possible to the German people, so that any German citizen, regardless social standing, could identify himself or herself with a specific artistic achievement.
It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the German art of that time witnessed a return to ‘classicism‘.
Models from Antiquity and the Renaissance were to some extent adapted to the needs of National Socialist Germany.
Numerous German sculptors benefited from the logistic and financial support of the political elite.

‘Flora’ – Arno Breker
Arno Breker
Their sculptures resembled, either by form, or by composition, the works of Praxiteles or Phidias of ancient Greece, or the sculptures of Michelangelo during the Renaissance.
The most prominent German sculptors of that time were Arno Breker, Josef Thorak, and Fritz Klimsch, who although enjoying the significant resources of the National Socialist regime, were never members of the NSDAP.
Sculptures of female nudes, such as “Flora” by Breker, “Girl” by Fehrle, or “Glance” by Klimsch, show beautiful and geometrically defined women with perfect bodies, narrow ankles, and well rounded and well-proportioned breasts.

Fritz Klimsch (10 February 1870, Frankfurt am Main – 30 March 1960, Freiburg) was a German sculptor.
Klimsch studied at the Royal College for the Academic Fine Arts in Berlin, and was then a student of Fritz Schaper. In 1898 Klimsch was a founding member of the Berlin Secession.
In the era of National Socialism Klimsch was highly regarded as an artist, and created busts of Erich Ludendorff, Wilhelm Frick and Adolf Hitler. According to a diary entry by Goebbels, Klimsch was the most mature of our sculptors. A genius. In September 1944 Klimsch was named in the highest rank of artists of the Third Reich, in the Gottbegnadeten list.
Shortly before his death in 1960 Klimsch received the Federal Cross of Merit. He was an honorary citizen of Saige, where he was buried.

Male Nude
Fritz Klimsch 1870-1960 
‘Bauer’
Jacob Wilhelm Fehrle – 1884-1974
In addition, the fact that many sculptures show nude males embracing nude females indicates that National Socialism was by no means a “conservative” or “reactionary” movement, and that Puritan Anglo-Saxon prudishness was completely alien to it.
It is difficult to deny the great talent of Breker or Klimsch, even if some critics characterize their sculptures as workmanlike ‘copies‘ of classic artists.

Etude pour l`Action enchaînée, bronze 1905
Aristide Maillol
As a young man, Breker lived in France where he was influenced by his future friend and sculptor, Aristide Maillol.

Aristide Joseph Bonaventure Maillol (December 8, 1861 – September 27, 1944) was a French Catalan sculptor, painter, and printmaker.
The subject of nearly all of Maillol’s mature work is the female body, treated with a classical emphasis on stable forms. The figurative style of his large bronzes, and his serene classicism set a standard for European and American)figure sculpture until the end of World War II.

In spite of his political troubles, Breker continued to work after the war making busts of his friends, (Salvador Dali, Hassan II, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, etc).
It should be noted that Breker, in the wake of the Allied occupation of Germany, was requested by the Soviets to continue his artistic career in the Soviet Union – an offer that he refused.



The New Soviet Man and Woman
Prometheus – Arno Breker
It goes without saying that it is possible to draw certain parallels between the gigantism of the plastic art in National Socialist Germany and that of the Soviet Union (the naked Prometheus vis-à-vis the muscular and shirtless hammer-holding proletarian!).
Yet the differences are again glaring: in Communist countries one could never find sculptures representing nude women and men – which confirms the thesis that Communism, although politically frightening, was primarily a prudish and conservative system.
Indeed, even today, one can hardly encounter pictorial or plastic representations of embracing couples in China, Cuba, or in North Korea.
Neverthless, the sculptures of Venus or nymphs by Breker or Thorak display nothing provocative or pornographic; they rarely trigger sexual fantasies or erotic dreams, as is perhaps the case with the naked beauties painted by the Jewish-Italian artist Amadeo Modigliani.
You and Me – Arno Breker
Upon the faces of the sculptures representing nude women made by German artists, one comes across an enigmatic and aristocratic smile, and a deep sense of the tragic, which reflect, symbolically, the feelings of a whole nation in search of its geopolitical identity.
Little trace can be found of female coquetry or flirtatiousness, such as one encounters among the nudes painted by the French realist, Gustave Courbet, by the Impressionist Edouard Manet, or by Paul Cézanne.
German painting of that time represents a chapter apart.
Contrary to widespread ideas, “kitsch” was never part of art in National Socialist Germany. Indeed, the German National Socialist authorities adopted repressive measures against kitsch” in the arts resembling those invoked against alleged “degenerate art.”
Regarding painting, the early school of expressionism was abandoned and even severely repressed by the authorities as “degenerate art.”
Expressionism, as opposed to Impressionism which originated in France, is paradoxically the typical feature of the German character and temperament, just as it is of other Germanic peoples (Flemings, Scandinavians).
Nevertheless, German artists of the expressionist school did not obtain the regime’s green light to exhibit their works.

Edvard Munch
Dr. Joseph Goebbels
Schools of thought that had emerged from cultural circles such as ‘Die Brücke’ or ‘Neue Sachligkeit’ at the beginning of the twentieth century, were assailed by the National Socialist censorship.
Nevertheless, Dr. Joseph Goebbels was a great admirer of expressionist artists, and was on friendly terms with the Norwegian forerunner of expressionism, the famous painter, Edvard Munch.
In December 1933, Goebbels sent a telegram to Edvard Munch on his seventieth birthday describing him as the spiritual heir of the Nordic spirit.
Goebbels was also among the first to send condolences to his family on the occasion of his death in January 1944.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian: [ˈɛdvɑʈ muŋk]  ( listen); 1863–1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. One of his most well-known works is ‘The Scream’ of 1893.

Gottfried Benn
There were thus serious differences among Völkisch politicians and academics regarding the nature and artistic value of expressionism, not just in its pictorial form, but also as poetic expression, as indicated by a still much admired German expressionist poet and cultural pessimist, Gottfried Benn, who was himself very close to National Socialism, and who, in his earlier days, conceived of National Socialism as first and foremost a cultural movement.
This is important because it shows that the National Socialist experiment, contrary to the later liberal-communist propaganda, was by no means a monolithic movement, and that considerable personal and  æsthetical differences prevailed among its high ranking members and sympathizers.
The German painters, who, between 1933 and 1945, gained considerable reputation were by and large neo-classicist portraitists and landscape painters, who avoided pathetic and exaggerated compositions, and attempted to rid artistic work of every trace of the influence of Cubism and abstract art.

Paul Matthias Padua – Ser Fuehrer Spricht – 1939
Overall, one can sense in many of their paintings the revival of the taste for primitive art and a return to the Flemish masters of the fifteenth century.
Certain parallels can again be drawn with the paintings known as “socialist-realist” in the Soviet Union and other communist countries, however, even here the difference is obvious.
Whereas one can see on the paintings of Soviet artists peasants and workmen adorned with their perpetual grins, and in the background a factory under construction, on the German paintings of that time seldom can one see signs of industrialization.

Sepp Hilz – Bäuerliche Venus, 1939
Traces of the asphalt, chimneys spewing fumes, or factories in full gear – such as one can observe among “socialist-realist” painters (and in their titanic and apocalyptic form among the futuristic artists in fascistic Italy!), very rarely appear in the German paintings of that period.
Just as one can draw a comparison between German sculptors and Soviet sculptors, one can also notice a difference between figurative art under Communism and figurative art under National Socialism.
In the art galleries of the Third Reich the scenes of attractive rural nymphs abound (Amadeus Dier, Johannes Beutner, Sepp Hilz, etc).
These pastoral beauties, which can be observed on oil paintings, exude family harmony, and seem to anticipate a well-deserved rest after a hard day’s work in the cornfields.
Also worth mentioning is the artist and a wood engraver, Ernst von Dombrowski, whose scenes of country life and young children playing, still win great praise from critics.
In conclusion, one can state that the German sculpture of that time, proclaims, at least as a rule, a message of racial and Promethean hygiene, while the paintings of that time reveal a distinct and populist (völkisch) tendency that can hardly be misconstrued for any ideological or political speculation.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


Weimarer Kultur

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
W E I M A R E R   K U L T U R

Weimar culture refers to the arts and sciences that happened during the Weimar Republic (between Germany’s defeat at the end of World War I in 1918, and Hitler’s rise to power in 1933).
1920s Berlin was at the hectic center of the Weimar culture.
Although not part of the Weimar Republic, some authors also include the German speaking Austria – (the Ostmark), and particularly Vienna, as part of Weimar culture.

Brandenburger Tor – Berlin – 1920s

Germany, and Berlin in particular, were exceptionally fertile ground for intellectuals, artists, and innovators from many fields during the Weimar Republic years.

The social environment was chaotic, and politics were passionate.
A significant new development in Germany’s intellectual environment happened in 1918, when the faculties of German universities became fully opened to prominent Jewish scholars for the first time.
Leading Jewish intellectuals on university faculties included physicist Albert Einstein; sociologists Karl Mannheim, Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse; philosophers Ernst Cassirer and Edmund Husserl; political theorists Arthur Rosenberg and Gustav Meyer; and many others.
Jewish intellectuals and creative professionals were among the leading figures in many areas of Weimar culture.
With the rise of National Socialism and the ascent to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933, many German intellectuals and cultural figures, both Jewish and non-Jewish, left Germany for the United States, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world.
The culture of the Weimar year was later reprised by the left-wing intellectuals of the 1960s, especially in France.
Deleuze, Guattari and Foucault reprised Wilhelm Reich; Derrida reprised Husserl and Heidegger; Guy Debord and the Situationist International reprised the subversive-revolutionary culture.
Social Environment
By 1919, an “influx” of labor had migrated to Berlin turning it into a fertile ground for the modern arts and sciences.
This caused “a boom in trade, communications and construction.”

Old Berlin

In response to the shortage of pre-war accommodation and housing, tenements were constructed not very far from the Kaiser’s Stadtschloss and all the other majestic structures. People used their backyards and basements to run small shops, restaurants, workshops and haulage carts.

This led to the establishment of bigger and better commerce in Berlin, including its first department stores, prior to World War I.
An “urban petty bourgeoisie” along with the middle class colonized and flourished the wholesale commerce, retail trade, factories and crafts.
Types of employment were becoming more modern, shifting gradually, but noticeably, towards industry and services.
Before World War I, in 1907, 54.9% of German workers were manual labourers.
This dropped to 50.1% by 1925.
Berlin – 1920s

Office workers, managers, and bureaucrats increased their share of the labour market from 10.3% to 17% over the same period. Germany was slowly becoming more urban and middle class.

By 1925, only a third of Germans lived in large cities; the other two-thirds of the population lived in the smaller towns or in rural areas.
The total population of Germany rose from 62.4 million in 1920 to 65.2 million in 1933.
The Wilheminian values were further discredited as consequence of World War I and the subsequent inflation, since the new youth generation saw no point in saving for marriage in such conditions, and preferred instead to spend and enjoy.
The Fritz Lang movie ‘Dr. Mabuse the Gambler’ (1922) captures Berlin’s postwar mood very well.
The film moves from the world of the slums to the world of the stock exchange and then to the cabarets and nightclubs, and everywhere chaos reigns, authority is discredited, power is mad and uncontrollable, wealth inseparable from crime.
Politically and economically, the nation was struggling with the terms and reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (1918) that ended World War I and endured punishing levels of inflation.
Sociology
Max Weber
Martin Hiedegger

During the era of the Weimar Republic, Germany became a center of intellectual thought at its universities, and most notably social and political theory (especially Marxism) was combined with Freudian psychoanalysis to form the highly influential discipline of Critical Theory – with its development at the Institute for Social Research (also known as the Frankfurt School) founded at the University of Frankfurt am Main.

Erich Fromm

The most prominent philosophers with which the so-called ‘Frankfurt School’ is associated were Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Jürgen Habermas and Max Horkheimer.

Among the prominent philosophers not associated with the Frankfurt School were Martin Heidegger and Max Weber.
The German philosophical anthropology movement also emerged at this time.

Science
Many foundational contributions to quantum mechanics were made in Weimar Germany or by German scientists during the Weimar period.

Das Kätzchen von Schrödinger
© Peter Crawford 2012
Werner Heisenberg
Prominent German physicists included Erwin Schrödinger, and Werner Heisenberg, who formulated his famous ‘Uncertainty Principle’, and, with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, accomplished the first complete and correct definition of ‘quantum mechanics’, through the invention of Matrix mechanics.

Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932 “for the creation of quantum mechanics”. Heisenberg, along with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, set forth the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics in 1925. In 1927 he published his uncertainty principle, upon which he built his philosophy and for which he is best known. He also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles. Considerable controversy surrounds his work on atomic research during World War II.

Göttingen was the center of fluiddynamic and aerodynamic research in the early 20th century.

Ludwig Prandtl 

Mathematical aerodynamics was founded by Ludwig Prandtl before WW I (by understanding boundary layers and progressing calculation in the down stream direction).

It was there that compressability drag and its reduction in aircraft was first understood.
Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe

A striking example of this is the Messerschmitt Me 262, which was designed in 1939, but resembles a modern jet transport more that it did other tactical aircraft of its time.

Albert Einstein rose to public prominence during his years in Berlin, being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.
He was left Germany for America in 1933.

Magnus Hirschfeld

Physician Magnus Hirschfeld established the ‘Institut für Sexualwissenschaft’ (Institute for Sexology) in 1919, and it remained open until 1933.

Hirschfeld believed that an understanding of homosexuality could be arrived at through science.
Hirschfeld was a vocal advocate for homosexual, bisexual, and transgender legal rights for men and women, repeatedly petitioning parliament for legal changes. 
His Institute also included a museum.
If we also include the German speaking Vienna, during the Weimar years Mathematician Kurt Gödel published his ground-breaking ‘Incompleteness Theorem’.

The Arts
During the fourteen years of the Weimar era German artists made contributions in the fields of literature, art, architecture, music, dance, drama, and the new medium of the motion picture.
German visual art, music, and literature were all strongly influenced by German Expressionism at the start of the Weimar Republic.

The early twentieth century was a period of wrenching changes in the arts.
In the visual arts, such innovations as cubism, Dada and surrealism – following hot on the heels of symbolism, post-Impressionism and Fauvism – were not universally appreciated. The majority of people in Germany, as elsewhere, did not care for the new art which many resented as elitist, morally suspect, and too often incomprehensible.

By 1920, a sharp turn was taken towards the ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (New Objectivity) outlook. Neue Sachlichkeit was not a strict movement in the sense of having a clear manifesto or set of rules.

Under the Weimar government of the 1920s, Germany emerged as a leading centre of the avant-garde – the birthplace of Expressionism in painting and sculpture, of the atonal musical compositions of Arnold Schoenberg, and the jazz-influenced work of Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill.
Robert Wiene’s ‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ (1920), and F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ (1922), brought Expressionism to cinema.

Neue Sachlichkeit is a term used to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it. Rather than some goal of philosophical objectivity, it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American: “The Neue Sachlichkeit is Americanism, cult of the objective, the hard fact, the predilection for functional work, professional conscientiousness, and usefulness.”
The term was originally the title of an art exhibition staged by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, the director of the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, to showcase artists who were working in a post-expressionist spirit, but it took a life of its own, going beyond Hartlaub’s intentions. As these artists rejected the self-involvement and romantic longings of the expressionists, Weimar intellectuals in general made a call to arms for public collaboration, engagement, and rejection of romantic idealism.
The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the NSDAP to power.

Entartete Kunst Exhibition
Entartete Kunst

Artists gravitating towards this aesthetic defined themselves by rejecting the themes of expressionism, romanticism, fantasy, subjectivity, raw emotion and impulse—and focused instead on precision, deliberateness, and depicting the factual and the ‘real’.

Much Weimar art was political – a questionable position for the arts – and was fiercely experimental, iconoclastic and left-leaning, spiritually hostile to business and bourgeois society.
Not surprisingly, the old autocratic German establishment saw it as ‘Entartete Kunst’ (decadent art), a view shared by Adolf Hitler who became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.

The National Socialists viewed the culture of the Weimar period with disgust.
Their response stemmed partly from a conservative aesthetic taste, and partly from their determination to use culture as a propaganda tool.
For the National Socialists, the model for the arts was to be classical Greek and Roman art, seen by Hitler as an art whose exterior form embodied an inner racial ideal.

The Jewish and left wing nature of all art that was indecipherable, distorted, or that represented depraved subject matter was explained through the concept of degeneracy, which held that distorted and corrupted art was a symptom of an inferior race.
By propagating the theory of degeneracy, National Socialism combined their anti-Semitism with their drive to control the culture, thus consolidating public support for both campaigns.
Modern art was seen as an act of aesthetic violence by the Jews against the German spirit (Deutsch Geistes).

One of the first major events in the arts during the Weimar Republic was the founding of an organization, the ‘Novembergruppe’ (November Group) on December 3, 1918.

This group was established in the aftermath of the November beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, when Communists, anarchists and pro-republic supporters had fought in the streets for control of the government.

In 1919, the Weimar Republic was established.
Around 100 artists of many genres who identified themselves as avant-garde joined the November Group.
They held 19 exhibitions in Berlin until the group was banned by the Third Reich in 1933.

Walter Gropius
Kurt Weill

The group also had chapters throughout Germany during its existence, and brought the German avant-garde art scene to world attention by holding exhibits in Rome, Moscow and Japan.

Its members also belonged to other art movements and groups during the Weimar Republic era, such as architect Walter Gropius (founder of Bauhaus), and Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht (agitprop theatre).
The artists of the ‘Novembergruppe’ kept the spirit of radicalism alive in German art and culture during the Weimar Republic.
Many of the painters, sculptors, music composers, architects, playwrights, and filmmakers who belonged to it, and still others associated with its members, were the same ones whose art would later be denounced as ‘entartete Kunst’ by Adolf Hitler.
Fine Arts
The Weimar Republic era began in the midst of several major movements in the fine arts that continued into the 1920s.
German Expressionism had begun before World War I and continued to have a strong influence throughout the 1920s, although artists were increasingly likely to position themselves in opposition to expressionist tendencies as the decade went on.
Dada had begun in Zurich during World War I, and became an international phenomenon. Dada artists met and reformed groups of like-minded artists in Paris, Berlin, Cologne, and New York City.

Richard Huelsenbeck

In Germany, Richard Huelsenbeck established the Berlin group, whose members included Jean Arp, John Heartfield, Wieland Hertzfelde, Johannes Baader, Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz and Hannah Höch.

Machines, technology, and a strong Cubism element were features of their work.
Jean Arp and Max Ernst formed a Cologne Dada group, and held a Dada Exhibition there that included a work by Ernst that had an axe “placed there for the convenience of anyone who wanted to attack the work”.
Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters established his own solitary one-man Dada “group” in Hanover, where he filled two stories of a house (the Merzbau) with sculptures cobbled together with found objects and ephemera, each room dedicated to a notable artist friend of Schwitter’s.

The house was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943.
The ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ artists did not belong to a formal group.
Various Weimar Republic artists were oriented towards the concepts associated with it, however.

George Grosz
Broadly speaking, artists linked with New Objectivity include Käthe Kollwitz, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Conrad Felixmüller, Christian Schad, and Rudolf Schlichter, who all worked in different styles, but shared many themes: the horrors of war, social hypocrisy and moral decadence, the plight of the poor.
Otto Dix and George Grosz referred to their own movement as Verism, a reference to the Roman classical Verism approach called verus, meaning “truth”, warts and all.
While their art is recognizable as a bitter, cynical criticism of life in Weimar Germany, they were striving to portray a sense of realism that they saw missing from expressionist works.
‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ became a major undercurrent in all of the arts during the Weimar Republic.
Design
The design field during the Weimar Republic witnessed some radical departures from styles that had come before it.

Marcel Breuer
Wassily Chair – Bauhaus

Bauhaus-style designs are distinctive, and synonymous with modern design.

Designers from these movements turned their energy towards a variety of objects, from furniture, to typography, to buildings.

Marcel Lajos Breuer (22 May 1902 Pécs, Hungary – 1 July 1981 New York City), was a Hungarian-born modernist, architect and furniture designer of Jewish descent. One of the masters of Modernism, Breuer  displayed interest in modular construction and simple forms.
Known to his friends and associates as Lajkó, Breuer studied and taught at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. The Bauhaus curriculum stressed the simultaneous education of its students in elements of visual art, craft and the technology of industrial production. Breuer was eventually appointed to a teaching position as head of the school’s carpentry workshop. He later practiced in Berlin, designing houses and commercial spaces. In the 1920s and 1930s, Breuer pioneered the design of tubular steel furniture. Later in his career he would also turn his attention to the creation of innovative and experimental wooden furniture.

Dada’s goal of critically rethinking design was similar to Bauhaus, but whereas the earlier Dada movement was an aesthetic approach, the Bauhaus was literally a school, an institution that combined a former school of industrial design with a school of arts and crafts.
Wilhelm Wagenfeld
Wagenfeld Lamp WG25
Bauhaus 
The founders intended to fuse the arts and crafts with the practical demands of industrial design, to create works reflecting the ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ aesthetic in Weimar Germany.

Wilhelm Wagenfeld (* 15 April 1900, Bremen, Germany — † 28 May 1990, Stuttgart, Germany) was an important German industrial designer of the 20th Century, disciple of Bauhaus. He designed glass and metal works for the Jenaer Glaswerk Schott & Gen., the Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke in Weißwasser, Rosenthal, Braun GmbH and WMF. Some of his designs are still produced until these days. One of his classics is a table lamp, known as Wagenfeld Lampe, 1924, which he designed together with Karl J. Jucker. In cooperation with Charles Crodel his works found their way in exhibitions and museums.

Adolf Loos – Villa Karma 1906
Precursor to Albert Speer ?
Adolf  Loos

The origins of Weimar design and architecture are to be found in the works and writings of Adolf Franz Karl Viktor Maria Loos (10 December 1870 – 23 August 1933), who was an Austrian architect.
He was influential in European Modern architecture, and in his essay ‘Ornament and Crime’ he repudiated the florid style of the ‘Vienna Secession’, with the Austrian version of Art Nouveau.

Adolf Loos
Decorative Console

In this and many other essays he contributed to the elaboration of a body of theory and criticism of Modernism in architecture.
Ornament and Crime in no way reflects his architectural style.

Adolf Loos – Table

Loos authored several polemical works.
‘In Spoken into the Void’, published in 1900, Loos attacked the Vienna Secession, at a time when the movement was at its height.
In his essays, Loos used provocative catchphrases and has become noted for one particular essay/manifesto entitled ‘Ornament and Crime’, spoken first in 1910.
In this essay, he explored the idea that the progress of culture is associated with the deletion of ornament from everyday objects (?), and that it was therefore a crime to force craftsmen or builders to waste their time on ornamentation that served to hasten the time when an object would become obsolete.
Loos’ stripped-down buildings influenced the minimal massing of modern architecture, and stirred controversy.

Adolf Loos – Villa Karma 1906
Pendant Light – Adolf Loos

Perhaps surprisingly, some of Loos’s own architectural work was elaborately decorated, although more often inside than outside, and the ornamented interiors frequently featured abstract planes and shapes composed of richly figured materials, such as marble and exotic woods.
The visual distinction is not between complicated and simple, but between “organic” and superfluous decoration.
Loos was also interested in the decorative arts, collecting sterling silver and high quality leather goods, which he noted for their plain yet luxurious appeal.
He also enjoyed fashion and men’s clothing, designing the famed Kníže of Vienna, a haberdashery.
His admiration for the fashion and culture of England and America can be seen his short-lived publication ‘Das Andere’, which ran for just two issues in 1903 and included advertisements for ‘English’ clothing.

____________________________________________
Bauhaus Building – Model
Walter Gropius, a founder of the Bauhaus school, stated “we want an architecture adapted to our world of machines, radios and fast cars.

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

Gropius is remembered not only by his various buildings but also by the district of Gropiusstadt in Berlin. In the early 1990s, a series of books entitled The Walter Gropius Archive was published covering his entire architectural career. 

Berlin and other parts of Germany still have many surviving landmarks of the architectural style at the Bauhaus.
The mass housing projects of Ernst May and Bruno Taut are evidence of markedly creative designs being incorporated as a major feature of new planned communities.
Glass Pavilion – Cologne Werkbund

Bruno Julius Florian Taut (4 May 1880, Königsberg, Germany – 24 December 1938, Istanbul), was a prolific German architect, urban planner and author active during the Weimar period.
Taut is known best for his theoretical work, speculative writings and the buildings he designed. Taut’s best-known single building is the prismatic dome of the Glass Pavilion for the Cologne Werkbund Exhibition (1914). His sketches for the publication “Alpine Architecture” (1917) are the work of an unabashed Utopian visionary, and he is classified as a Modernist. Much of Taut’s literary work in German remains untranslated into English.

Erich Mendelsohn and Hans Poelzig are other prominent Bauhaus architects.
Kaufhaus Schocken – Department Store – Chemnitz
Einsteinturm

Erich Mendelsohn (21 March 1887 – 15 September 1953) was a Jewish German architect, known for his expressionist architecture in the 1920s, as well as for developing a dynamic functionalism in his projects for department stores and cinemas. Erich Mendelsohn was born in Allenstein (Olsztyn), East Prussia. He was the fifth of six children; his mother was a hatmaker and his father a shopkeeper. He attended a humanist Gymnasium in Allenstein and continued with commercial training in Berlin. At the end of 1918, upon his return from World War I, he settled his practice in Berlin. The Einsteinturm (Einstein Tower),  Potsdam, Berlin established his reputation. In 1924, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius, he was one of the founders of the progressive architectural group known as Der Ring. His practice employed as many as forty people, among them, as a trainee, Julius Posener, later an architectural historian. Mendelsohn’s work encapsulated the consumerism of the Weimar Republic, most particularly in his shops: most famously the Schocken Department Store

Mies van der Rohe
Barcelona Pavilion
Mies van der Rohe is undoubtedly the greatest architect to emerge from the Weimar design movement.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (born as Maria Ludwig Michael Mies; March 27, 1886, Aachen – August 17, 1969, Chicago) was a German-American architect.
He is commonly referred to, and was addressed, as Mies, his surname.





Mies van der Rohe
Mies van der Rohe – Barcelona Pavilion

Mies, like many of his post-World War I contemporaries, sought to establish a new architectural style that could represent modern times just as Classical and Gothic did for their own eras. He created an influential twentieth century architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. His mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define interior spaces. He strived towards an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of free-flowing open space. 


He called his buildings “skin and bones” architecture. He sought a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design. He is often associated with the aphorisms “less is more” and “God is in the details”.
The architecture of Mies is in fact a continuation, using modern materials, of the neo-classical revival of the late nineteenth century.

Fritz Mayer  – The Hall of Honour – 1929 – Nuremberg





During the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), the City of Nuremberg had a monument erected, to commemorate the 9,855 Nuremberg soldiers killed in World War I.
The design was by architect Fritz Mayer. A rectangular yard is adjacent to the arcaded hall, with a row of pillars carrying fire bowls on either side. Lord Mayor Hermann Luppe officially opened the hall in 1930.


Painter Paul Klee was a faculty member of Bauhaus.
Bruno Taut and Adolf Behne founded the ‘Arbeitsrat für Kunst’ (Workers’ Council for Art) in 1919.
Their aim was to assert pressure for political change on the Weimar Republic government, that would benefit the management of architecture and arts management, similar to Germany’s large councils for workers and soldiers.
This Berlin organization had around 50 members.
Still another influential affiliation of architects was the group ‘Der Ring’ (The Ring)  (see above) established by ten architects in Berlin in 1923-24, including: Otto Bartning, Peter Behrens, Hugo Häring, Erich Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe, Bruno Taut and Max Taut.
The group promoted the progress of modernism in architecture.
Hans Poelzig

Hans Poelzig (30 April 1869 Berlin – 14 June 1936 Berlin) was a German Jewish Left-Wing architect, painter and set designer.
In 1903 he became a teacher and director at the Breslau Academy of Art and Design (Kunst- und Gewerbeschule Breslau; today Wrocław, Poland).
From 1920-1935 he taught at the Technical University of Berlin (Technische Hochschule Berlin).
After finishing his architectural education around the turn of the century, Poelzig designed many industrial buildings. He designed the 51.2 m tall Upper Silesia Tower in Posen (today Poznań) for an industrial fair in 1911. It later became a water tower. He was appointed city architect of Dresden in 1916.
He was an influential member of the Deutscher Werkbund.

Poelzig was also known for his distinctive 1919 interior redesign of the Berlin Grosses Schauspielhaus for Weimar impresario Max Reinhardt
He was also renowned for his vast architectural set designs for the 1920 UFA film production of ‘The Golem: How He Came Into the World’.

‘The Golem: How He Came Into the World’

(Poelzig mentored Edgar Ulmer on that film; when Ulmer directed the 1934 film noir Universal Studios production of ‘The Black Cat’, he returned the favor by naming the architect-Satanic-high-priest villain character “Hjalmar Poelzig”, played by Boris Karloff.)
With his Weimar architect contemporaries like Bruno Taut and Ernst May, Poelzig’s work developed through Expressionism and the New Objectivity in the mid-1920s before arriving at a more conventional, economical style.

I.G. Farben Building

In 1927 he was one of the exhibitors in the first International Style project, the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart.
Poelzig’s single best-known building is the enormous and legendary I.G. Farben Building, completed in 1931 as the administration building for IG Farben in Frankfurt am Main.
In 1933 Poelzig served as the interim director of the Vereinigte Staatsschulen für freie und angewandete Kunst (United State School for Fine and Applied Art), after the expulsion of founding director Bruno Paul by the National Socialists. Poelzig died in Berlin in June 1936.


Literature
Tadzio
Thomas Mann 

Writers such as Alfred Döblin, Erich Maria Remarque and the brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann presented a bleak look at the world, and the failure of politics and society through literature.

Mann’s diaries, unsealed in 1975, tell of his struggles with his homosexuality, which found reflection in his works, most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio in the novella ‘Der Tod in Venedig’ (Death in Venice – 1912).



Der Zauberberg

His works also present other sexual themes, such as incest in ‘Wälsungenblut’ (The Blood of the Walsungs) and ‘Der Erwählte’ (The Holy Sinner).
Balancing his humanism and appreciation of Western culture, was his belief in the power of sickness and decay to destroy the ossifying effects of tradition and civilisation. Hence the “heightening” of which Mann speaks in his introduction to ‘Der Zauberberg’ (The Magic Mountain).
‘Der Zauberberg’ was first published in November 1924. It is widely considered to be one of the most influential works of 20th century German literature.

Foreign writers also travelled to Berlin, lured by the city’s dynamic, freer culture.
The decadent cabaret scene of Berlin was documented by Britain’s Christopher Isherwood, such as in his novel ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ which was later transposed to the musical film ‘Cabaret’.
Cabaret – Tomorrow Belongs to Me
‘The Berlin Stories’ (Die Berliner Geschichten) is a book consisting of two short novels by Christopher Isherwood: ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ and ‘Mr Norris Changes Trains’. It was published in 1945.
‘The Berlin Stories’ was chosen as a ‘Time 100 Best English-Language Novels of the 20th Century’.

The two novellas are set in Berlin in 1931, just as Adolf Hitler was moving into power. Berlin is portrayed by Isherwood during this transition period of cafes and quaint avenues, grotesque night-life and dreamers, and powerful mobs and millionaires.
‘The Berlin Stories’ was the starting point for the John Van Druten play ‘I Am a Camera’, which in turn went on to inspire the film ‘I Am a Camera’, as well as the stage musical and film versions of ‘Cabaret’.
The character Sally Bowles is probably the best-known character from ‘The Berlin Storie’s because of her later starring role in the ‘Cabaret’ musical and film, although in ‘The Berlin Stories’, she is only the main character of one short story in ‘Goodbye to Berlin’.

Poetry


Probably the most significant poet of the Weimar period was Stefan George.

Stefan George
George was born in Bingen in Prussia in 1868.
He spent time in Paris and began to publish poetry in the 1890s, while in his twenties. George founded and edited an important literary magazine called ‘Blätter für die Kunst’ (Magazine for the Arts).


Stefan George was also at the centre of an influential literary and academic circle known as the ‘George-Kreis’ (George Circle), which included many of the leading young writers of the day, (for example Friedrich Gundolf and Ludwig Klages).
In addition to sharing cultural interests, the circle reflected mystical and political themes. 
Stefan George was a homosexual, yet exhorted his young friends to lead a celibate life, like his own.
In 1914 at the start of the war he foretold a sad end for Germany, and between then and 1916 wrote the pessimistic poem ‘Der Krieg’ (The War).
He died near Locarno in 1933.

Maximilian Kronberger
Some of his most significant work includes ‘Algabal’, and the love poetry he devoted to a gifted adolescent of his acquaintance named Maximilian Kronberger, whom he called “Maximin”, and whom he identified as a manifestation of the divine.

Maximilian Kronberger, known familiarly as Maximin (April 15, 1888 — April 16, 1904), was a German poet and a significant figure in the literary circle of Stefan George (the so‑called George‑Kreis).
Maximin came to the attention of Stefan George in Munich in 1903 –  he died unexpectedly of meningitis the following year, on the day after his 16th birthday. He was idealized by George to the point of proclaiming him a god, following his death… the cult of ‘Maximin’ became an integral part of the George circle’s practice.

Albert Speer
George  thought of himself as a messiah of a new kingdom that would be led by intellectual or artistic elites, bonded by their faithfulness to a strong leader.
In his memoirs, Albert Speer claims to have seen George in the early 1920s and that his elder brother, Hermann, was a member of his inner circle: George “radiated dignity and pride and a kind of priestliness… there was something magnetic about him.”
George’s late works include ‘Geheimes Deutschland’ (“Secret Germany”) written in 1922, and ‘Das neue Reich’ (The New Empire), which was published in 1928, which outlines a new form of society ruled by hierarchical spiritual aristocracy.
Although George was never a member of the NSDAP, his later works paved the way for the acceptance of National Socialist philosophy in upper class, intellectual circles.

Theatre
One of the most influential works for the Weimar stage was ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’ (The Threepenny Opera) by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (1928).

“Das Moritat von Mackie Messer”, (The Ballad of Mack the Knife) is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’. It premiered in Berlin in 1928 at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. The song has become a popular standard.
A moritat (from mori meaning “deadly” and tat meaning “deed”) is a medieval version of the murder ballad performed by strolling minstrels.
In  ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’, the moritat singer, with his street organ, introduces and closes the drama with the tale of the deadly Mackie Messer, a character based on the dashing highwayman Macheath in John Gay’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ (who was in turn based on the historical thief Jack Sheppard). The Brecht-Weill version of the character was far more cruel and sinister, and has been transformed into a modern anti-hero.

‘Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne,
Und die trägt er im Gesicht.
Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer,
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht’
The theatres of Berlin and Frankfurt am Main were graced with drama by Ernst Toller, Bertolt Brecht, cabaret, and stage direction by Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator.
Ernst Toller

Ernst Toller (1 December 1893 – 22 May 1939) was a German-Jewish, left-wing playwright, best known for his Expressionist plays, and serving as President of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, for six days.
The republic was short-lived and was defeated by right-wing forces. Toller was imprisoned for five years for his part in the revolution.
Toller committed suicide by hanging on May 22, 1939.

Many theatre works were sympathetic towards Marxist themes, or were overt experiments in propaganda, such as the agitprop theatre by Brecht and Weill.
Bertolt Brecht

Agitprop theatre is a named through a combination of the words “agitation” and “propaganda”.

Its aim was to add elements of left wing public protest (agitation) and persuasive politics (propaganda) to the theatre, in the hope of creating a more activist audience.
Toller was the leading German expressionist playwright of the era.
He later became one of the leading proponents of ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ in the theatre.
The avant-garde theater of Bertolt Brecht and Max Reinhardt in Berlin was the most advanced in Europe, being rivaled only by that of Paris.
Music
Concert halls and conservatories exhibited the atonal and modern music of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Kurt Weill.
Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau were other modernist composers of the era.
Undoubtedly the two greatest German composers of the Wiemar period were Richard Strauss and Hans Pfitzner.

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was undoubtedly the leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.
His significant works of the Weimar period were:
‘Film music for Der Rosenkavalier’ (1925), and the operas ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’ (1919), ‘Intermezzo’ (1923), ‘Die ägyptische Helena’ (1927), ‘Arabella’ (1932).
Strauss continued to compose into the era of the Third Reich and beyond (he died in 1949).

Hans Pfitzner


Hans Erich Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) is undeservedly less well known. He was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist.
His own music — including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem — was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. 
Pfitzner’s works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music.
His greatest work of the period was the romantische Kantate ‘Von deutscher Seele’ (Of the German Soul) (1921).
During this period he also composed a ‘Sonata in e-minor for Violin and Piano’ Op. 27 (1918), and his ‘String Quartet [Nr. 3] in C-Sharp minor’ (1925).
Other Orchestral works composed during the Weimar period include the ‘Piano concerto in E-flat Major’ (1922), the ‘Violin Concerto in b-minor’ (1923) and the Symphony in C-sharp Minor (1932).

Cinema
At the beginning of the Weimar era, cinema meant silent films.
Some films from this period have remained among the most well known in all of German cinema, however, a testament to the creative power of the artists who made them using the most basic of early film technology.
Expressionist films featured plots exploring the dark side of human nature.
They had elaborate expressionist design sets, and the style was typically nightmarish in atmosphere.
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) (1919), directed by Robert Wiene, is usually credited as the first, and one of the greatest German expressionist film.

The sets depict distorted, warped-looking buildings in a German town, while the plot centres around a mysterious, magical cabinet that has a clear association with a casket. F. W. Murnau’s vampire horror film ‘Nosferatu’ was released in 1922.
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is a 1920 German silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It is one of the most influential of German Expressionist films and is often considered one of the greatest horror movies of the silent era. The film used stylized sets, with abstract, jagged buildings painted on canvas backdrops and flats. These unique sets gave off somewhat of a theatrical sense. To add to this strange style, the actors used an unrealistic technique that exhibited jerky and dancelike movements. This movie is cited as having introduced the twist ending in cinema.

Dr. Mabuse der Spieler

Director Fritz Lang created perhaps the most globally well-known cinema examples of German Expressionism.

Lang’s ‘Dr. Mabuse der Spieler’ (Dr. Mabuse the Gambler) (1922) was a hugely popular film when it was released.
It is described as “a sinister tale” that portrays “the corruption and social chaos so much in evidence in Berlin and more generally, according to Lang, in Weimar Germany”.

Fritz Lang

‘Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler’ is the first film in the Dr. Mabuse series, about the character Doctor Mabuse who featured in the novels of Norbert Jacques. It was directed by Fritz Lang and released in 1922. The film is silent and filmed mostly 16 frames per second.
It is about four hours long and divided into two parts: Der große Spieler: Ein Bild der Zeit and Inferno: Ein Spiel um Menschen unserer Zeit. The title, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, is plurivalent. Der Spieler means the player in German, and can be translated as the gambler, the actor, or the puppeteer. Dr. Mabuse, who disguises, plays with emotions and tricks other people, is probably all of them in some sense.
The film is included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, being the first of five Lang films to be entered.

Futurism is another favourite expressionist them, shown corrupted into a force of oppression in the dystopia in one of the greatest films ever produced – ‘Metropolis’ (1927).
Metropolis – the Workers
Metropolis – Rotwang

Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. The film was written by Lang and his wife Thea Von Harbou, and starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. A silent film, it was produced in the Babelsberg Studios by UFA.
Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia, and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria, whose background is not fully explained in the film, to overcome the vast gulf separating the class structured nature of their city.

Metropolis – ‘Head and Hand’
Metropolis

The significant theme of Metropolis is the conflict between intellectual and practical form of working – reflected in the modes of operation of the capitalist owners of production and the workers who bring the ideas of the owners into fruition and actuality.
In the climax to the film, Freder acts as the intermediary between his father, Joh Fredersen, and the leader of the workers – encouraging the two former adversaries to symbolically shake hands – and therefore uniting capital and labour.
This intermediary figure can be seen as a precursor of Adolf Hitler who, in 1933,  united capital and labour in the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

Reichsminister Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, was impressed, and took the film’s message to heart. In a 1928 speech he declared that “the political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the ‘head and hand’, the forces of Labour  to begin their historical mission
Metropolis was filmed in 1925, at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks.
The appearance of the city in Metropolis is strongly informed by the Art Deco movement; however it also incorporates elements from other traditions. The architecture featured in Metropolis is eclectic and represents both functionalist modernism and art deco, whilst also featuring the scientist’s archaic little house, with its high-powered laboratory, and the catacombs and the Gothic cathedral. The film’s use of art deco architecture was highly influential, and has been reported to have contributed to the style’s subsequent popularity in Europe and America.

The self-deluded lead characters in many expressionist films echo Goethe’s Faust, and Murnau indeed retold the tale in his film ‘Faust’.
German expressionist films represented a significant stylistic and thematic development in film that has had a lasting worldwide influence, however, they were not the dominant type of popular film in Weimar Germany, and were outnumbered by the production of costume dramas, often about folk legends, which were enormously popular with the public.
The Weimar era’s most groundbreaking film studio was the UFA studio.
Universum Film AG – UFA
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, is a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945. After World War II, UFA continued producing movies and television programmes to the present day, making it the longest standing film company in Germany.
UFA was created during November 1917 in Berlin as a government-owned producer of World War I propaganda and public service films.
It was created through the consolidation of most of Germany’s commercial film companies, including Nordisk and Decla.
Decla’s former owner, Erich Pommer, served as producer for the 1920 film ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, which was not only the best example of German Expressionism and an enormously influential film, but also a commercial success.

UFA-Palast am Zoo

During the same year, UFA opened the UFA-Palast am Zoo theatre in Berlin.
During the Weimar years the studio produced and exported an enormous, accomplished, and inventive body of work. Only an estimated 10% of the studio’s output still exists. Famous directors based at UFA included Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau; under chief producer Erich Pommer the company created landmark films such as ‘Dr. Mabuse’ (1922), ‘Metropolis’ (1927), and Marlene Dietrich’s first talkie, ”Der blaue Engel’ (1930).
These films were produced at Filmstudio Babelsberg, located in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Berlin.

Silent films continued to be made throughout the 1920s, in parallel with the early years of sound films during the final years of the Weimar Republic.
Silent films had certain advantages for filmmakers, such as the ability to hire an international cast, since spoken accents were irrelevant, thus, American and British actors were easily able to collaborate with German directors and cast-members on films made in Germany (for example, the collaborations of Georg Pabst and Louise Brooks).
When sound films started being produced in Germany, some filmmakers experimented with versions in more than one language, filmed simultaneously.

‘The Threepenny Opera’ – 1931

When the popular musical ‘The Threepenny Opera’ was filmed by director Georg Pabst, he filmed the first version with a French-speaking cast (1930), then a second version with a German-speaking cast (1931).

An English version was planned but never materialized.
‘Der blaue Engel’ (The Blue Angel) (1930), directed by Josef von Sternberg with the leads played by Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings, was filmed simultaneously in English and German (a different supporting cast was used for each version).
Although it was based on a 1905 story written by Heinrich Mann, the film is often seen as topical in that it depicts the doomed romance between a Berlin professor and a cabaret dancer, reflecting the popular image of the city during the era.

Karl Vollmöller
Der Blaue Engel

‘Der blaue Engel’ is a 1930 film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich and Kurt Gerron. Written by Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmöller and Robert Liebmann – with uncredited contributions by von Sternberg – based on Heinrich Mann’s 1905 novel Professor Unrat (“Professor Garbage”), and set in Weimar Germany, ‘Der blaue Engel’ presents the tragic transformation of a man from a respectable professor to a cabaret clown, and his descent into madness. The film is considered to be the first major German sound film, and brought Dietrich international fame. In addition, it introduced her signature song, Friedrich Hollaender and Robert Liebmann’s ‘Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt’ (Falling in Love Again – Can’t Help It).
Karl Gustav Vollmöller, (May 7, 1878 – October 18, 1948) was a German playwright and screenwriter.
He is most famous for two works, the screenplay for the celebrated 1930 German film ‘Der Blaue Engel’ (The Blue Angel), which made a star of Marlene Dietrich, and ‘Das Mirakel’ (The Miracle), which he wrote in collaboration with Max Reinhardt.

Science Fiction in the Wiemar Republic

One fitting example of this is found in a German film that was thought lost forever.
Only recently a copy of this film, entitled ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ (The Miracle Of Creation), has been found.

‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ – 1927

Wunder Der Schöpfung’ was to be, in the words of one critic, UFA’s greatest achievment.
UFA put itself more and more in the mind-frame necessary for its most ambitious project yet: Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, that was relased in 1927, two years after ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’. Contrary to ‘Metropolis’ that obtained only a lukewarm reception, ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ was a tremendous hit.
It still is a remarkable film with for that time highly ingenious and elaborate special effects.

In the context of Germany’s Kulturfilm phenomenon, ‘Wunder der Schöpfung’ was among the greatest achievements of the 1920s.
The production was constructed, rehearsed, and shot over a period of two and a half years, under the supervision of Hanns Walter Kornblum.
The idea to describe the universe and man’s place in it well suited UFA’s Grossfilm mentality, one year before ‘Metropolis’.
Hundreds of skilled craftsmen participated in the project, building props and constructing scale models drawn by 15 special effects draughtsmen, while 9 cameramen in separate units worked on the historical, documentary, fiction, animation, and science-fiction sequences.
Without star roles or even protagonists, the film’s plot is crowded with meticulously structured and skillfully acted single scenes an artful mosaic of small vignettes.
No less than four credited university professors ensured the factual background behind the scientific and historical events portrayed.
The film’s symbol of progress and the new scientific era is a spacecraft, travelling through the Milky Way, making all the planets and their inspiring worlds familiar to us, with the extravaganza of their distinctive features.
There is also a general feeling amongst connoisseurs that certain scenes might have served as a template for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.
In the film a German scientific team travels through the universe in a spacecraft that serves as the symbol of progress and an age of new technologies, explaining all that is to be seen. ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ was not meant as lighthearted science fiction
Instead, the film that was meant as an educational device begun in 1923.
‘Jetzt gehort und Deutschland, morgen das ganse Sonnensystem’ (Now Germany belongs to us, tomorrow the whole solar system), as thetrilogy coyly states, is the apt slogan.
One could, perhaps, remark that, since Germany had lost most of its colonies, space formed the final formidable frontier.
One author who envisioned the path to solar conquest in the dream-tanks of the Third Reich was Walter Heichen (1876 – 1970).
His ‘Jenseits der Stratosphäre. Erlebnisse zwischen Mond und Erde. Eine Erzählung für die Jugend’ (On the Other Side of the Stratosphere. Experiences between the Moon and the Earth. A Story for the Youths) was published in 1931 and was reprinted in 1939 as ‘Luftschiff im Weltenraum’ (Airship in Space).
Heichen, who lived in Berlin, already had published propaganda lecture to kindle pattriotic interest during the outbreak of the First World War.
During the Third Reich his pattriotism adhered to the National Socialist cause.
In Heichen’s book, the protagonists travel to the planet of Sigma, where they encounter highly developed humanoids.
Heichen died in Berlin in 1970.
In 1925, a chronically ill and impoverished engineer in Vienna devoted himself entirely to space travel.

‘Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums –
der Raketen-motor’

Herman Potočnik (1892 – 1929), published in 1928 his only book, ‘Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums – der Raketen-motor’ (The Problem of Space Travel, the Rocket Motor) was published.
The Verein für Raumschiffahrt also published a magazine titled ‘Die Rakete’ (The Rocket), from 1927 till 1929,
Gernsback, born in 1884 as Gernsbacher, at ten years of age was an insatiable reader.
At that time he found a translation of Percival Lowell’s ‘Mars as the Abode of Life’.
He devoured the book and went into a delirious phase that lasted two days, during which he rambled almost non-stop about the Martians and their technology, a theme to which he would return in later years.
This experience would prove a pivotal point in the life of young Gernsbacher.

‘Die Rakete’

In 1904, then still named Gernsbacher, he went to the United States and changed his name into Gernsback. There he would come to know inventors like Tesla, de Forrest, Fessenden and Grindell-Matthews.
Gernsback would also publish an impressive list of science fiction magazines and coin the very phrase ‘science fiction’.
As such, a case is to be made for Germany as the birthplace of 20th century weird and science fiction magazine publishing.
Recent years have seen the emergence of information about a crashed UFO in the Black Forrest in 1936, which was spirited away by the SS.
There it was to be dismantled and dilligently studied by members of the Vril Society.

 ‘Algol’ – 1920 – UFA

The possibility of alien technology that has fallen into the hands of a select group, was already the subject of a film in Germany in 1920.
Just two years after the defeat of Germany in the First World War, a little known silent film was released.
Entitled ‘Algol’, it tells the story of a superior extraterrestrial from the Dogstar, who donates incredible technology that enables a wealthy industrialist to enslave the world by this free energy device.
Lost for decades, copies of the film have surfaced in recent years.
The first image is of the alien being, poised far away in the eternal blackness of the universe. The second the industrialist poised over the weird extraterrestrial technology.
One wonders how a film like ‘Algol’ helped transform the ancient intelligences, the angelic beings and the demons of old, into alien entities from far away planets. All in the strange and feverish undercurrents of the German occult.

Health and Self-improvement
Germany had many innovators in health treatment, some more questionable than others, in the decades leading up to World War I.
Nackt Turnen

As a group, they were collectively known as part of the ‘Lebensreform’, (Life Reform), movement.

During the Weimar years, some of these found support with the German public, particularly in Berlin.
Some innovations had lasting influence.
Joseph Pilates developed much of his Pilates system of physical training during the 1920s. Expressionist dance teachers such as Rudolf Laban had an important impact on Pilates’ theories.
Nacktkultur

Nacktkultur, called naturalism or modern nudism in English, became popular in northern Germany in particular as part of the Lebensreform utopian projects.

Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach pioneered the concept in Vienna in the late 1890s.

German Nacktkultur, or Freikörperkultur (free body movement), refers to a network of clubs that promoted nudism as a way of linking the modern body more closely to nature, giving it a freer presence in the great outdoors. Heinrich Pudor (Heinrich Scham, 1865–1943) supposedly coined the term Nacktkultur around 1903. His book Nacktende Mensch (1893) and the three-volume Nacktkultur (1906) established an enduring, if not accurate, link between Nacktkultur, vegetarianism, social reform, and racial hygiene (including anti-Semitism).




Nackt Speerwerfer

However, Rothschuh claims that Nacktkultur first appeared in Germany in the 1870s, along with the animal protection, vegetarian, and natural healing movements. Nudity was an important feature of Freikörperkultur well before World War I, and the idea of nudity as a healthful activity apparently owed something to the medical profession’s efforts to combat such diseases as tuberculosis with what before the war was called ‘Luft und Licht Therapie’ (air and light therapy) or ‘Heliotherapie’. As late as 1922 a Munich film-maker  Robert Reinert, released a film (‘Nerven’) that concluded with scenes of nude bodies in the mountains finally cured of neurasthenic ailments contracted in a decadent urban environment.

Resorts for naturalists were established at a rapid pace along the northern coast of Germany during the 1920s, and by 1931, Berlin itself had 40 naturalists’ societies and clubs. A variety of periodicals on the topic were also regularly published.
Aufklärungsfilme (enlightenment films) supported the idea of teaching the public about important social problems, such as alcohol and drug addiction, venereal disease, homosexuality, prostitution, and prison reform.

Associated with Nacktkultur and Lebensreform was the Wandervogel.

Wandervogel auf dem Gipfel

Wandervogel is the name adopted by a popular movement of German youth groups from 1896 onward.
The name can be translated as ‘rambling, hiking or wandering bird’ (differing in meaning from “Zugvogel” or migratory bird), and the ethos is to shake off the restrictions of society and get back to nature and freedom.
Soon the groups split and there originated ever more organisations, which still all called themselves Wandervogel, but were organisationally independent.
Nonetheless the feeling was still of being a common movement, but split into several branches.

Wandervogel Jungen
Nacktkultur – Junge

The Wandervogel movement was officially established on 4 November 1901 by Herman Hoffmann Fölkersamb, who in 1895 had formed a study circle at the boys’ Berlin-Steglitz grammar school where he was teaching.
The Wandervogel soon became the pre-eminent German youth movement.
It was a ‘back-to-nature’ youth organization emphasizing freedom, self-responsibility, and the spirit of adventure, and took a nationalistic approach, stressing Germany’s Teutonic roots.
After World War I, the leaders returned disillusioned from the war.
The same was true for leaders of ‘German Scouting’.
So both movements started to influence each other heavily in Germany.
From the Wandervogel came a stronger culture of hiking, adventure, bigger tours to farther places, romanticism and a younger leadership structure.
Scouting brought uniforms, flags, more organization, more camps and a clearer ideology. There was also an educationalist influence from Gustav Wyneken.

Hitlerjugend auf Parade
Hitlerjugend Fahnenträger

Together this led to the emergence of the Bündische Jugend.
The ‘Wandervogel’, ‘German Scouting’ and the ‘Bündische Jugend’ together are referred to as the ‘German Youth Movement’.
They had been around for more than a quarter of a century before National Socialists began to see an opportunity to take over some methods and symbols of the German Youth Movement to use it in the ‘Hitler Youth’ to influence the young.
This movement was very influential at that time.
Its members were romantic and prepared to sacrifice a lot for their ideals.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


Many groups within the movement were ‘anti-semitic’ or close to the government of the Third Reich.
From 1933 the German Government subsumed the ‘Wandervogel’, ‘German Scouting’, the ‘Jungenschaft’, and the ‘Bündische Jugend’, along with most youth groups independent into the Hitler Youth.

Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth – abbreviated HJ) was a paramilitary organization of the Third reich. It existed from 1922 to 1945.
The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary National Socialist group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung (SA). It was made up of the Hitlerjugend proper, for male youth ages 14–18; the younger boys’ section Deutsches Jungvolk for ages 10–14; and the girls’ section Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM, the League of German Girls).

Berlin’s Reputation for Decadence
Prostitution rose in Berlin and elsewhere in the areas of Europe left ravaged by the World War.
This means of survival for desperate women, and sometimes men, became normalized to a degree in the 1920s.
During the war, venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea spread at a rate that warranted government attention.
Soldiers at the front contracted these diseases from prostitutes, so the German army responded by granting approval to certain brothels that were inspected by their own medical doctors, and soldiers were rationed coupon books for sexual services at these establishments.
Homosexual behaviour was also documented among soldiers at the front.
Soldiers returning to Berlin at the end of the War had a different attitude towards their own sexual behaviour than they had a few years previously.
Prostitution was frowned on by respectable Berliners, but it continued to the point of becoming entrenched in the city’s underground economy and culture.
First women with no other means of support turned to the trade, then youths of both genders.
A byproduct of the tolerance for prostitution appears to have been a more visible tolerance for diverse sexual behaviour, mainly with the growth of a large underground homosexual culture in the city among both men and women.
Sexual experimentation became less hidden, and the pornography, cabaret and prostitution entrepreneurs found their consumer niche.
Crime in general developed in parallel with prostitution in the city, beginning as petty thefts and other crimes linked to the need to survive in the war’s aftermath.
Berlin eventually acquired a reputation as a hub of drug dealing (cocaine, heroin, tranquilizers) and the black market.
The police identified 62 organized criminal gangs in Berlin, called Ringvereine.
The German public also became fascinated with reports of homicides, especially “lust murders” or Lustmord.
Publishers met this demand with inexpensive criminal novels called Krimi, which like the film noir of the era (such as the classic M), explored methods of scientific detection and psychosexual analysis.
Apart from the new tolerance for behaviour that was technically still illegal, and viewed by a large part of society as immoral, there were other developments in Berlin culture that shocked many visitors to the city.
Thrill-seekers came to the city in search of adventure, and booksellers sold many editions of guide books to Berlin’s erotic night entertainment venues.
There were an estimated 500 such establishments, that included a large number of homosexual venues for men and for lesbians; sometimes transvestites of one or both genders were admitted, otherwise there were at least 5 known establishments that were exclusively for a transvestite clientele.
There were also several nudist venues, and many other well-known venues where underground figures such as crime bosses gathered.
Berlin also had a museum of sexuality during the Weimar period, at Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexology.
These were nearly all closed when the National Socialist regime came to power in 1933.
Artists in Berlin became fused with the city’s underground culture as the borders between cabaret and legitimate theatre blurred.
Anita Berber, a dancer and actress, became notorious throughout the city and beyond for her erotic performances (as well as her cocaine addiction and erratic behaviour).
She was painted by Otto Dix, and socialized in the same circles as Klaus Mann.
Cinema in Weimar culture did not shy away from controversial topics, but dealt with them explicitly.
‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ (1929) directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and starring Louise Brooks, deals with a young woman who is thrown out of her home after having an illegitimate child, and is then forced to become a prostitute to survive.
This trend of dealing frankly with provocative material in cinema began immediately after the end of the War.
In 1919, Richard Oswald directed and released two films, that met with press controversy and action from police vice investigators and government censors.
‘Prostitution’ dealt with women forced into “white slavery”, while ‘Different from the Others’ dealt with a homosexual man’s conflict between his sexuality and social expectations.
By the end of the decade, similar material met with little, if any opposition when it was released in Berlin theatres.
William Dieterle’s ‘Sex in Chains’ (1928), and Pabst’s ‘Pandora’s Box’ (1929) deal with homosexuality among men and women, respectively, and were not censored. Homosexuality was also present more tangentially in other films from the period.
In the light of such activities it is not difficult to see why the NSDAP received so much support in Germany towards the end of the 1920s.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Great German Sculpture



Arno Breker  im  Atelier






Arno Breker  im  Atelier






Arno Breker  im  Atelier





‘WOUNDED HERO’
Arno Breker



‘ADOLF HITLER’
Arno Breker






‘RICHARD WAGNER’
Arno Breker




‘RICHARD WAGNER’
Arno Breker




‘ADOLF HITLER’
Arno Breker







‘FREDERICH  NIETSZCHE’
Arno  Breker





‘Διόνυσος’ – ‘DIONYSUS’
Arno Breker




‘HEROIC HEAD’
Arno Breker



‘HEROIC HEAD’
Arno Breker






‘BEREITSCHAFT’
(Readiness)
Arno Breker





‘Προμηθεύς’
‘PROMETHEUS’

Arno Breker




‘Προμηθεύς’
‘PROMETHEUS’

Arno Breker



‘Προμηθεύς’
‘PROMETHEUS’

Arno Breker





Arno Breker working on Prometheus





‘MALE NUDE TORSO’
Arno Breker





‘GENIUS DES SIEGERS’
(Spirit of Victory)
Arno Breker





‘ARYAN MAN’
Arno Breker







‘ANGEL  OF  DEATH’
Arno  Breker






‘DYING  WARRIOR’

Arno  Breker






‘DYING  WARRIOR’
(Bronze)
Arno  Breker





‘MALE NUDE RELIEF’
Arno  Breker







‘VICTORIOUS  WARRIOR’
Arno  Breker






DER RACHER
Arno Breker








‘KAMARADSCHAFT’
(Comradeship)
Arno Breker






‘KAMARADSCHAFT’
(Comradeship)
Arno Breker







‘DEPARTURE FOR BATTLE’
Arno Breker






‘DER RUFER’
Arno Breker






‘BEREITSCHAFT’
Arno Breker






‘DER BANNERTRAGER’
(Standard Bearer)
Arno Breker






‘EURIDICE and ORPHEUS’
Arno Breker






APOLLO and DAPHNE’
Arno Breker






‘YOU and ME’
Arno Breker







‘DER APFEL DES PARIS’
(The Apple of Paris)
Arno Breker






‘ST  SEBASTIAN’
Arno  Breker





‘OLYMPIA’
Arno Breker




‘OLYMPIA’
Arno Breker





‘TORSO DES ROSSBANDIGERS’
Arno Breker





‘ALEXANDER THE GREAT’
Arno Breker





‘ALEXANDER THE GREAT’
Arno Breker

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