Hitler's taste in classical music

Discussions on the music in the Third Reich. Hosted by Ivan Ž.
Colbro
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Hitler's taste in classical music

Post by Colbro » 10 Feb 2003 00:27

[Several threads dealing with Hitler's taste in classical music have been merged and renamed; misinformative and off-topic posts have been removed. Ivan Ž.]

I was recently reading an article which compared and contrasted the characters of Hitler and Churchill. When it came to music, Churchill had quite simple tastes, whereas Hitler's tastes were quite highbrow. Not only that, he was extremely knowledgeable and very moved and appreciative of the music of his taste. Everybody knows he loved Wagner but also Beethoven and no doubt Schumann and Schubert.
But how did he feel about the likes of Chopin, Borodin, Rimsky- Korsakov and Mendelsohnn? Does anybody have any information?

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Post by Phaethon » 10 Feb 2003 10:54

Hitler's well know great love of Wagner's operas was fuelled by his nationalism and fascination with the mythological tales of German (Aryan) past. Many of his other musical favourites were centred around German(ic) clasical catologue, however, unsurprisingly it was colured by his predjuduce: Mendelssohn, for example, was banned because the composer was jewish. Also excluded from Hitler's record collection were such genre's as jazz, blues, swing and the like. These Hitler considered to be 'degenerate' because of their black and jewish roots.

I have encountered a number of references to Karl Orf's Carmina Burana as a favourite of Hitler, but without any credible source.

In light music, Hitler enjoyed The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar - the Austrian composer, after the 1938 Anschluss, composed a new overture to the opera and dedicated it to the Fuehrer.
Today, music is the only medicine for Hitler's frayed nerves; it gives them their sole relaxation and gives him his greatest esthetic pleasure. He has a passion for the piano, used to be inclined to beat time with his head at concerts, loves Schubert in song, Beethoven in symphonies, Wagner in opera. He also likes manly marches. For safety's sake, he is now accompanied everywhere he goes by his officers or secret service men. Since he prefers to go alone to concerts. he therefore goes out increasingly rarely to good music. At the Munich Opera, the program, at his request, begs the audience to pay no attention to him if he is present. He has also had to give up his long, solitary walks which were his only sport.

p. 403, Janet Flanner, Fuehrer
Source: http://www.nizkor.com/hweb/people/h/hit ... anner.html (OSS Hitler Source-Book)

Hitler played piano, not infrequently for his entourage up to but not so much after the death of Geli Raubal. It's difficult to beleive he did not play Mendelssohn at least during lessons, but those would have been before any clear indication of anti-semitism in his youth.

At other times he 'overlooked' political/racial issues in artists who pleased him:
Hitler of course recognized Furtwängler's greatness and understood his significance for Germany and German music. Thus, when other officials (including Himmler) complained of the conductor's nonconformity, Hitler overrode their objections. Until the end, Furtwängler remained his favorite conductor. He was similarly indulgent toward his favorite heldentenor, Max Lorenz, and Wagnerian soprano Frida Leider, each of whom was married to a Jew. Their cultural importance trumped racial or political considerations.
Source: http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v17/v17n3p-2_Charles.html ("Wilhelm Furtwängler and Music in the Third Reich" by Antony Charles)

Much of his musical exposure occured in Vienna, during the period when he had a moderate income and could afford to attend concerts and theatre.
In accordance with the custom of many German rental establishments, Hitler also had the use of a large entrance hall where people gathered and entertained. Against one of the walls sat an old upright piano which residents or guests occasionally played. Hitler enjoyed listening to the music of Schumann, Chopin and Richard Strauss, but his favorite pieces were still by Wagner which he occasionally whistled along to.* The only pieces Hitler was ever known to have played were by Wagner or Verdi.*
Source: http://www.adolfhitler.ws/lib/books/making/civilian.htm
Cites Hanfstaengl, Ernst. Unheard Witness. NY: J B Lippincott Co., 1957; Gun, Nerin E. Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress. NY: Meredith Press, 1968.
On Sundays, Hitler enjoyed listening to musical groups or soloists performing at the city chapel. He was particularly found of the Vienna Boys Choir.* There were also the countless parades, pageantry and social events which accompanied the Hapsburg dynasty. These events were normally stern, formal and dignified affairs that showed off the ruling dynasty as lofty and untouchable. In an age and in an empire that also believed in armed might, military holidays were celebrated with all the trappings of a society prepared for war.*

Two or three evenings each week they went to a theater, opera, or concert because as a student, Kubizek could often get free tickets. At concerts, Hitler was very fond of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He enjoyed some of the music of the masters, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and also the Romanticists, Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn and especially Bruckner who had been an organist at the old Linz Cathedral for twelve years. Like most Viennese, Hitler also enjoyed the music of Johann Strauss and the Hungarian Liszt.
...
When attending the theater Hitler preferred the more serious works, and Vienna's theaters offered masterpieces by some of Europe's best playwrights. Vienna was also a famed joyful and carefree city, and its less dignified theaters offered worldly, lighthearted and often risqué performances. Although Hitler never admitted to attending anything too risqué, he enjoyed Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow and often whistled Lehar's happy tunes.
...
Just as in Linz, the opera was still Hitler's first choice in entertainment, but opera seats in Vienna were extremely expensive. Although Hitler preferred a seat in the upper balcony, to save money, he and Kubizek usually took the cheapest standing room. Like most people who go to movies today, Hitler did not care for foreign works. He was only interested in German customs, German feeling, and German thought. Except for Verdi's opera, Aida--the love story of an Ethiopian slave girl and an Egyptian warrior--he didn't care for most Italian operas because of the many plots involving "daggers." He also wasn't particularly fond of French operas and considered Gounod's Faust (there are two rapes within the opera) vulgar. Not even the Russian Tchaikovsky met with his approval. On the other hand he appreciated many of the works of the Germans Beethoven and Weber and was especially delighted with Mozart's antiestablishment comedy of infidelity, Figaro. His favorite works were by the highly acclaimed Richard Wagner who wrote about figures of medieval history, saga, and myth--similar to the "supper hero" movies of today.
Source: http://www.adolfhitler.ws/lib/books/making/teenaged.htm
Cites: Kubizek, August. The Young Hitler I Knew. Trans. E.V. Anderson. Westport Conn. Greenwood Press, 1976.

K.
--
Ken Cocker, London

Colbro
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Post by Colbro » 10 Feb 2003 17:19

Many thanks, Phaethon. Much appreciated.
Regards

C
Last edited by Colbro on 10 Feb 2003 18:51, edited 1 time in total.

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chalutzim
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Post by chalutzim » 10 Feb 2003 17:38

Excellent post, Phaethon!
Last edited by chalutzim on 10 Feb 2003 19:41, edited 1 time in total.

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Max2Cam
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Post by Max2Cam » 11 Feb 2003 17:43

A pet theory of mine is that Hitler often had Wagner's music running thru his brain while giving speeches.

I base this theory on the following:

One time my cousin and I were watching some original Hitler speech footage and we became annoyed with the snotty English narrator.

So we turned down the sound and put on a record of Wagner's overtures. Die Meistersinger came on and lo and behold! Hitler's movements, expressions, and gestures totally matched Wagner's music! It was simply uncanny to watch. It appeared as tho he were conducting the orchastra!

This is a true story, altho we had imbibed dark beer and potent herb, which may have heightened the effect.
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war_dog2
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Post by war_dog2 » 11 Feb 2003 17:51

A very amusing story! I myself too have thought that Hitlers speeches had the feel of his favourite music, delivered with the same passion anyways. I am also sure the Alcohol & Herbal products enhanced Adolfs performance :lol:

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White Leopard
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Post by White Leopard » 12 Feb 2003 10:57

Max2cam,

You are probably onto something with this theory.

Here is an observation by Ernst "Putzi" Hansfstaengl:
[...] The gestures which had so impressed me the first evening I saw him were as varied and flexible as his arguments. They were not, as in other speakers, stereotyped movements to find some employment for his hands, but an integral part of his method of exposition. The most striking, in contrast to the dull slamming of the fist into the palm of the other hand of so many orators, was a soaring upward movement of the arm, which seemed to leave infinite possibilities piercing the air. It had something the quality of a really great orchestral conductor who instead of just hammering out the downward beat, suggests the existence of hidden rhythms and meaning with the upward flick of his baton.

To continue the musical metaphor, the first two-thirds of Hitler's speeches were in march time, growing increasingly quicker and leading up to the last third which was primarily rhapsodic. [...]
From: Hitler - The Missing Years, p. 68
[...] He had a genuine knowledge and appreciation of Wagner's music, and this he had picked up somewhere, probably in his Vienna days, long before I knew him. The seed may even have been sown in Linz, where at the begining of the century there was a pupil of Liszt named Goellerich, who was the local orchestral conductor and a Wagner enthusiast. but wherever it was, it had become part of Hitler's being. I came to see that there was a direct parallel between the construction of the Meistersinger prelude and that of his speeches. The whole interweaving of leitmotifs, of embellishments, of counter-point and musical contrasts and argument, were exactly mirrored in the pattern of his speeches, which were symphonic in construction and ended in a great climax, like the blare of Wagner's trombones. [...]
From: Hitler - The Missing Years, p. 50

It would seem that Hanfstaengl, a keen musician, agrees with you. Perhaps the Artificial Paradise does promote and expand perception in certain circumstances. :D

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Max2Cam
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Post by Max2Cam » 12 Feb 2003 16:37

Wow! You guys are good. I had never seen Putzi's quote before. Thanks.

This backs up my more general belief that Hitler was an artist first and a dictactor and warlord second and third.

You gotta wonder what Europe would look like today if Germany had won WWII. Considering Hitler's artistic (amoral) "soul" my guess would be a 19th century (and early) aesthetics in archetecture seamlessly and tastefully blended with high technology. The human stock would be distinctive as well.

IMO the Third Reich was basically a Hitler art project....
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Post by avitohol » 12 Feb 2003 19:23

Phaethon wrote: I have encountered a number of references to Karl Orf's Carmina Burana as a favourite of Hitler, but without any credible source.
Erm...
I'm quite sure Hitler loved clasical music, especially Wagner, as pretty much anyone knows.
But I doubt his love for Orf's works, for although they were granted support, they were as well strongly criticised by certain party leaders.

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Post by Phaethon » 12 Feb 2003 20:33

Like I said, I haven't seen any credible source for the often repeated assertion that Hitler liked Carmina Burana or even "said [it] was his favourite...". I suspect that because Orff remained and worked with and under the Nazis, despite their inconsitent attitudes to his work, this may be a myth created by nobodies with no other talent than to cast mud without the troublesome necessity of evidence. The trouble is such imaginative speculations dilute real facts.

Orff's work in traditional German themes pleased many Nazi officials, though his liking for Latin and Italian elements was less popular. Carmina Burana itself was alternately condemned as "niggermusik" and "pornographic", however it enjoyed widespread success with his peers and the public. Orff composed the opening anthem for the 1936 olympics and , more questionably, 'recomposed' the score for A Midsummer Night's Dream - replacing the original score by the Jewish Mendelssohn. He claimed, after the war to have been involved in resistance activities, but these claims could not be verified. He was neither cleared (like Strauss) nor condemmed (like Furtwangler), by the occupying authorities, of collaboration with the Nazi.

K.

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Geli
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Post by Geli » 19 Feb 2003 02:21

Max2Cam wrote:A pet theory of mine is that Hitler often had Wagner's music running thru his brain while giving speeches [...]
:lol: Well, it's an interesting theory, but I think it would be quite difficult to silently sing an aria in one's head while making a speech without a teleprompter. If you watched the speech footage while playing Under The Seafrom The Little Mermaid, many of his movements would probably also fall into time with the music!

*Devilishly imagines rescoring Triumph of the Will with It's a Small World After All.* :lol:

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Post by WTW26 » 10 Jun 2003 13:37

What music did Hitler like except for the "Merry Widow" and Wagner's operas? And what music did he particularly dislike?

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Post by reichpilot » 21 Jul 2003 16:03

Hi all! I know Adolf loved Wagner. I too love Wagner, and play it all the time. I enjoyed Wagner before I knew of its Hitler connection. What were some of his favorite pieces? My favorite is the Tannhauser Overture. So much power in that music.
Don

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Post by WTW26 » 23 Jul 2003 07:03

Overture from "Rienzi" was one of Hitler's favorites and was sometimes played at party meetings. He also liked "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" very much.

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Gott
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Post by Gott » 27 Jul 2003 11:14

WTW26, by any chance do you know what is the Overture to Rienzi about? Would the settings of this opera piece made Hitler his favourite?

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