On Wednesday, 20 June, Kajsa Ollongren launched the website Forbidden Music Regained. This catalogue of composers persecuted by the Nazi’s was initiated by the Amsterdam based Leo Smit Foundation. The city’s deputy mayor and alderman called the project ‘a giant leap for mankind’, quoting the astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Ollongren continued: “The website is important to Amsterdam because we can and may not forget what happened seventy years ago in our town. It is an honour to launch it.” – Striking detail: under Ollongren’s responsibility, the support of the Leo Smit Foundation was stopped.
Driving forces behind this large-scale project are the flutist Eleonore Pameijer, initiator and artistic leader of the Leo Smit Foundation, and manager Carine Alders. With stubborn perseverance they searched domestic and foreign archives for information about Dutch ‘degenerate’ composers. – Most of whom lost their lives in concentration camps during World War II. Pameijer and Alders assembled an archive of almost 2000 works and sound recordings.
The launch of the website was preceded by an international symposium. Pameijer: “Together with the chairman of our board, I went to Kajsa Ollongren. We said: “We have not come to complain about the Amsterdam council’s decision to stop supporting us, but to ask for a contribution to the symposium. – Moreover we want you to personally launch the website.”
Ollongren gave them € 3500 for the symposium and promised she would indeed launch the website. Pameijer: “She was bowled over when she learnt what we’ve achieved in the past two decades. In addition to a successful – subsidized – concert series, we published the book Vervolgde componisten in Nederland (Persecuted composers in the Netherlands) in 2015, without any form of public funding. We also organized an accompanying exhibition and concerts in the Amsterdam City Archive.
In order to realize all this, the Foundation managed to collect € 80,000 in private gifts. And with support from music shop Broekmans & Van Poppel, the Dutch label Et’cetera released a ten-CD box of forbidden music. Pameijer: “This release got great reviews in the BBC and Gramophone magazines, but hardly drew attention in the Netherlands. There was one positive review in the music magazine Luister (Listen) and an offer in Klassieke Zaken (Classical Matters).
International bigwigs gave talks at the symposium. Pameijer: “We deliberately chose people who really relate to the subject. We did not want hotshots that are only invited for their name. I’m proud that we were able to engage Abram de Swaan. He is a great thinker and sociologist, who views everything from a much wider context than, for example, a musicologist or music journalist.
Frank van Vree, the new director of the NIOD (Dutch War Archive), was one of the speakers, too. Pameijer: “At first he was reluctant, because he doesn’t know much about music. But he has a vast knowledge of the period and its history, so it was very interesting to hear him speak about this.”
The flutist is perhaps even more thrilled by the presence of Albrecht Dümling from Musica Reanimata Berlin. “Over the years we have assembled a lot of international contacts. None of them had ever heard of the composers we’d unearthed, and they were invariably excited about their music. Dümling even invited us to present a complete program on Rosy Wertheim, that was broadcast live on the radio. It was a huge success.”
Wealth of information
Forbidden Music Regained offers a wealth of information about persecuted Dutch composers. The site is excellently searchable, offering biographies, sheet music, recordings, manuscripts and audio clips. For example, when you type ‘Rosy Wertheim’ in the search box, a list of 114 compositions pops up. The search can be refined further, e.g. on length, period of origin, orchestral or chamber music and the like. You can listen to Wertheim’s lively Sonatina for piano.
With this new website the Leo Smit Foundation has once more proved itself to be an indispensable knowledge center for persecuted composers.
Patricia Werner Leanse made a video documentary of the presentation.