A Vocal Lover's Dream: Schwarzkopf on 78s

Warner's 5-CD box set, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: The Complete 78 rpm Recordings 1946–1952 is a vocal lover's dream. Filled with recordings made when the soprano was between 30 and 37 years of age—she was born December 9, 1915—this bargain bonanza confirms that Schwarzkopf's oft-brilliant, sometimes outré interpretations of art song and opera were an essential part of her artistic personality from the get-go.

The brilliance of Schwarzkopf' instrument, and the magic of her sweet head tones, was already in place when the first of these recordings was made. In fact, listening to these new masterings, made by Andrew Walter at Abbey Road Studios, reveals that while the very top of Schwarzkopf's voice was more controlled and easily produced early on—savor the ease with which she voices the highs in Morley's "It was a lover and his lass" (1946)—her interpretive mastery only increased as her first bloom diminished.

The set is almost what it claims to be. While it contains all the commercial titles that the soprano recorded for EMI and its Columbia label between 1946 and 1952, it omits a goodly number of alternate takes and sides that she withheld from publication during those years. The advantage of its duplications with the same tracks in the more comprehensive 2-CD Testament set, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: The Unpublished EMI Recordings 1946–1952, lies in Walter's superior masterings.

Which is not to say that the sound on many of these titles is great. Either the mono masters have deteriorated, or the sonics were sub-par to begin with. Variations between the sound of recordings made days apart are noticeable. Nonetheless, despite a bit of ringing around the voice, Walter's transfers do a better job of allowing the voice to rise out of the "groove" than other masterings I've heard.

Pros and Cons
Controversy over Schwarzkopf's oeuvre extends far beyond her wartime Nazi affiliations. Rarely content to sing a song "straight," she is the mistress of mannerism. Often her interpretations work, as when she brings honeyed smoothness and warmth to the andante in Mozart's early Exsultate, jubilate (Exult, rejoice, 1946), and to his song (lied), "Abendemfindung," (Evening feelings, 1952). Both recordings show why many of her Mozart interpretations reigned supreme during the 1950s and 1960s. Her styling and pacing may clash with what period practice scholarship now suggests as appropriate, but the legato, control and beauty are beyond reproach.

Schwarzkopf re-recorded "Abendemfindung," again with Gerald Moore, two years later, stretching it out even further to allow for more relaxed breaths. She recorded it yet again with Walter Gieseking. The latter version is more "authentic" in its pacing but, to these ears, less emotionally expressive.

Diametrically opposed to such restraint is Schwarzkopf's famed, unbridled rendition of Bach's solo cantata, Jauctzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV51 (Praise God in all the land, 1948), whose opening aria sounds as if the entire German army is advancing on God's kingdom. Totally unhinged are her infamous "Gsätszli," (1951), which has inspired many a drag queen's wicked imitation; her incomparable Wolf "Mausfallensprüchlein" (A little mousetrap epigram,1952), in which she becomes the most possessed rodent on Planet Earth; and her intentionally, if easily summoned forth, hysterical Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni, here represented by an early "In quali eccessi . . . Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata" (In what excesses . . . That ungrateful soul betrayed me, 1947), conducted by Krips.

As we listen to these recordings, and ponder the nature of the woman behind them, it helps to keep in mind that very early in her career, Schwarzkopf was occasionally forced to sing under the pseudonym of Maria Helfer. This was her punishment for having intentionally damaged some props after she was ordered to sing the small part of Ida rather than the lead of Adele in an October 1941 run of Fledermaus in Berlin. Under Schwarzkopf's beautiful countenance bubbled a fair share of anger, rage, and control freak desire, which surfaced in various ways in some of her interpretations, as well as in her teacher-pupil relations.

Some of the incontrovertible misses in the set confirm why Schwarzkopf quickly specialized in German song (lieder) and carefully chosen, "ideal fit" roles in operetta and the operas of Mozart and Strauss. To provide but one example of what she was wise to leave behind, her very slow rendition of Charpentier's sensual paean to love, "Depuis le jour" (Since the day, 1950), from the opera Louise, is positively weird, the energy and French pronunciation all wrong. You may be brave enough to fantasize what her Louise's night of lovemaking was like, but I'm not ready to go there. The mastering, too, is less than perfect, with suggestions of too many edits.

There is also a "Presentation of the Rose" duet from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier (1947), conducted by Herbert von Karajan, in which Irmgard Seefried's direct, uncomplicated Octavian stands in sharp relief to Schwarzkopf's arch Sophie. One listen, and you will understand why she was far better suited to sing the Marchallin. But when Schwarzkopf's controlled hysteria hits the mark, as in an astounding rendition of Schubert's "Gretchen am Spinnrade" (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel, 1948) that is even more desperate (and, at its ending, overdone) than her better-judged rendition with Edwin Fischer (1952), or when she throws even more voice at Strauss' "Hat gesagt bleibt's nicht dabei" (He has said, but it won't stop at that, 1951) than in her later, less operatically concluded version, one can only marvel at her magnificence.

A distinct highlight of the set are the 14 songs by Nikolai Medtner that recorded in 1950, with a 70-year old Medtner at the piano. Schwarzkopf may not have known the songs before the recording session, but the fact that the composer was at the piano, just a year before his death, makes these essential listening.

For those wishing to understand more about the art of song, contrast Schwarzkopf's superbly vocalized but unquestionably over the top "Schlechtes Wetter" (Lousy weather, 1951), as well as her "Where the bee sucks" (1947), with the infinitely more charming albeit vocally imperfect renditions by Elisabeth Schumann. The comparison throws into sharp relief the difference between art and artifice. Nonetheless, as these five CDs demonstrate, Schwarzkopf in her early years could provide both, and in oft-stunning voice.

Don't throw out your CD player just yet. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: The Complete 78 rpm Recordings 1946–1952, especially at its bargain price of just over $13, is a must have.

dalethorn's picture

Wow - controversy seemeth to be an understatement. I did a Web search for her, since I don't have any of her material yet, and the first thing I came across was a scorching article in the Guardian. So anyway, I am going to explore some of her recordings, and await anyone else's input on her career.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Klemperer Brahms German Requiem

Mozart Le nozze di Figaro - there are two, and both are invaluable

Mozart Don Giovanni - commercial, the famed Giulini. Live: the '53 Furtwängler from Salzburg

Karajan Der Rosenkavalier, supplemented by the video of her film of same and her later Marschalln monologue

Strauss Four Last Songs, early mono and later stereo. Very different, different voice. Later has a selection of Strauss lieder, earlier has two other famed closing scenes. Then compare her Four Last Songs with della Casa and Norman, and her songs with them and the incomparable Elisabeth Schumann (who was too past her prime to have sung the Four Last Songs)

Schubert lieder with Fischer

Famed '53 Wolf recital with Furtwängler on piano, and her shared Wolf recordings with Fischer-Dieskau

Her operetta recordings and recital from the '50s

All the tracks mentioned in the review. Remember that anything on YouTube is probably from earlier masterings and in far less good sound.

dalethorn's picture

Got the Klemperer-Brahms German Requiem and Strauss Last Four Songs. Her voice seems to have changed a lot in just a handful of years up to 1968. So the earlier tracks make a good reference in the stereo era recordings.

pbarach's picture

She joined three Nazi organizations, including the Nazi Party. She lied about this for years.

Jason, I think you soft-pedaled the facts. She was a NAZI, not just an AFFILIATE of Nazis.

Karl Boehm was also an avid Nazi, and even DG has mentioned his "appalling" political beliefs in the same Facebook ad where they are announcing a big box of his recordings.

Here's my point: If you want to mention her artistry and your appreciation for it, then don't use euphemisms to smooth over uncomfortable facts for those who might want to buy her recordings. Don't make it easy for racism and discrimination to pass unnoticed. It harms us all.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I know your post is well meaning, but please don't lecture me on racism and discrimination. I was a civil rights worker in 1965, and have been fighting racism ever since. I'm also Jewish and gay, and have been active in the gay movement since the spring of 1970. If I were not dedicated to eliminating discrimination and racism in all their forms and manifestations, I would not have accepted this rather hot-button assignment for Seattle Times:

As for this particular issue, if I wanted to make it easy for racism and discrimination to pass unnoticed, I wouldn't have said anything about Schwarzkopf's Nazi connections.

Even more fundamental, you misunderstand the meaning of the words "affiliation" and "affiliate," from which the word "affiliation" is derived. Here is the first definition of "affiliate" that pops up when I did a Google search:
gerund or present participle: affiliating
officially attach or connect (a subsidiary group or a person) to an organization.
"the college is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin"
synonyms: associate with, unite with, combine with, join (up) with, link up with, team up with, ally with, align with, band together with, federate with, amalgamate with, merge with; More
officially join or become attached to an organization.
"the membership of the National Writers Union voted to affiliate with the United Auto Workers"

pbarach's picture

...but let's use the single-syllable word here for Schwarzkopf's action, just to make it clear to everyone. She JOINED the Nazis. She WAS a Nazi. She USED her Nazi membership to advance her career. People who want to buy the recordings of this Nazi ought to be doing so with full knowledge of who she was and what she supported.

I was watching a youtube video today of Bernstein rehearsing the Vienna Philharmonic. There was Helmut Wobisch (member of the SS) in the trumpet section playing the solo that opens Mahler 5. I wondered what Bernstein thought about that.

I was not intending to lecture you, and I apologize for sounding as if I was.

volvic's picture

I do remember reading a book about the VPO in college where Lenny used to heap nothing but praise on his "brothers" at the VPO including Wobisch, if I am not mistaken. I don't think he cared much.

dalethorn's picture

There are some amusing anecdotes about Bernstein in Tom Wolfe's book Radical Chic.

tonykaz's picture

I won't be buying any music by musicians admiring our Trump!

Might include : Kid Rock, Ted Neugent and who else???

Wazzzzz this Opera Singer running a Camp? or trying to make a living? Is she on record supporting Nazi ideals?

I might remember that members of the German Orchestra were required have Party Membership which the majority ( Jews ) did not and could not have. Those Jews were the basis of the Israel Orchestra, organized by Len Bernstein.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I don't buy Rock stuff, except maybe Kate Bush ( if she's rock )

ps.2 Ireland ( not N.Ireland ) was pro-Nazi during WW11 ( they're rather slooooooow & bashful to admit )

ps.3 Roman Catholic Church was decidedly pro-Nazi, the Vatican issued Passports for Nazi officials to escape post War recriminations, here in S.E. Michigan we had Fr.Coughlin delivering Nazi Speeches during Sunday Mass at his Mega-Church in Royal Oak, Michigan.

volvic's picture

I remember there were documents that surfaced about her past just before she died in 2005? Anyway, while her behavior might have been shameful, it was hardly criminal, so for me this is not an issue. She is not the first nor the last artist who embraces an odious system to make career advances. The rest is up to the listener to decide, if they want to buy her works or not. I have numerous of her recordings and love her voice. Thanks for sharing JVS.

tonykaz's picture

My mother was an Opera Singer of this era ( she was born 5 years earlier, 1910 ).

My mom sang her own variations of all these works, I'll have wonderful memories as I listen to another singer's interpretations. My mother sang as she made breakfast each morning, I started each day with performed Opera and never quite realized that there was something unusual about it.

I was disappointed that my own wife couldn't sing and didn't like Verdi. ( what did I get myself into? )

Tony in Michigan

ps. the older I get, the more I miss my mother's breakfasts

Anton's picture

I can't really bear Woody Allen movies, knowing he 'kind of' raped his step daughter.

Polanski gives me the same creepy vibe, don't give him my money.

Schwarzkopf: plenty of non-Nazi singers worthy of my regard. She positively endorsed a group who actively tried to exterminate gay people, Jews, Roma, etc...

I don't care if she sang pretty. She aligned herself with those beneath my contempt.

What she "affiliated" herself with was eugenic genocide.

They should re-title this set "Work Sets You Free."

Fuck her.

ok's picture

On my part I find it extremely fascinating that even the most despicable characters (nothing personal with Schwarzkopf – Hitler himself was a likable painter..) tend to keep some sweet spot for beauty and truth – and vice versa the good guys unfortunately. Had I ever been inclined to dismiss all of people’s nice work based on their otherwise questionable ethics, my whole life would have been stripped bare of everything but me and my dog. Well, my dog actually.

Robin Landseadel's picture

"I was a civil rights worker in 1965, and have been fighting racism ever since."

I did not know that, would love to find out the details—my dad was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March of 1965, my father's father was Jewish, my stepmother another civil rights activist, a Creole woman. I would have a personal interest in such things.

Yes it's true folks—Lizzie Blackhead was no Swiss picnic, particularly if you throw in the Nazi Background on top of the whole "diva" thing, though I'm sure that Kathy Battle could out-bitch her if it came to blows.

I've been fascinated by these artists, in part because of my background. Consider Wilhelm Furtwängler, the conductor who presided over European music-making in his own time much as Herbert von Karajan did in his own. Karajan joined the Nazi party twice, just to make sure that his papers were in order. Was a rising star in the late 1930's, but Karajan's star fell when he married a "part-Jewish" woman. Then, post-war, Walter Legge scooped up all this Nazi talent, created the Philharmonia Orchestra and made superstars of Schwartzkopf [who Legge married] and Karajan.

But back to Furtwängler. His personal secretary told me he was "spineless' and the films of the time demonstrate a conductor whose back ain't got a bone. More to the point, Furtwängler vacillated between opposing the rise of the Nazis in his own way while supporting German musical culture as much as he could, so not getting too far out of line with the powers that be. Good guy? Bad guy? I'd point to the astonishing 1944 recording of Bruckner's Ninth Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic. It's the musical equivalent of the Tower card in a tarot deck, the agonized sound of Empire falling. There's also a uniquely painful rendition of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from the same era, and it ain't pretty.

Ultimately, it's complicated, witness the strange twists and turns of Leonard Bernstein's career. Music is odd that way—this sense of a higher self is communicated via the music, so many assume that same "higher purpose" animates the lives of these people, but musicians are not necessarily concerned with that higher purpose in their lives, save making music, sustaining a career over time, the usual quotidian mess we all go through. And sometimes these musicians trip, stumble and fall, just like the rest of us.

I'll attest that Elizabeth Schwarzkopf accessed that sense of Higher Purpose in her recordings—both recordings of Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs" give us a sense of higher purpose and in the end that's what counts, at least as regards Elizabeth Schwarzkopf 's legacy as a musician.

volvic's picture

I too have been fascinated with these musicians from that era, their decisions of joining the party cannot be summed up with blanket statements...it is complicated and it was, each one made their own decisions with their own variables that were presented to them. To ignore their music because of that is a fatally flawed argument. If that were the case I would refuse to listen to Chopin who was quite antisemetic. Applying 21st century standards to judge human decisions made over 70 years ago misses the point, that it is about the music. Once again I thank JVS for keeping us informed about all things music related. Still want to meet you and say hello JVS.

Anton's picture

"I'll attest that Elizabeth Schwarzkopf accessed that sense of Higher Purpose in her recordings..."

I find that deeply interesting.

Does it mean the artist was able to access it?

Or, did the artist simply produce it in a way that allows us to access it?

Could an artist not get it, but do it in such a way that we do?

Does a performer re-experience it over and over on tour, is it an illusion?

I love that you brought it up but I have no certainty of where some of these things come from.

I guess the answer doesn't matter so long as the audience is able to access it.

I always thought that was a good explanation for why so many performers use drugs - to either keep trying to access 'that thing,' or to able to bear the monotony of performing as if they can access it for you and deliver for 200 shows in a year.

How many times can someone be Carmen in their lives, or pretend that "your town's name"

Thanks for posting the question of 'accessing.'

Robin Landseadel's picture

"Does it mean the artist was able to access it?"

Do you know "Vier letzte Lieder" by Richard Strauss? A farewell note, four meditations on death and the erasing of time, beautiful vocal lines wrapped in Richard Strauss' best and last orchestration. Rich, deep and emotionally complex stuff. Not for amateurs. Elizabeth Schwarzkopf is regarded as one of the best performers of Four Last Songs. I'd say there's something in that music that Ms Schwarzkopf could not only access but could also transmit, enable others to hear what she heard when she read this music, enable us to hear what is transcendent in this work.

The second part of this—"did the artist simply produce it in a way that allows us to access it?"—nothing simple about being able to do that. My first auditioning of Beethoven's Late quartets [some 45 years ago—yipe!] was emotionally overwhelming. I wondered how a performer could get from one end of the A minor quartet to the other without breaking down in a puddle partway through. I've heard world-class groups perform some of these pieces, recall the Cleveland Quartet allowing for a minute of silence after performing the slow movement of the B flat quartet, can recall the silence in that room. But ultimately it's like the actor's job, mostly hitting the marks and reading the lines. Simply playing the pitches in time is more than most mortals can manage.

"Does a performer re-experience it over and over on tour, is it an illusion?" Lived with a performer, married her. Yes, they re-experience on tour. Recording sessions? That's a whole other ball of wax, having the pleasure of hearing your every mistake under a sonic microscope in HD, enough to make you wonder why you put the effort into performing arts in the first place.

But I digress.

"Could an artist not get it, but do it in such a way that we do?" That one's tricky, depends on defining "getting it". One of Ms Schwarzkopf's last recordings was with Glenn Gould, she deemed he didn't "get it" and walked out. However, there are the remains of that session on a Sony CD for anyone who's curious.

I've heard most of the recordings Mr Serinus listed as "Essential Schwarzkopf", save the recordings in this Warner Brothers set. Suspect I'll order the title while it's still ludicrously cheap. Jason does note the central quirk in the ointment—this diva is about as mannered as Glenn Gould was. "If you like this sort of thing, you'll like this sort of thing", as Billboard always sez. She's the perfect singer for Richard Strauss, that's more than enough for me.

tonykaz's picture

for allowing this heart felt conversation about a Global Political topic that we are still grappling with today : KKK, White Supremest's, Alt-right demonstrations and violence.

Geez, this ugliness is still with us and forcing us to make considered judgements based on knowns.

I feel that Mr.JVS is raising the bar in Audio Journalism, I applaud.

It's a curious thing that I seem to resonate with these expressed opinions.

This is one hell-of-an important group of folks.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

If you're going to rant about Right-wing politics, get at least one fact straight. The Nazis were bureaucrats who passed bad laws and stuff. Real power. OTOH, the troublemakers - Brownshirts et al, were the first people to go in that regime. Whatever troublemakers we have on the street today - don't make the mistake of thinking that *they're* the Nazis - the real Nazis get elected, or appointed, to political offices.

tonykaz's picture

became the SS of the 1940s.

I'd like to think that I'm done with ranting on these issues.

I'm not done remembering.

I grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, my Uncle was the Monsignor Zandala, the KKK was still active, Viola Liuzzo was my neighbor.

[off topic political content deleted, along with the responses - JA]

Tony in Michigan

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
I'd like to think that I'm done with ranting on these issues.

Responding to tonykaz but this is also addressed at dalethorn and everyone else.

Please keep contemporary political discussions out of these threads. We have a section in our website forum, "The Open Bar," which is were such discussions should take place. Thank you.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dalethorn's picture

Your own editor Jason has been starting a lot of these, John.

John Atkinson's picture
dalethorn wrote:
Your own editor Jason has been starting a lot of these, John.

I am not concerned by postings that are related to Betty Blackhead's politics, which Jason's have been. But as I wrote above, if readers wish to go off-topic to discuss contemporary politics, the "Open Bar" section of our forum is the appropriate place. If people disregard what I am saying, I will continue to delete postings that, in my opinion, cross the line.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dalethorn's picture

I was referring to Jason's posts about DACA and other such Trump-related things, which is basically the same things that Tony was posting.

tonykaz's picture

I apologize,

I somehow felt that this Lady's Politics needed defending, she was in my own Mother's peer group.

Mr.Dalethorn and I started down the path of political opinions and it got kinda rough. I'd decided to disengage when dalethorn said the ball was in my court.

Thanks for noticing

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

I think you know well what the hot-button topics are today, and those are the Left-Right issues that (mostly fake accounts) are hammering on everywhere. Avoid those and all should be fine.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Yes, it is a complex issue. I was told, although I did not read it myself, that when soprano Tiana Lemnitz journeyed to London to perform with Sir Thomas Beecham, she began the rehearsal by clicking her heels together, making the Nazi salute, and proclaiming, "Heil, Hitler." If the story is true, the other part is that Beecham was appalled, and never worked with her again. But listen to her "Ach, ich fühl"s" on his recording of "Die Zauberflöte," and her "Porgi amor," and try to tell me that her Mozart is not heavenly.

Then again, perhaps our notion of heaven is distorted, given all those who proclaim that hatred is the surest path to God's kingdom.

What is incontrovertible is that Schwarzkopf tried to sweep her Nazi past under the rug, and Bill Clinton tried to sweep Monica Lewinsky under the desk. Taking full responsibility for one's actions, in all things; forgiving oneself and asking for forgiveness; and making amends by what we do in the present is a very, very difficult thing. We are not helped at all in this regard by our so-called political role models. It is much easier to point the finger at others than to turn a magnifying glass on oneself. All of which is not to say that people who choose not to listen to Schwarzkopf, Rosvaenge, Hüsch, or even the music of Richard Strauss, are "wrong."

Fairy tales were simple. There was the good witch and the wicked witch. Life is not a fairy tale. We can believe wholeheartedly in the power of music to transform, and then watch it applauded by the very people whom it fails to transform. Regardless, I applaud this conversation, and the fact that, through it all, we remain in touch with the music rather than attacking each other.

My next audio show is RMAF. I am also in the Bay Area Sept. 7-11. Anyone want to say hello at Opera in the Park?

jason in Port Townsend, WA

Anton's picture

How many million people did Clinton try to exterminate simply because they existed?

Schwarzkopf equates with Clinton?

I'm not being partisan, just boggled by what is, perhaps, the worst moral equivalency I have ever seen! Bravo!

Folks, she wasn't 'just' anti Semitic, she overtly embraced a genocidal movement.

She could have rejected that and done just fine out of the country. She chose to be a member of a group who rounded up citizens for extermination.

Forgive her because you like how she sang Strauss?


There were good people on both sides, as we say about Charlottesville.

adrianIII's picture

I know you didn't mean to "equate" Schwarzkopf with Clinton, but I agree with Anton.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

since I didn't equate Schwarzkopf with Clinton - I simply pointed out that both lied about their actions, and refused to take responsibility for them - there is nothing to agree with ;-)

Anton's picture

"What is incontrovertible is that Schwarzkopf tried to sweep her Nazi past under the rug, and Bill Clinton tried to sweep Monica Lewinsky under the desk."

Yeah, those two ideas just naturally fit together and make a point about the equivalency of taking personal responsibility.

Charles Manson wrote a song for the Beach Boys and never actually killed anybody. If only he sang opera.

Hypothetical: Just what level of involvement in the Nazi movement could Schwarzkopf have participated in and you'd still excuse her?

I am curious.

Serenading the Jews being marched to the showers to raise their morale?

Performing and being a celebrity judge at "Auschwitz Got Talent?"

What if she had been dropping the Zylon B pellets and singing a zany version of "Plop Plop Fizz Fizz?"?

Would that still be OK? Just so long as she amused us with her wonderfully insightful vocal nuance?

No kidding here, I'd love to see where you draw the line.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

At being bated for the sake of self-righteous sport. Let us not create enemies amongst ourselves.

Anton's picture


It's OK, I know we drew our lines at different places.

I can't abide John Wayne Gacy's art oeuvre, either, and I know he had beauty inside of him that I just refuse to admire.

Cheers, JVS!

Robin Landseadel's picture

Neil Young said that Charles Manson had what it takes to become a star, he had the requisite Charisma, and if he had a little more talent, if the winds of fortune blew in his direction instead of against it, he would have gone top 40 a long time ago. And then there's Phil Spector, no need to go any further with that line of thought, eh?

Where does one draw the line? Can't say as Schwarzkopf "Serenaded the Jews being marched to the showers", though it pains me to note that Furtwängler's recordings of Bruckner were used in that fashion. Not that Furtwängler intended such an awful outcome, decisions were made that the conductor had no control over.

"What is incontrovertible is that Schwarzkopf tried to sweep her Nazi past under the rug, and Bill Clinton tried to sweep Monica Lewinsky under the desk." What is incontrovertible is that this is false equivalence. Bill's great fall was human, all too human, the faults of the Nazis were inhuman, of an altogether more degraded moral scale.

I suppose if you really want to get into the weeds as regards immoral acts of Government entities, consider "Operation Paperclip", where the CIA, postwar, went head-hunting among the Nazi intelligentsia in the realms of psychological torture and rocketry. I suspect that Schwartzkopf was too busy practicing her roulades to engage in spycraft, though I could be wrong. Everything about the woman screams "Ego", but that's the norm for Divas, right? By the scale you offer, seeing as this soprano didn't shill Zyklon pellets [that was Prescott Bush, FWIW], I'd say the woman's behavior was morally repellent but not irredeemable, though one really doesn't expect the highest standards of behavior from divas anyway, right?

dalethorn's picture

I don't mean to be argumentative here, or go far off topic, but I'd like to point out that people like Henry Ford and Margaret Sanger are widely considered "OK" in our society despite their problematic racisms. Politicians like Harry Truman and Robert Byrd were not only in the Klan, but were prominent leaders and members, yet they've been forgiven to a great degree, apparently. Something tells me that short of making a new career of studying this stuff, I'd be wise to go along with the wider judgements of our society, unless I know something that I just can't accept.

Robin Landseadel's picture

History ain't what it used to be.

ok's picture

It’s so easy for one to dismiss some work that never liked or even heard of in favor of a personalized hate that everyone would safely endorse under present condition..

Anton's picture

There were 'good people on both sides.'

Funny, what's not easy is getting people to state where they draw their lines.

As a great American recently said, "I saw Raiders of the Lost Arc and I wasn't confused."

Gary Glitter still gets lots of play at sporting events, so it seems we can separate child rape from 'art,' so why not genocide?

ok's picture

Alright, I hate this woman from the depths of my heart. Am I now politically or morally entitled to enjoy her music? Or am I in danger of miraculously turning into a murderous fascist myself by means of listening to it? Are evil deeds mostly fueled by hatred or by art?
It seems that Hitler and Stalin were not alone in condemning works of art (and science!) based on their creators’ suspicious politics or “degenerate” ethics.. Thanks, I'll pass.

dalethorn's picture

We might better understand some of this with a thought experiment. Say there's a huge external threat to our country, and considerable unrest in the country due to social issues, violent street clashes, and a new sheriff who's going to "crack down severely" on criminals of all types (illegals, dope merchants, violent protestors etc.) So as things heat up you're forced to choose between an increasingly authoritarian government and its opposition.

As I'm pondering this, I'm thinking about the art that's going to be destroyed, and a lot more art that will never see the light of day. I'm thinking about the aftermath too - even if the underground art can be recovered after the war, will it have any meaning outside of its original context? And lastly, I'm thinking about North Korea. The situation for ordinary people there is unimaginable to most of us, but can we continue to ignore them as we've done for 60 years? Imagine the stories that will come out of there when they're finally liberated.

Anton's picture

You are entitled to enjoy whatever you like.

Yes, not liking her makes me like Stalin or Hitler.

Thank you for the self portrait you provided.

Good people on both sides of the Hitler/Stalin thing, right?

Beauty hidden inside those guys.

ok's picture

Had Hitler followed his artistic call instead of drowning himself into hateful politics, a nice deal of millions might have been alive and prosperous. And yes, good is always present in all sides and people – but scarcely prominent in either case.

Robin Landseadel's picture

" . . .am I in danger of miraculously turning into a murderous fascist myself by means of listening to it? "

" . . . the point is . . . a person feels good listening to Rossini. All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland. "Ode to Joy" indeed . . ."

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow pg 447

ok's picture

It’s not really Pynchon’s idea – Kubrick had already hinted at the Beethoven ambiguity with his Clockwork Orange just two years earlier. Theodor Adorno is the one who initially coined the phrase “no poetry after Auschwitz” stating that art should stop beautifying the appalling reality or else keep silence – an updated version of the old marxist notion of socially engaged art. Their statements are arguably sound one way or another, especially given the neo-romantic nazi aesthetics and the grotesque SS art sensibilities amidst the extermination process. Keep also in mind that Pinochet used to torture leftists in Chile by exposing them to George Harrison’s “my sweet lord” 24/7 at maximum volume – never understood whether the dictator wanted to give them an overdose of their own medicine or also liked the song himself. On the other hand Messiaen’s modernist masterpiece “quatuor pour la fin du temps” was conceived inside Gorlitz concentration camp (he was a war captive) and originally performed in front of a totally enchanted audience of guards and prisoners alike; I have paid heed to every single note for a hundred times and have failed to see anything but divine exaltation and meditating beauty.

Robin Landseadel's picture

No question that Quartet For The End of Time is sheer awesomeness. For a real resistance fighter turned composer, consider Iannis Xenakis, whose corrosive Music Concrete suggests what Art would sound like after Auschwitz, poetry or no.

I'm a Pynchon fanatic, know full well that the author frequently bounces pre-existing concepts, the Säure Bummer/Gustav Schlabone dialogs being a favorite moment within the man's ouvre. These scenes don't simply insinuate the potential fascist aspects of Beethoven's musical rhetoric but go further in breaking down the social conventions of High/Low art, the idea that music is supposed to be intellectually profound as opposed to simply providing entertainment, a good time. Manages to throw Webern into the mix as well.

BTW, the Osmo Vänskä/Minnesota Orchestra's SACD of Beethoven's Chorale Symphony [on Bis] is amazing on all counts.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

As I sit here, sickened by the DACA decision and contemplating the potential scenario of US immigration authorities going door-to-door, rounding up Dreamers just like the Nazis went door-to-door rounding up my Jewish relatives, I hunt for this music of comfort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R42bD2X6n34

Those who would dismiss Schwarzkopf out of hand might dare take a listen.


Anton's picture

They can use her for the DACA round up soundtrack.

dalethorn's picture

As in everything else, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As a casual observer who isn't involved in politics, I see the downsides of having the president (past and present) running the country on executive orders, while the highly educated and highly paid Congress just fights each other - just like the clowns out on the streets who by and large aren't highly educated or highly paid. The system seemeth to be broken.

On a related note, I remember a music review (from the 70's?) that said "When the times get hard the music gets soft." If that holds, we need to crank up the musical energy.

Anton's picture

On the sunnier side, keep in mind, we are arguing about someone's collection of 'cover tunes' of songs that are available in multitudes of versions of the same damned songs.

At some point, how many times can we get verklempt for La Boheme after the 100th time? I mean, there are favorite movies, but I don't need to watch the same ones over and over...nor watch remakes of the same script with different actors playing the same roles...I get it, already.

So, Schwarzkopf or no, if we can't find enough cover versions of "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì" to get our rocks off, then we ain't trying.

These days, nine year old Dutch girls are killing that.

So, I add "expend-ability" to the list.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

You can make any list of Entartete music you wish - I'm sure Jeff Sessions would love to see it - but your basis for doing so, in this case, is off the mark. These are not cover tunes, because there is no original.

There are "creator recordings," but none exist by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and the like. The only chosen interpreter vocal recording we have of Brahms is by Ernestine Schumann-Heink when she was in her 70s. Of primary opera composers, nothing before late Verdi, with the singers way past their prime, and later Puccini. With Strauss, we do have recordings by Lehmann, Schumann, Mayr and others, but Strauss was dead by the time that his Four Last Songs were premiered by Flagstad and Furtwängler, and he did not choose them.

In other words, you are wrong.

As for not needing to get verklempt, speak for yourself.

This is getting very, very boring. I think anyone who wishes to hear what you have to say on this matter has heard you. But perhaps you feel that you need to play the down-with-Schwarzkopf record for the 101st time...

Back to the music. Over and out.

dalethorn's picture

Another old review I recall mentioned that Bach, Beethoven, perhaps others, would sometimes cruise the streets incognito and listen to the street musicians, presumably to get new ideas.

Anton's picture

All I meant was that these songs are available in hundreds of versions.

I like The Beatles' music, but don't need a 100th version of Eleanor Rigby.

I may be a Philistine, but I do admit to having a limit for the number of times the shark can make me jump in that scene in Jaws and for how many times I will choke up over an aria. Therefore, I considered the recording in question a little redundant.

Snippets of La Boheme are kind of out of context, too.

The fanfare of Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra is awesome, but how many times can it be taken out of context and move you?

All of this is part of music, I think.

dalethorn's picture

I have several versions of Also Sprach Zarathustra. I thought both Karajan and Reiner played the opening and other parts like they were late for another appointment, while a few others make it so dramatic that it sounds like the second coming. But some of the inner solo violin parts are so enchanting that having several versions to hear the differences are worth it.

Anton's picture

Do you listen to the whole piece, or just excerpts?

I like Beethoven's Fifth, but could go the rest of my life without hearing the opening Bum bum bum...BUM as a snippet.

As long as I'm here, I hate medleys, too!


Back to Strauss, can you imagine yourself having never heard that before (it's the pre-electronics era) and you're sitting in row 10 for its performance? I'm surprised people didn't poop their pants!

dalethorn's picture

Agree on medleys. Although - caveat - I attended a concert by Marty Robbins once in the late 70's, and after he went through several songs full length, he did a medley of other things, and it was excellent. Robbins was a great performer, and his bit of swag helped no doubt.

I do listen to the Zarathustras full length, although it would be a year or two before I play all five. I heard the opening (Mehta, L.A., 1968) only once on a HQD system in Detroit circa 1980 - that system with the Hartley 24" woofers. It was like being in a medium size quake, of which I've been in several. I think the composer's intent was something about proclaiming the superman (or super man etc.) - good inspirational music for the world-conqueror types.

Anton's picture

At one Hi Fi show, I thought they would bring down the building.

My soft spot for medleys would be Prince - he could swing through a 30 minute medley and make it seem like it was all meant to be.