Sunday, December 12, 2010

Adolf Busch: The Man Who Said No to Hitler

Wall Street Journal

Adolf Busch, the greatest German violinist of the 20th century, is now known only to classical-record collectors who treasure the searchingly eloquent 78s that he cut with Rudolf Serkin, his son-in-law and recital partner, and the Busch Quartet, the ensemble that he led for three decades. But there is another reason to remember him, one that in the long run may well count for as much as the music that he made: Mr. Busch's name is at the very top of the short list of German musicians who refused to kowtow to Adolf Hitler. This latter aspect of his life is described in detail in Tully Potter's "Adolf Busch: The Life of a Honest Musician" (Toccata Press), the first full-length biography of the violinist ever to be published. It is at once a stirring tale and a disturbing one.

Most of us, I suspect, like to think of artists as a breed apart, a cadre of idealists whose souls have been ennobled by long exposure to beauty. The truth, however, is that they are every bit as human as the rest of us, and that a certain number of them are self-centered opportunists who are perfectly willing to ignore evil so long as the evildoers leave them in peace to do their work. That was pretty much what many German musicians did when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Within a matter of days, Hitler and his henchmen started putting into place a policy of systematic persecution of German Jews. Numerous well-known Jewish musicians, including Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer and Emanuel Feuermann, either were forced out of their posts or quit in protest. [...]

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