Continental Britons: Hans Gál and Egon Wellesz

“Continental Britons: Hans Gál and Egon Wellesz” is the first in a series of music exhibitions to be organized in the next two years under the general heading of “Revolution in Music”. The idea behind the series is to investigate the recent musical history of Vienna, which is characterized by its “resistance to the modernists”.

It is symptomatic of the music scene in Vienna that the full set of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies was not performed until 22 years after the end of the Second World War. By this time, the Vienna modernists had attracted so much attention throughout the world that the resistance of the Viennese music institutions and public was finally overcome. Mahler became accepted and the performances conducted by Leonard Bernstein in the 1970s even established a “Mahler tradition” in Vienna, in the wake of which musical treasures rejected and prohibited by the Nazis as “degenerate” and the works of composers murdered by them have again been able to see the light of day. In collaboration with other cultural institutions, the Jewish Museum is initiating a series of exhibitions and events that showcases the works of the most interesting and important of these composers.

“Continental Britons: Hans Gál and Egon Wellesz” is the first exhibition in this series. Between the wars, the Viennese composers Hans Gál (1890-1987) and Egon Wellesz (1885-1974) were among the most prominent names in the German-speaking music world. Their works were performed in all major concert halls and opera houses in Austria and Germany. After their expulsion from Vienna in 1938, they both ended up in Great Britain, where they were interned on the outbreak of war as enemy aliens. They remained in their new home, taught at universities and continued composing for many years. They are good illustrations of the heterogeneity of the Viennese music scene – and also of the terrible loss to it as a result of war and anti-Semitism. Gál and Wellesz both received high honours in Austria after the war, but their music was rarely played – many of the great names who had flourished during the Nazi era were able to continue to perform without let or hindrance.

Curators: Michael Haas, Marcus G. Patka