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Gerald Carpenter: Academy’s Last ‘Tuesdays’ Program Looks East of the Rhine

"Oh, no!" cries Professor Abraham Van Helsing, spotting the tell-tale vampire bites on Lucy Westenra's alabaster neck. "Not so soon!"

I am tempted to echo his anguish as I note that we have now entered the eighth and final week of the Music Academy of the West's 2013 Summer Festival. Indeed, the words "once more, and for the last time," with which A.A. Milne began The House at Pooh Corner, could apply to practically every academy event this week.

The final "Tuesdays at Eight" chamber music concert by the academy faculty will begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Hahn Hall. The performers will include violinist Glenn Dicterow — concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and future (2014) member of the Music Academy faculty — and violist Karen Dreyfus.

The last "Tuesdays at Eight" program is heavily weighted toward Central and Eastern Europe, and includes Bela Bartók's short pieces for solo piano, gathered as Out of Doors (Jerome Lowenthal on piano); Johann Sebastian Bach's Contrapunctus and Chorale for Brass Quintet (Josef Burgstaller and Brass Fellow on trumpets, Eli Epstein on horn, Ralph Sauer on trombone and Joseph Alvarez on tuba); Gideon Klein's Trio for Violin, Viola, and Cello (1944) (Glenn Dicterow on violin, Karen Dreyfus on viola and David Geber on cello); and Ernö Dohnányi's Piano Quintet No. 1 in C-Minor, Opus 1 (1895) (Dicterow and Kathleen Winkler on violins, Dreyfus on viola, Geber on cello and Jonathan Feldman on piano).

Tickets to this performance are $40.

Klein, a Czech pianist (1919-45), was a very fine composer, in addition to his other talents, and would no doubt be much better-known had he not died, at age 26, in a Nazi concentration camp. His most admired masters were Leoš Janáček and Alban Berg, and his music is a plausible blend of theirs.

From the end of 1941 until October 1944, he was a prisoner in the Theresienstadt concentration camp — which was both a propaganda showplace for showing the West how kindly the Nazis treated captured Jews and a distribution center from which Jews were deported to extermination camps.

Klein wrote at least half of his extent oeuvre at Theresienstadt. In 1940, before he was arrested, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, but by that time, the Nazis had taken control of all of Czechoslovakia, promulgated some severely anti-Semitic laws, and Klein, a Jew, was denied permission to leave the country.

In the same years, the career of Hungarian composer Dohnányi (1877-1960) had an entirely different character. Dohnányi was not Jewish, though he was probably no more anti-Semitic than any other Hungarian and less so than most. He was not a collaborator and betrayed no one, so far as we know, but neither did he go out of his way to offer material help to any of his countrymen of Jewish faith.

(The one exception, in 1941, when he threatened to resign as director of the Budapest Academy as a protest at having to fire a Jewish pupil, Gyorgy Farago — allegedly his favorite — has no punch line: Apparently, he fired the Jew and didn't resign. In contrast, Zoltan Kodaly not only refused the Nazis' order to divorce his Jewish wife, but devoted much of his time to smuggling Jews to safety — and was arrested for his activities in 1944. Mass protests secured his release.)

As head of the academy and music director of the Budapest Philharmonic, Dohnányi was the most powerful musician in Hungary during the war years, and he often used that power to keep Jews out of the academy and the orchestra, though the laws allowed for 6 percent. This was mainly due to cowardice and, according to most of his colleagues, his domination by his racist third wife. He didn't leave Hungary until the jig was nearly up, and then he and his wife were traveling with a Waffen SS unit.

They came to the United States by the Nazi route — Austria to Argentina to Mexico to the United States — and not that of the anti-Nazi refugees — displaced persons camp to Spain/Portugal to England to America (if they were lucky, or knew how to make a guided missile).

Cowardice and submission are not attractive traits in a man, but we will probably find ourselves preferring the very attractive music of Dohnányi to the austere beauties of the hero Klein. As the great suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train) once observed, "Art has essentially nothing to do with morality, convention or moralizing."

Any tickets left by show time can be purchased at the door. Reserved seats can be purchased by phone at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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