Music, migration, and mobility: the story of émigré musicians from Nazi Europe in Britain

Meyn, N. and Holden, M. (2023) Music, migration, and mobility: the story of émigré musicians from Nazi Europe in Britain. [Show/Exhibition]


This exhibition, curated as part of the major AHRC-funded research project with the same name, celebrated the mobile lives of musicians who emigrated to the UK from Nazi Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Of approximately 50,000 (mostly Jewish) refugees who settled in Britain at this time, around 400 were professional musicians. Many fled racist persecution in Germany and Austria, while others left for political or ethical reasons. Some arrived well in advance of the outbreak of war and others after the war’s end, having first experienced the terror of the Holocaust. They had to adapt to a new language and environment, and many of them developed highly successful careers. Their presence gave a whole generation of musicians in Britain ‘an opportunity to transfer from a national into an international world’ (Dame Janet Baker). Others, by contrast, would never really settle, and would find themselves excluded from British society and musical life. Music—perhaps the most mobile of all art forms—has been shaped by migration for centuries. This exhibition invited visitors to reflect on the dynamic influence of migration and transnational mobility on culture, as well as the benefits of negotiating and overcoming cultural differences. The exhibition included recordings and images that were made available on the museum’s digital devices and a 1 hour film with excerpts from oral history interviews. In addition, visitors could browse the Music, Migration and Mobility online resource on iPads provided in the exhibition space. ***** The exhibition was curated by Norbert Meyn (RCM, project lead) and Michael Holden (Royal Holloway) with support from other members of the Music, Migration, and Mobility Team: Peter Adey (Royal Holloway), Alison Garnham (RCM), Nils Grosch (Salzburg), Helen Kuby (RCM), Sarah K. Whitfield (RCM). ***** RCM Museum team: Richard Martin, Lydia Baldwin, Kirsty Bowie, Gabriele Rossi Rognoni. Graphic Design: Luke Richards. Poster and Graphics: Giada Peterle (University of Padua). Loans and other support: The Association for Jewish Refugees; Phil Boot and Nerissa Taysom, Glyndebourne; The British Film Institute Archives; Martin Cahn Jr.; The Cosman-Keller Trust; Derek Goldfoot; Erika Fox; Eva Fox-Gál; Michael Freyhan; Mary Gellhorn; Vivian Halas and the Halas & Batchelor Animation Archive; Emily Hoffnung and the Hoffnung Partnership; Anna Horovitz; Paul Humpoletz Jr.; Anita Lasker-Wallfisch; The Manx Museum; The Music and Migration Collection, University of Salzburg Libraries and Archives; Andrea Rauter; Peter Linnitt and RCM Library staff; John Reizenstein; Julia Seiber Boyd and the Mátyás Seiber Trust; Senate House Library; The British Library, Beth Snyder (University of North Texas). ***** Photos by Claire Chevalier and Norbert Meyn.

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