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8.557768 - Salon Orchestra Favourites, Vol. 4: German Hit Songs of the 1930s
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Salon Orchestra Favourites, Vol. 4
German Hit Songs of the 1930s

 

German history of the 1930s has many sad and dismal chapters, from the world economic crisis at the beginning of the decade, to the unleashing of the Second World War at the end. And yet, in such a period of crisis and catastrophe German light music won world-wide prestige and has been able to continue in popularity even to the present. Particular luminaries of the genre were Werner Richard Heymann, Peter Kreuder and Gerhard Winkler.

In the end it was a coincidence that the introduction of talkies into the cinema came at the same time as the slump. The then still relatively small Warner Brothers film company had launched the first talkie on the market in 1926/1927 to avert impending bankruptcy. In 1929 the first talkie in Germany appeared. Werner Richard Heymann was one of the first to conquer this new field of activity in the service of UFA, the most important German film company and also the most successful. Already in 1930 Heymann wrote probably his most famous evergreens for Die Drei von der Tankstelle (The Three from the Filling Station), among them 'Liebling, mein Herz läßt Dich grüßen' (Darling, my heart greets you). There then followed hits for 'Liebeswalzer' (Love Waltz), 'Der Kongress tanzt' (Congress Dances), Ein blonder Traum (A Fair Dream, 1932) featuring 'Irgendwo auf der Welt' (Somewhere in the World) and Der Sieger (The Conqueror, 1932) featuring 'Es führt kein anderer Weg zur Seligkeit' (There Is No Other Way To Happiness).

In quick succession came music for fifteen films, based, almost always, on texts by Robert Gilbert (1899-1978), son of the successful composer Jean Gilbert. In 1933, however, there was no longer a place for Heymann and Gilbert. The National Socialist racial madness banished the successful duo because of their Jewish origin. They both emigrated and eventually reached Hollywood. There up to 1950 Heymann wrote music for 44 films, the best known of which is surely Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotschka (1939) with Great Garbo in the title-rôle. In 1950 Heymann returned again to Germany, but was no longer able to recapture his earlier success.

One of the most dazzling figures of the genre is certainly Peter Kreuder, infant prodigy, composer of inexhaustible inspiration and world-famous pianist. He gave his first public concert at the age of six at the Gürzenich in Cologne and at thirteen obtained his first position as chorus repetiteur at the Hamburg Stadttheater. Thereafter his life took two courses: on the one hand he shone in more than four thousand concerts in 39 countries and left more than two thousand recordings; on the other his creative power as a composer brought an opera, several operettas and musicals, scores for 188 films and hundreds of hits.

Peter Kreuder lived for his music, even when, from 1933, he was taken up by the National Socialists. For the most part there were harmless little films to which his evergreens added lustre. 'Sag beim Abschied leise Servus' (Bid a gentle farewell at parting) for example came from the film Burgtheater, first seen in 1936, and 'Für eine Nacht voller Seligkeit' (For a night full of happiness) was part of Kora Terry, shot in 1940 with Marika Rökk. Kreuder made no political commitment. In 1935 he wrote the music for Leni Riefenstahl's second National Socialist Rally film Tag der Freiheit - Unsere Wehrmacht (Day of Freedom - Our Armed Forces). In 1937, on the other hand, he recorded in Paris music by his respected Jewish composer-colleagues Friedrich Hollaender and Hugo Hirsch. From the beginning of the war he was in Sweden, but when in 1942 the National Socialists detained him in Germany, when he broke his journey in Berlin, he composed more film music for their light entertainment productions. In 1946 he met and became an admirer of Evita Peron, following her to Argentina. On her death in 1952 he moved to Brasil, continuing to write music for an enormous number of films. He returned to Germany and finally helped Zarah Leander, the most important hit singer of the National Socialists, to make her comeback with two musicals tailored specially for her.

Less spectacular but in no way less successful was the life of Gerhard Winkler. For years he worked in the most varied fields of light music, conducted spa orchestras and dance-bands, arranged music for better known ensembles and in the shortest space of time composed music for hundreds of advertising films. He was also intensively involved with foreign musical traditions, particularly from Italy. In the years from 1936 to 1940 he consolidated this into a series of fifteen works, Klänge aus aller Welt (Music from the Whole World), of which the Dutch Shoe-Dance (1938) and the Portuguese Fisherman's Dance (1940) are part. Winkler gave his attention not only to orchestral light music but also to commercially ever more important hits. Among his most important interpreters was the singer Rudi Schuricke.

In the war Winkler served as organizer of entertainment for the armed forces. As a composer he worked mainly with the lyricist Ralph Maria Siegel and wrote not only Capri-Fischer (Capri Fisherman), Winkler's most famous hit, but also the Casanova song, Komm, Kasanova, kuss mich' (Come, Casanova, kiss me), both first interpreted by Magda Hain. After the war Winkler continued his successful compositions, among others Skandal im Harem (1946/1947) (Scandal in the Harem). He increasingly concerned himself with questions of musical copyright protection in the organization set up in Germany for this purpose, GEMA.

Konrad Dussel
English version by Keith Anderson

 


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