A history of Black musicians in Germany and Austria, 1870-1961: race, performance, and reception

Author/s: Kira Thurman, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Dissertation
Year: 2014
Category: Germany History

Abstract: This dissertation explores the history of black classical musicians in Germany and Austria from 1870 to 1961. In it, I argue that throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, black classical musicians provoked listeners in Austria and Germany into renegotiating their definitions of race, music, and national identity. Whether they were listening to Marian Anderson sing German Lieder in 1937 in Vienna, watching the Afro- Caribbean conductor Rudolph Dunbar lead the Berlin Philharmonic in one of their first concerts after WWII, or enjoying Paul Robeson sing folk songs at Humboldt University in East Germany in 1960, Austrian and German listeners debated blacks’ relations to German musical culture. By focusing on German reception of black musicians, my project reveals how Germans shaped their own national identity, how they negotiated a space within this discourse for blacks, and how they created a lasting relationship between music and race.

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