The “Lost Generation”

A programmatic focus recalls forgotten composers between late Romanticism and modernism

The encounter with unfamiliar masterpieces is a special experience. Our own horizons expand, and we discover the richness of music anew. That is particularly true when a group of such finds that are connected with each other in a variety of ways are discovered at the same time. During the 2021/22 season we want to open up such new perspectives under the theme “Lost Generation”.

This phrase originated with the writer Gertrude Stein, who used it to refer to a group of American intellectuals that moved to Paris after World War I to escape the provincialism at home. We have borrowed the term from her and applied it to music. Our focus is on composers whose works were once part of the repertoire of the Berliner Philharmoniker but were more or less forgotten over the years. These include, for example, the Danish composer Rued Langgaard, whose name appeared on the programme of the Philharmoniker for the first time in 1913, and the Italian Leone Sinigaglia, whose Rapsodia piemontese was performed in Berlin in January of 1907. Chief conductor Kirill Petrenko presents this work for the second time in the orchestra’s history – 115 years later.


Persecuted, exiled or murdered

Many members of the “lost generation” were persecuted, exiled or murdered after the Nazi takeover in 1933. Works such as Gideon Klein’s Partita for String Orchestra and Pavel Haas’s Wind Quintet were literally composed in the face of death; both composers were killed in Auschwitz. Erwin Schulhoff was also a victim of the National Socialists when he died in a concentration camp in 1942.

Exile in the USA

The Austrian Alexander Zemlinsky, who made his conducting debut with the Philharmoniker in 1923, managed to flee to the US at the end of 1938. His countryman Ernst Toch was able to escape to America three years earlier. Other musicians, such Busoni’s student Philipp Jarnach, remained in the country but often fell silent artistically and did not find their way back to concert life again after 1945. As different as their lives were, this unique “lost generation” forms a connecting link between the final years of late Romanticism and new music after the Second World War. Our season focus is intended to highlight these unjustly forgotten composers and bring these splendid works to the concert hall again.



Leone Sinigaglia

Leone Sinigaglia had two great passions: mountains and music. In a way, he was a pioneer in both fields. As a mountaineer, he climbed the peaks of the Dolomites, which were little known at the time, and published his experiences and observations in his book Ricordi di arrampicate nelle Dolomiti, which caused a sensation in alpine circles at the time. As a composer, he devoted himself to a genre that was very neglected in Italy, the land of opera: instrumental music.

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Erwin Schulhoff

Dadaist, communist, Jew – Erwin Schulhoff fulfilled all the criteria to be persecuted by the National Socialists as a “degenerate artist”. No less a figure than Antonín Dvořák is said to have discovered his talent. A brilliant musical career seemed to be in store for him...

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Karl Amadeus Hartmann

He could also have been a painter, but he chose music: Karl Amadeus Hartmann, the son of a Munich painter, began composing after seeing Weber’s opera Der Freischütz. As a student in Munich in the 1920s, he was inspired by the new ideas and visionary concepts of his time after the experiences of the First World War and the resulting political upheavals...

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Ernst Toch

“I lived in a rather amusical environment,” Ernst Toch recounted. His parents showed little understanding for his musical talent. Born in Vienna in 1887 as the son of a Jewish leather merchant, he was expected to continue his father’s business one day. But Ernst Toch discovered music early on, especially composing, which he said gave him many an “ecstasy”...

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Mieczysław Weinberg

The name Mieczysław Weinberg spread like wildfire when the Western cultural scene discovered him ten years ago. The staged premiere of his opera The Passenger at the Bregenz Festival in 2010 turned out to be a sensation; the work was acclaimed as a “masterwork”, the “rediscovery of the year”, if not the decade...

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Egon Wellesz

At the age of fourteen he has his epiphany: the performances of Beethoven’s Ninth and Weber’s Freischütz under the direction of Gustav Mahler, who he admired, impressed him so much that – as he wrote – “the following day I began to compose [...] So much did it urge me to become a musician that I began to learn the basics of the musical craft without help or instruction”...

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Franz Schreker

Man kennt sich untereinander, trifft sich in den Kaffeehäusern der Stadt und diskutiert die neuen kulturellen Ideen. Mit der Uraufführung seiner Oper Derferne Klang steigt Franz Schreker 1912 zu einem der führenden Komponisten seiner Zeit auf. Als Professor an der Akademie der bildenden Künste unterrichtet er Ernst Krenek und Alois Hába...

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