Swept Away: Music of a Lost Generation

‘Mahagonny Songspiel and Berliner Requiem were brilliantly undertaken, the latter in a programme with the BBC Singers‘

Sunday Times

Swept Away features music by German and Austrian composers who fled into exile in the early 1930s, persecuted and threatened with arrest for their Jewish origins, socialist political views and artistic modernism. Their music was banned from performance and publication, thus completely disappearing until long after WWII ended and even the deaths of many of the composers.
Conceived, programmed and led in performance by Philip Headlam, the three day festival brought this unjustly neglected music back into the light and revealed its outstanding quality and engaging modernity over five programmes of opera, chamber, choral and orchestral music as well as cabaret-theatre songs alongside pre-concert talks, films and literary readings at Kings Place concert hall, London in June 2015. Eleven pieces were performed in the U.K. for the first time.
Featured were Ernst Toch, hailed as the most promising young German/Austrian composer of the 1920s and Kurt Weill’s music for concert, theatre and radio from the 1920s as well as composers Paul Hindemith, Erwin Schulhoff, Stefan Wolpe, Ernst Krenek and cabaret composers Mischa Spoliansky, Friedrich Hollander and Wilhelm Grosz.
Soloists included sopranos Sarah Tynan, Anna Dennis, Donna Bateman, mezzo sopranos Lucy Schaufer and Martha Jones, tenor Andrew Rees, bass Barnaby Rea, cellist Joseph Spooner, violinist Hugo Ticciati and flautist Lisa Nelsen as well as Douglas Finch, piano. Philip Headlam conducted The Continuum Ensemble and the BBC Singers, broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Lawrence Weschler, grandson of Ernst Toch, spoke about Toch’s life in Germany and exile in the U.S. Festival patrons were conductors James Conlon and Lawrence Foster and author Daniel Snowman.
Swept Away poster

Program I – Opera

Paul Hindemith

There and Back (1927)

Ernst Toch

Egon and Emilie (not a Family Drama) (1928)*

Kurt Weill

Vom Tod im Wald op. 23 (1927)
Mahagonny Songspiel

Program II – Chamber Music

Ernst Toch

Cello Sonata, op. 50 (1929) *
Capriccetti, op. 36 (1925) *
Burleske, op. 31 (1923) *
Violin Sonata, op. 44 (1928) *

Stefan Wolpe

Two Dances (1926)

Erwin Schulhoff

Five Pieces for string quartet (1924)

Paul Hindemith

Eight Pieces for solo flute (1927) 

Program III – Choral and ‘Speaking’ Music

Ernst Krenek

Die Jahreszeiten, op. 35 (1925) 
Three Pieces for Mixed Chorus, op. 22 (1923) *

Stefan Wolpe

Zwei Chinesische Grabschriften, op. 25 (1937) *

Ernst Toch

Gesprochene Musik (Spoken Music) (1930) *

Kurt Weill

Das Berliner Requiem (1928) 

[encore: Ernst Toch: Valse for speaking chorus and percussion (1962)]

Program IV – music for Orchestra

Ernst Toch

Five Pieces for Chamber Orchestra, op. 33 (1924) *
Die Chinesische Flöte, op. 29 (1922) *
Miniature Overture (1932) *

Kurt Weill

Violin Concerto, op. 12 (1924)

Program V – Cabaret and Theatre Songs

Mischa Spoliansky

Was sind morgen in den Zeitungen stehen? 
Ich hab, ich bin 
l’Heure Bleu 
Ich weiss das ist nicht so 
Baby, wenn du unartig bist 
Die Beste Freundin

Wilhelm Grosz

Bänkel vom Business, op. 31

Friedrich Hollander

Die Kleptomanin; Nimm dich Acht vor Blonden Frau’n;
Cocktail Song; Und immer noch speil’nse Blues;
Eine Kleine Sehnsucht 

Kurt Weill

Das Lied von der unzulänglichkeit des menschlichen Strebens;
Wie man sich bettet, so liegt man; Berlin im Licht;
Youkali; Es  Regnet

Herbert Zipper


Herbert Zipper’s Dachaulied, composed while he was a prisoner in the brutal Dachau concentration camp,   spread to other camps as inmates were transferred. As no paper or pencils were permitted, Zipper taught it by humming to the inmates. 

Set as a sardonic march, its anthem-like quality aided inmates to express feelings of hope and humanity. 

Although not a cabaret song, it closed the Swept Away festival as a reminder of what awaited all of the featured composers had they not fled into exile.

  • first performance in the U.K.