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UBC Theses and Dissertations

German and Austrian Émigré musical culture in the British internment camps of World War II : composer Hans Gál, Huyton Suite and the camp revue What a Life! Snizek, Suzanne


During the bombardment of Britain in World War II, the British government adopted a policy of mass internment of foreign nationals originating from ''enemy'' states (namely Germany, Austria and Italy). Using the experiences of interned composer Hans Gál and the genesis of his Huyton Suite trio and the camp revue What a Life! as a case study, this paper explores the musical culture that developed in the civilian internment camps of Huyton and Central Promenade. Though diverse, the internee population of these camps was disproportionately composed of leading German and Austrian intellectuals, such as sociologist Norbert Elias, musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch and composer Hans Gál. Classical music had typically been a prominent feature of this generation’s pre-war lives, and internment culture similarly reflected this importance. At least three original musical compositions were written, as well as premiered, during this internment period: Gál’s aforementioned Huyton Suite and What a Life!, and Franz Reizenstein’s finale movement to his Ballet Suite for Small Chamber Orchestra. Despite growing interest in this internment period there still remain many areas that are under-researched. This document discusses the hitherto unexamined experiences of Gál and some of the musicians who were interned along with Gál, including flutist Walter Bergmann, cellist Fritz Ball, composer Franz Reizenstein and flutist Nicolo Draber. The genesis of both the Huyton Suite and the revue What a Life! are also discussed. Through examination of historical documents and related diaries and memoirs, this thesis offers a vivid portrayal of musical life in these camps as it existed during the summer of 1940.

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