The ways of music are mysterious.
It was while replacing, at the drop of a hat, a German singer for a concert at Studio 104 (Maison de radio France), as part of a weekend devoted to Erich Wolfgang Korngold, that I met the pianist Jeff Cohen and with him, an extraordinary and partly unknown repertoire that I instantly fell in love with.
Since the creation of my show Padam Padam on the life and work of Norbert Glanzberg, I have been fascinated by the journey of these men designated by Goebbels as "degenerate Jewish artists", expelled from Germany, Austria, refugees in France or the United States and who, despite the war and Nazi barbarity that forced them into exile, found the strength to continue creating...
Norbert Glanzberg is representative of a generation of very promising composers who were forced by the torments of history to go into exile and, for some, to borrow new forms of expression in order to survive. Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Norbert Glanzberg, Kurt Weill, Werner Richard Heymann, Friedrich Hollaender...
Max Steiner is a composer with a different background, but one that Jeff and I wanted to include in this program. Born in Vienna, he grew up in the intoxicating atmosphere of that city just before its decline, and emigrated to the United States in 1914 where he worked on Broadway before moving to Hollywood where he composed the soundtrack for King Kong, Arsenic and Old Lace, Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, among others. We felt it was essential to include him and that he somehow paved the way for all these exiled composers.
Finally, we wanted to include Casablanca's flagship song "As Time Goes By" written by American-born Herman Hupfeld, whose lyrics are a kind of hymn to continuity in spite of everything!
Walking in the footsteps of these composers, interpreting their songs, is to hear, in the tumultuous wind of History, the voice of these men who, despite fears and anxieties, in the midst of the sounds of boots, were able to listen to the impulses of their vibrant hearts to create melodies, songs, mischievous or poetic thumbs to stupidity and intolerance!
Erich Wolfgang Korngold used to say: "Divided between opera and film music, sometimes I played at being serious, sometimes I wrote songs seriously."
Jeff Cohen and I took care to make a recital of songs the way Eric Wolfgang Korngold liked them: from classical music to movies to cabaret. With humility and passion, we appropriated these songs to try to create a suspended moment with tenderness, poetry and humour.