V030: The Life of Erich Itor Kahn

VHS (NTSC), non-commercial (1993), color, in German

Produced by the Hessischer Rundfunk
Directed by Karin Alles
Edited by Kurt Zimmermann

Time Description
0:00 Book reviews of recent publications
1:00 Beginning of news story on Kahn; introduction to film, "Vergessene Musik: Der Komponist Erich Itor Kahn" by Karin Alles
1:35 Thomas Günther playing work by Kahn
2:40 Narrator describes Kahn as student of Schoenberg and his emigration from Nazi Germany
3:05 Interview with Frida Kahn, Kahn's widow, who lives in New York
3:55 Interview with Juan Allende-Blin, composer
4:50 Interview with Joachim Martini, musician
5:20 Kahn was born 23 July 1905 in Rimbach in the Odenwald among a strong Jewish community; his father was Russian, his mother was German, and both were musical. Soon after Kahn's birth, the family moved to Königstein near Frankfurt. Kahn received piano lessons early from his father and soon showed great talent.
7:30 Frida Kahn describes how his parents opposed his decision to become a professional musician.
8:25 Allende-Blin concurs with Frida Kahn's assessment of Kahn's parents' attitude, but they gradually accepted his decision.
9:30 Kahn moved to Frankfurt to attend the Conservatory. There he gave piano lessons and played in cafes in order to earn money. When he graduated from the Conservatory (with honors), he gained a job at the local radio station (Südwestdeutscher Rundfunk) where he played much contemporary music and some of his own works were performed.
11:50 Allende-Blin discusses the importance of Kahn's position at the radio in making contact with contemporary composers and, most importantly, with Schoenberg.
12:30 Frida Kahn describes Kahn's professional acquaintance with Theodor Adorno and early reactions to Schoenberg's music.
13:15 Martini also discusses contemporary reception of new music.
13:45 Photos of Schoenberg; voice recording of a speech Schoenberg gave at the SWD Rundfunk, 1931
14:40 Nazi ban on degenerate music; Kahn was dismissed from his position in April 1933 because he was Jewish.
15:10 Voice recording of Hitler; footage of Nazi era in Frankfurt
15:50 Frida Kahn describes the worsening situation in Germany and their decision to emigrate. Because of her Russian background and personal experience of the pogroms, she was more perceptive about the imminent danger than her husband. They first fled to Paris in fall 1933 where they gave piano lessons and Kahn composed ("Hommage à Ravel").
19:00 Kahn established the Schubert Gesellschaft in Paris.
19:15 Allende-Blin describes their experiences in Paris.
20:40 Frida Kahn describes her experience teaching piano; she taught Paul Dessau's children and other children of émigrés. Willy Strecker gave Erich Kahn some work, and he also worked for Stravinsky. He worked mostly as arranger, accompanist, and pianist.
22:30 Allende-Blin describes Kahn's difficulty composing during this period. Among his circle of friends, including Dessau and René Leibowitz, he played a few things, but nothing was publicly performed as it had been in Germany before 1933.
24:25 Narrator describes the Kahns' "survival" in Paris until 1940. The Kahns, like many other German immigrants, were interned in a French camp. Kahn continued to compose in the camp.
28:10 Frida Kahn tells of her deportation to a women's camp in the Pyrenees. Erich Itor Kahn was sent to various northern camps.
30:55 Allende-Blin admires Kahn's power of concentration to compose complex works under such difficult circumstances.
31:40 Martini also expresses his admiration for Kahn's continued efforts to compose.
33:00 Scenes of Marseille where the Kahns waited for a visa and hoped that the efforts of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee would be fruitful.
34:05 Frida Kahn describes their difficulties in getting visas. They were stuck in Casablanca between freight ships. Finally they were able to exit France and eventually emigrate to the US in 1941.
37:25 Kahn was able to make a career in the US as a pianist, mostly as a member of the Albeneri Trio (with Giorgio Ciompi, violin, and Benar Heifetz, cello). However, Kahn was unable to make a name for himself as a composer either during or after the war. He died 5 March 1956 in New York.
38:35 Frida Kahn describes her efforts to make Kahn's works familiar to a broader public. She organized concerts in which his works were performed by top players. She plays a cassette of Kahn's rehearsal for his final public concert, three months before his death.
42:15 Martini discusses the strength of Kahn's convictions, the example he set for young musicians.
44:00 Günther again performing Kahn's piano work. Closing credits.
45:20 End of story.
45:30 Closing words from the newscaster
46:00 Betrachtungen zu später Stunden: Denkmalschutz – Erforschen und Erhalten; Der Weg in die Moderne: das Bauhaus (1991). News story about factories in Germany receiving protection as historical monuments; about Walter Gropius's leading role in creating the Bauhaus architectural style; about the international style of Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier; etc.
1:15:00     End of story. Closing words from the newscaster. Short story read aloud. Ads for upcoming shows.
1:18:00 End of recording.