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THE RETURN TO GERMANY, 1937

 

 

 

In January 1937, Ezra Pound received a personal letter from his friend Gerhart Münch, who had left Rapallo two years before to live in Anacapri. His wife, Berthe, had suddenly left him. This disaster had happened on top of desperate financial and professional difficulties that Münch was having in Italy. He told Pound that he was considering moving to the USA to work as a composer for film music. He was being kindly helped by an American family.  It was probably Vera Lawson’s, an American poet who had been living in Italy for eight years and whom he would marry in September 1937.

Although Münch was working hard and trying to combine his activities as pianist, composer, and editor, he was in serious financial difficulty. On February 13, regarding a series of three piano-violin recitals he and Pound were planning for March, Münch wrote “I have not a penny left and live actually on debiti. So you better send me a ticket. Damned. And my work is so intensely running as never before. Longing to be out of the muddle.” Münch was working hard: two months before (December 1936) he had just finished a camera-concerto for 13 instruments,1 he was orchestrating an opera by the Italian composer Francesco Santoliquido (which he considered a means for earning a living) and was working on his “Midnight Mass,”2 a work he hoped to be successful and provide him with further opportunities. 

Münch had left Rapallo in the summer of 1935 (Schafer 383; Preda 148). Father Desmond Chute, who had been a co-organizer of the Tigullian concerts, rebuked the local public for letting him slip away unnoticed (Schafer 383).3 In March-April 1937, Münch took part in the Rapallo concerts for the last time. On March 13, Pound lamented the small audience the New Hungarian Quartet concerts had had on February 18 and announced the "Return of Gerhart Münch" in Il Mare, praising Munch’s musical integrity and his extended repertoire, the seriousness and the supreme beauty of his performances (Schafer 432). The 1937 Rapallo concert season had featured the pianist Luigi Franchetti in February. In an undated letter, Pound suggested to Gerhart to include Chopin in the program “simply for establishing YOUR power as a pianist. It is a protective measure.” Except for Chopin, the programs had a similar structure as the ones they had in 1933 and included “what was presumed forgotten, and what was brand new composition, the very old work juxtaposed with stark modernity” (Preda 143).

The concerts took place on March 18 and 29 and on April 1 and were performed by Olga and Gerhart. The programs were the following (Schafer 423-24):

  

 March 18, 1937 March 29, 1937   April 1, 1937
 G. B. Pergolesi. Three sonatas for violin and piano.  A. Vivaldi. Concerto in D major Op. 3 No. 9. (Rudge-Münch)  A. Vivaldi. Concerto. G minor. Adapted by G. Münch.4
 J. Matelart. Fantasie.  J. S Bach. Concerto in D major, adapted from a concerto by Vivaldi. (Münch)  J. S Bach. Sonata and fugue for violin and piano.
Cesare Negri Milanese. Pass’e mezzo.   J. S. Bach. Concerto in A minor. (Rudge-Münch)  A. Honegger. Sonata for violin and piano.
Giovanni Picchi. Padovana (piano). Fr. Chopin. Polonaise Fantaisie Op. 61. (Münch) Béla Bartók. Sonata for piano.
J. S Bach. Sonata in G major (violin and piano). Fr. Chopin. Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor. (Münch) Béla Bartók. Allegro Barbaro.
I. Stravinsky. Serenade and Rag music.    
 

 

Pound was aware of Münch’s permanent financial struggle and was frequently lending and/or giving him money (Preda 149). Münch had been receiving the help of two other friends as well. One by the last name of Stettenheimer, who was expected to be back from India after February 22. The other one was John Knittel (formerly Hermann Emmanuel Knittel), a Swiss anthropologist and writer who was in Egypt at the time. Münch wrote to Pound:

Could you explain to me what a bank is good for? My friend Knittel gave order to the Banque populaire union to send me some money (every 21st of the month).  Nothing came. I inquired. They wrote back “difficulties of clearing” meanwhile my debts increase, increase. Wouldn’t it be much easier to send a vulgar postal order? Now I am in a terrific mess. I hope to get something from Egypt before I leave.5

Pound suggested to Münch to consider remaining in Italy two years more. He was excited about new musical possibilities opened by the collaboration with the New Hungarian Quartet, and trying to get Münch more engaged in old music research and arrangement.6 Pound was also trying to obtain copies of Vivaldi manuscripts from the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden, and in July, he asked Münch to ask his father to help with that task. Gerhart replied on July 20 that he was not comfortable with requesting his father’s help, especially that the copies would be costly; his marriage plans with Vera Lawson were in an advanced stage and financial difficulties made a future unclear. It was too late to go on as before, Gerhart had had enough of living on debts and dreams. On May 9, he wrote to Pound that he longed for a settled income “my longing to leave the island and to find a job is increasing; Vera too feels this way for the same reasons,” and that he and Vera considered moving for a while to a cheap “country like Greece or North Africa.” In June, they had discussed moving to the USA and Gerhart wrote to Pound on the 16th: “I still don’t know if we go to America and stay there. The German-Question politically embarrasses me.” Vera’s family was not keen to support the marriage and the hope for financial help the couple expected from them finally vanished in July 1937. This bad news made financial pressure came to a peak and Münch decided to seek temporary refuge and help with his parents in Germany:7

The trouble is that we get married without a penny because Vera’s mother for reasons we both ignore seems not able to give the money she had promised by the time (She sends telegrams every week, once saying yes, once no). So very probably we ought to go to Germany where I see myself before the uneasy job to ask my parents to help us out of the first month’s dilemma. Rather hard and unpleasant enough after soft Italian habit’s. (Münch to Pound, July 20 1937)

rsz img 1922 1Vera and Gerhart married on September 1, 1937. By October, they were in Dresden with his family, and he told Pound that he had the whole of Vivaldi photostated. The 609 pages in microfilm reached Pound by May 1938.8 On October 25, Münch told Pound he and Vera would be probably back to Rapallo soon. Plans for concerts in Rapallo for the spring 1938 season went on until late November 1937 (at least on Pound’s part, when he sent the last three letters in this regard) and foresaw the possibility of inviting Hindemith to the concerts, but whom they decided not to involve because of lack of funds.9 Pound, in a first stage, postponed the New Hungarian Quartet to 1939 in order to be able to pay Münch’s expenses for the February 1938 recital reason. In the end, the concerts in February 1938 in Rapallo were carried out without Münch. He let Pound know that he would remain in Germany on the 2nd of December 1937:

I am going to live in Germany permanently, that is to say, for at least five years. Unfortunately, as you know yourself, there are nowadays no chance for artists who live out of their own country, if they have to earn their money. Our financial situation would not allow us to continue the kind of “ideal” life as before. We must try very concentratly [sic] to get free of “family support”.

Vera and Gerhart did not know yet that they would spend the next ten years in Germany. Vera provides a slightly different but similar perspective:

Crossing the border into Bregenz I began the prayer to the past. Cypress-trees, olives, the deep unending blue of the Mediterranean at the foot of Capri cliffs. We had buried our hearts beneath that water, and with newly married determination had turned our backs voluntarily on Arcadia because the only chance for a German musician to make a living was in Germany. Well-meant words from America shortly before our marriage in Naples tipped the trembling balance. “Good musicians are having a difficult time here. Stay in Europe.” I.E. Go to Germany. So we went to Germany intending to remain there for two years, and then go via European concerts to America. (Germany Prologue)