"WHY THEN ALL THE DIFFICULTIES!": A LIFE OF KATHI MEYER-BAER

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					         “WHY THEN ALL THE DIFFICULTIES!”:
            A LIFE OF KATHI MEYER-BAER
                                    By David Josephson



  I first encountered Kathi Meyer-Baer while digging among the files of
the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars in the
Rare Books and Manuscripts Room of the New York Public Library. The
Emergency Committee was established in New York shortly after the for-
mation of a Nazi government in Germany, with the purpose of helping
to secure academic positions in the United States for scholars dismissed
from their academic positions in Germany, and from 1938 in German-
occupied Europe and in Italy, on racial or political grounds. Among the
hundreds who applied for funding from the Emergency Committee dur-
ing its twelve years of operation were thirty-eight musicians and music
scholars, all but one of them men. The exception was Meyer-Baer.1
  To spend time with these people is to live in a world of heartbreak and
humiliation, fear and displacement, courage and reconstruction; a world
of souls torn from family, friends, teachers, colleagues, students, home,
neighborhood, language, food, dress, job, and library, then deposited
into an alien culture and forced to make their place in it. Like Tolstoy’s
unhappy families, all were unique in their stories. The degree of success
of their adaptation to their new homes depended on many factors,
among them age, personality, grit, connections, mastery of English, and
sheer luck.2 Alfred Einstein, Curt Sachs, Manfred Bukofzer, Leo Schrade,
Edward Lowinsky, and Karl Geiringer would build distinguished careers
here. Gerhard Herz would find his niche here with ease, Paul Nettl and
Alfred Sendrey would find theirs only after years of struggle. Others

  David Josephson is associate professor of music at Brown University. This essay is an expanded version
of a paper read at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society held in Quebec City in
November 2007. He is currently writing a monograph on Meyer-Baer.
  1. The standard history of the committee is Stephen Duggan and Betty Drury, The Rescue of Science and
Learning: The Story of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars (New York: Macmillan,
1948).
  2. A fine personal essay on the subject is Hans Heinsheimer’s “Keep Your Hat On,” in his Menagerie in
F Sharp (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1947; reprint, Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1979), 8–21. Head of the
opera department of Universal Edition in Vienna and editor of the firm’s influential journal Musikblätter
des Anbruch, Heinsheimer (1900–1993) arrived in New York just before the Anschluss and worked first at
the American division of Boosey & Hawkes, then at G. Schirmer, retiring as vice president of that firm in
1974. He wrote two other books of essays, Fanfare for 2 Pigeons (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1952) and
Best Regards to Aida: The Defeats and Victories of a Music Man on Two Continents (New York: Alfred Knopf,
1968).


                                                  227
228                                                                         Notes, December 2008

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DOCUMENT INFO
Description: Kathi Meyer-Baer (Berlin 1892-Atlanta 1977) was arguably the most significant and surely the most productive female musicologist of her generation. She was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in musicology (in 1916), studying at Berlin University but receiving the degree at Leipzig University. She worked at Paul Hirsch's private library in Frankfurt as resident professional scholar and bibliographer, and with him produced one of the great music catalogs of the century. She published five books, four of them major contributions to women's choral music, music aesthetics, musical incunabula, and musical iconography; more than thirty scholarly articles; and hundreds of newspaper reports, reviews, essays, and obituaries. She married at forty-one, had a son at forty-three, fled Nazi Frankfurt with her family for Paris at forty-five, and arrived in New York at forty-seven; those four events defined the rest of her long life. Sadly, her double identity as woman and Jew worked against her in her adopted homeland as it had done in the homeland that had banished her. In the end, she had no choice but to live her life as an independent scholar. She did so with grace, courage, perseverance, and enormous productivity. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]
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