Did Alfred Cortot Denounce Vlado Perlemuter to the Nazis?

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Modernistfan
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Did Alfred Cortot Denounce Vlado Perlemuter to the Nazis?

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Apr 21, 2005 2:49 pm

I just picked up a copy of the International Classic Record Collector magazine, and in a review of historical recordings by the Lithuanian-French pianist Vlado Perlemuter, saw the statement that Alfred Cortot, who had actually been Perlemuter's teacher in France, denounced him to the Gestapo during World War II. (Perlemuter, of course, was Jewish, born in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania.) Did this really happen? Were there any subsequent consequences for Cortot? Luckily, Perlemuter survived, and lived until just a few years ago.

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Post by Ralph » Thu Apr 21, 2005 4:15 pm

Does the article cite any sources? I've never heard this before and there's no web material on it.
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pizza
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Post by pizza » Thu Apr 21, 2005 4:26 pm

Cortot supported the Vichy regime during the occupation and was declared persona non grata by France for a short while after the liberation. He was able to resume his career after about a year or so.

According to what I know of Perlemuter, he spent the war years in Switzerland. I'm curious as to the author's identity and source of information.

Modernistfan
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Post by Modernistfan » Thu Apr 21, 2005 4:30 pm

No sources were cited in the ICRC article, which was really just a review of certain recordings.

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Post by Donald Isler » Thu Apr 21, 2005 6:15 pm

I have no information about Perlemutter's situation, but my first piano teacher and her husband, German Jews, were students of Cortot's in Paris in the 30's. They always admired Cortot for his artistry, but said he did nothing to help them when things became difficult.
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Post by Ralph » Thu Apr 21, 2005 7:23 pm

Here's David Dubal's take on Cortot during the war, taken from a biographical essay. If Cortot had denounced Perlemuter you can bet Dubal would know about it and include that in his essay.

*****

Unfortunately, during World War II he became the High Commissioner of the Fine Arts in the Vichy Government and played concerts in Germany. Following the war, Cortot was found guilty of collaboration with the enemy by a French governmental panel, and was suspended from all public musical activity for a period of a year. But as soon as the year was completed, he was once again performing more than one hundred concerts a season. Cortot's health badly declined, becoming ravaged by pain and Parkinson's disease. His farewell performance took place on 10 July, 1958, with Casals, but he continued teaching, giving his final master class late in 1961. He died on 15 June, 1962. A comprehensive biography of Cortot's personality and deeds still remains to be written.

*****
© 1998 David Dubal
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Post by Wallingford » Thu Apr 21, 2005 8:24 pm

Cortot was WAY too interested in German Wagnerian culture for his own good. His playing--as well as his visual style, both at the keyboard and conducting--were full of irrepressibly-Romantic gestures. I sometimes feel like putting on a Casadesus recording after hearing a Cortot disc, just so I remember what SANE French piano-playing is like.

His Parkinson's (mentioned above) is a revelation to me. THAT's gotta be why his playing from that period onwards is so unbearable to hear.....by '53 (when his last commercial discs were made) he could scarcely play two right notes in succession! Check out his last Chopin Sonata 2, & Schumann Etudes Symphoniques & Carnaval to hear what I mean.
If I could tell my mom and dad
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Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
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Post by Donald Isler » Thu Apr 21, 2005 8:58 pm

Interesting that you have that reaction to Cortot's playing, Wallingford. Of course his playing could be very messy (I also never heard about the Parkinson's before) but I've always considered him so much more poetic and inspired than Casadesus, who by comparison always seemed very clean yet bland to me.
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Post by Guest » Fri Apr 22, 2005 9:21 am

I tried googling French pages but found nothing. However, I translate some background found here: http://www.abeillemusique.com/produit.php?cle=6278

A few weeks after peace was restored in Europe, in May 1945, Cortot wrote to The Gramophone Company […] about the possibility of recording again in London.

“I would hope that now that the war is really over (for good, let us hope) both for the greater glory of your country and for the tranquillity so longed for by my own, I will be permitted to resume, in the friendly Hayes studio […] and with my friends at The Gramophone Company, the recordings interrupted six years ago! Here, Pathe Marconi started to have me record the complete works of Chopin. But the shortage of wax momentarily halted recordings and production. This should therefore be resumed by 1949, centenary of Chopin’s death, which will provide a motive for building up this vast repertoire and ensure it will be marketed.”

The Gramophone Company replied without delay to Cortot that there were too many restrictions in this post-war period to make an immediate commitment. Rationing of basics, let alone wax for recordings and metal for pressing 78 rpm discs, would continue in the UK until the early 1950s. In addition, some managers felt it was necessary to advance cautiously on account of Cortot’s wartime activities. A new contract was eventually concluded in 1946 and arrangements made to record in London the following year, at the very moment when repercussions of Cortot’s behaviour under the occupation were to start making themselves felt, brutally interrupting his schedule of concerts and recordings.

Undeniably, under the Vichy government, Cortot was president of [France’s] Order of Musicians and gave concerts in Germany at the personal invitation of Wilhelm Furtwängler. In mitigation, his supporters maintained that the organisation, which benefited from Cortot’s prestige, was strictly professional in nature and in no way political. In addition, they affirmed that Cortot had undertaken his German tour on the sole condition that for each concert given before a German audience, he could also play in a prisoners-of-war camp. (It was also reported that when he was asked to return to Germany, his “humanitarian demands” were such that the invitation was rapidly withdrawn.) Nevertheless, shortly after the liberation of France, Cortot had to go before an ad hoc tribunal, and then before a “purging committee” which condemned him to suspension from all professional activity for one year backdated to April 1 1945.

Though free to give concerts from April 1946 onwards, the cabal against Cortot was such that it was necessary to wait eight months before his return to the Paris stage could be announced (meanwhile, Cortot played in the UK, Switzerland and Italy, as well as many provincial French cities). He was to give three concerts, on January 18 (morning and afternoon) and 19 (afternoon), 1947, with the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire under André Cluytens, during which he would play Schumann’s concerto. But on the eve of the [first] concert, the Musicians’ Union forbade any orchestra member to accompany Cortot, on pain of immediate exclusion from the Society. Faced with this ultimatum, Cortot then chose to perform works for piano solo at all of the concerts. When he appeared, he enjoyed the frenzied support of the great majority of the audience, but also had to face noisy manifestations of hostility. At each concert, ever fiercer personal insults were made to the pianist, sometimes while he was playing. Although it was obvious that the majority of the audience supported him, several newspapers chose to report the opposite and, to the pianist’s astonishment, headlines such as “Cortot provokes scenes of chaos in Paris” flourished throughout Europe, finally forcing him to take the union to court. Cortot would never play again in France after 1949.

It is therefore not surprising to learn that, from March 1947, Cortot chose to settle permanently in Switzerland, where he joined his wife, who was already under medical care there.

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Post by Werner » Fri Apr 22, 2005 12:13 pm

If I'm not mistaken (and I can't take the time right now to Google the question) Cortot was born in Switzerland - so his move there might have sonsituted a return "home.""
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Post by Lance » Sat Apr 23, 2005 9:26 pm

I am very interested in this issue. I have long admired Cortot along with Elly Ney, the celebrated German pianist. I have heard the rumors of Cortot having Nazi connections, and also Walter Gieseking. I was pointed to a book by Michael H. Kater, Twisted Muse - Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich, which brought forth some unusually interesting information.

I'd like to keep this issue alive as much as possible. There is very much a need for an in-depth biography of Cortot, though there is a publication (from Appian) entitled Aspects of Cortot by his student, Thomas Manshardt, though I don't recall that publication discussing Cortot's political background.
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