Robert Stolz (1880 - 1975) Deutsche-Version





The documentation compiled by the Austrian Ministry for Economic Affairs of the life and work of Robert Stolz deals with the following periods in the composer's life: "Berlin - his second career", "In the shadow of the Third Reich between Berlin and Vienna" and "Emigration and a New Start".

The section "Emigration and a New Start" contains the following account: On the evening of 11th March 1938 Stolz was at home in his apartment in Elisabethstraße listening to the address of the Austrian Chancellor, Dr. Kurt Schuschnigg, on the radio; Austria had ceased to exist. Alerted by his brother, a staunch National Socialist, the composer left his flat that very same night and made for Zurich. It soon became apparent that he would not be able to return to his "annexed" Austria, nor did he wish to, even though this meant leaving a substantial fortune behind.

From Zurich he travelled to Paris, where he settled for the next two years. There was no lack of attempts by the German government and the Reichsmusikkammer to persuade him to return; the powers-that-be did not want to do without the appeal and popularity of the name Robert Stolz. If he were not prepared to return, the German copyright society STAGMA would no longer look after his rights. Thanks to the intervention and pressure from his London publisher Boosey, Stolz succeeded in inducing STAGMA to release him. The blackmail attempt was thwarted.

A monument to Robert Stolz in Berlin

The years 1924 to 1936, which Robert Stolz spent in Berlin, were happy and busy ones. Here the  gifted composer and conductor created a large number of his immortal melodies, helped many of his fellow citizens in those troubled times and after the last war did much to bring about a reconciliation among people.

This is the inscription on the monument in the Robert Stolz Park in Berlin-Grünewald. The former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, writes about this in a letter to Einzi Stolz on 14th August 1984: There is nothing more beautiful you can actually say in a person's memory than what is written on this inscription.

The lines quoted by the Federal President pick up the thread of the biography "Servus Du", which Einzi Stolz presented to him, and for which he thanked her in the following words: This splendid story of your husband's life, which, from page 349 onwards, actually becomes your own story, has made me very happy, and I thank you for this with all my heart. I am happy to have received this book from your hand and with your kind dedication. How fortunate it was for us all that the material for this absorbing and delightful biography was documented and collected in time! Each chapter is a novel in itself, but the period that probably means the most to me is the time Robert Stolz spent in Berlin. I am sure I am biased, but it seems to me that he spent some of the happiest years of his very full life there.

Robert Stolz had three spiritual homes: Graz, the city of his birth; Vienna, the cradle of his art and Berlin, the golden metropolis of the twenties and thirties, for whose theatres, cabarets and cinemas some of his world famous melodies were composed.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the composer, Stephan Pflicht was commissioned by the Robert Stolz Foundation to compile a catalogue of Robert Stolz' works, which was published by the Music Publishers Emil Katzbichler.

Particular mention must also be made in this context of the "Chronik deutscher Unterhaltungsmusik" (Chronicle of German Light Music), published by the Spitzenverband deutsche Musik (SPIDEM) in 1991 (obtainable from Josef Keller Verlag).

The author still clearly remembers how he gave a lady friend a present of one of the first commercially available shellac records of the world-wide hit "Zwei Herzen im Dreivierteltakt" from the film of the same name. It was not at all foreseeable at the time that he might ever get to know the composer personally. That happened quite unexpectedly in 1949. This meeting was a momentous one for German composers, and there is an account of it by Einzi in "Servus Du", pages 478 ff.:

If the nostalgic operetta Fruehling im Prater was Robert's major artistic accomplishment in 1949, the year also marked the beginning of Robert's hard-fought battle to save GEMA, the German performing rights society, from being dismantled by the occupying powers.
    If that had happened, the recovery of German-language theater, music and films would have been crippled for many years, perhaps dealt a lethal blow. And it almost did happen; it was only stopped by the dedicated efforts of two men, and the friends around the world they were able to rally support of GEMA.One of these men was Erich Schulze.
    Late in 1949 Robert and I visited Berlin. It was a heartbreaking experience for Robert, who remembered the vital golden city on the Spree from its glamorous heyday before the war. Now, everywhere, there were ruins and suffering. To those of us who saw Berlin in 1949, it is still hard to believe the miracle of recovery that has since taken place - at the time it seemed to be an irretrievably dead city, lost forever.
    While in Berlin we met Erich Schulze, the dedicated man who immediately after the war had founded a new society in the place of STAGMA: GEMA, an organisation for the protection of composers and their works. It was a sad but inspiring visit. In Dr. Schulze's small, paper-littered flat were sheltered all of the records, and all of the hopes, of Germany's struggling composers, authors and music publishers. I remember that it was very cold, and that there almost was nothing to eat. Over a very meager meal, Schulze told us an even more depressing story.
    Under the „anti-trust laws" GEMA was also to be disbanded as an alleged monopoly. Unless international support could be mobilised very quickly, GEMA would be dissolved, thus depriving Germany's creative artists of their protection and income and isolating them from the rest of the world.
    Robert himself had little to lose by the disbanding of GEMA - he was protected by his membership in foreign societies. But, characteristically, he was more concerned about others than himself. "My God", he exclaimed to Dr. Schulze, "if GEMA is destroyed, Germany's composers, writers and their works will be without protection - no income - so they will literally starve to death. We can't let this happen".
    Dr. Schulze worked days and nights preparing documents, writing legal papers in defense of GEMA. One morning he handed Robert a big file containing all the arguments. Germans had no permits to travel, censorship of mail slowed life up for months. Therefore they had no means of getting help.
    Robert and I began an immediate series of journeys and a letter-writing campaign to important friends around the world, starting in London with Robert's old friend, Sir Leslie Boosey, Chairman of the British Performing Rights Society who had offered Robert "British Protection" when the Nazis had tried to isolate him after the Anschluss.
   In February of 1950 we flew again to London and met with Sir Leslie and Mr. James, the General Manager of the PRS. And they soon had the switchboards alive with calls to the British foreign office, the Occupation Powers, and the heads of the French, Swiss and other performing rights societies. We then went to Paris and met and presented our plea to the officials of the French Society SACEM (which is, incidentally, the oldest authors' society in the world).
    From Paris we flew to New York to secure ASCAP's help. Here we had the good fortune to discuss the matter with the president, Gene Buck, and Dr. Rudolf Nissim. We gave them the papers which Dr. Schulze had personally written during days and nights in Berlin in defense of GEMA.
    Now orders from the highest authorities came to the High Commissioners: from Downing Street, from Quai d'Orsay, from the White House, not to risk the existence of GEMA and its further development because it would not come under the Anti Trust Laws!
    Dr. Schulze could continue in peace his work to build from rubble the GEMA the German Performing Rights Society for the protection of musical works in Germany.
    Today GEMA is one of the most important Performing Rights Societies in the world and a blessing for all creative artists, thanks to Dr. Schulze's courage and dedication.
    GEMA, like all her sister-societies in other countries the world over, fights for royalties with "music consumers": radio, TV, recording companies, etc. It collects fees for the use of musical works that are distributed to GEMA members, and for the performances of foreign music, royalties are being transferred to local societies of which composers, authors and music publishers are members. Thus the entire world's musical literature is protected by mutual contracts between the societies.
    Robert was afraid that the destruction of GEMA would have created a precedent and bring problems and suffering to other societies, as well. GEMA had been saved, but the rescue effort would never have been possible if it had not been for two selfless men, Robert Stolz and Dr. Erich Schulze, who had met one chilled December evening in Berlin and taken on what then seemed impossible odds.

In 1963, Robert Stolz received the well-deserved Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany from the German Federal President.

Erich Schulze      Grünwald, July 1997