James Conlon on lifting up composers silenced by the Nazi regime

Posted on: June 1, 2022

James Conlon leads a recent performance at the Colburn School as part of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices, which encourages the performance of music by composers suppressed by the Nazi regime.

Conductor James Conlon’s “true life’s work has been to perform and promote the music of composers whose lives and careers were disrupted or ended during the Nazi regime,” writes Eva Barrosse in Sunday’s (5/29) Los Angeles Times. “ ‘The chronicle of 20th century classics has been written with great omissions,’ he says…. ‘One of my biggest obstacles over the years has been working against a sort of an intellectual laziness: “I never heard of this person. How good could it be?” ’ he says…. ‘That’s the fault of the Nazi regime. It’s a cultural war crime. It’s a tragedy.’ Conlon’s passion for recovering the works and stories of overlooked composers has galvanized a new generation of musicians and composers. Among them is Adam Millstein, a violinist who … has programmed a series of performances featuring the music of Erwin Schulhoff, Franz Schreker, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Mieczysław Weinberg, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Herbert Zipper. For Conlon, it’s imperative that the music be restored to its proper place: where it can be heard by the public. ‘The moral reason is to undo injustice,’ Conlon says of his mission…. ‘None of this would be important if the music wasn’t good.’ ”