Helmig, Martina Books

Dr. Martina Helmig, an independent scholar, received her Ph.D. from the Freie Universität in Berlin. She works as a musicologist, musical journalist, and organizer of symposiums and music festivals. She has published five books in her fields of expertise of gender and exile studies.

Ruth Schonthal - A Composer's Musical Development in Exile
2006 0-7734-5736-4
This is the first monograph about Ruth Schonthal, the internationally renowned composer whose works are performed worldwide. Parts of the work are based on conversations that the author conducted with Ms. Schonthal over the past 20 years. The book is also the first contribution to exile research that is concerned with artists that fled from Nazi Germany in their childhood. This is the English translation and updated version of Dr. Martina Helmig’s musicological book, which gained much attention in the German-speaking countries.

Ruth Schonthal’s unique and dramatic biography encompassed three continents and now spans eight decades. She was a composing and piano-playing “Wunderkind” in the twenties and thirties in Europe. At age five, she was the youngest student ever accepted at the famous “Stern'sches Konservatorium” in Berlin. As Jews, she and her family were forced to flee the country in 1938. Their odyssey led first to Sweden, then to Mexico, where she studied with Manuel Ponce. Paul Hindemith discovered her there and brought her to Yale University as his student. Since 1976, Ms. Schonthal has been Professor of Composition at the New York University and living in the Greater New York City area.

This book presents a case study in the area of research dealing with a specific exiled generation: those who were forced to flee from Nazi Germany before finishing their professional education. This is a field that has been almost completely neglected over the years. The book contains Ruth Schonthal’s biography, analyses of some of her outstanding compositions, and an examination of the ways in which the cruelties of the Nazi regime and condition of exile affected this younger group of artists. It also describes the cultural perspective they gained from living in various countries. Both the places of exile and the necessity of living, studying, and working in the midst of so many different cultures have had, and still have, many implications for the compositional process that go far beyond mere folkloristic influences. According to Lion Feuchtwanger, exile is no coincidental and peripheral circumstance, but the motivating force behind all work undertaken once in exile. This also applies to the younger generation of exiled artists.