Emigre Composers in Hollywood

Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco / News /
Exiles in Paradise

“During the war, the greatest names in music, both composers and performers, came to live in Hollywood and the surrounding area….Heifetz, Piatigorsky, Rachmaninoff, Rubinstein, Iturbi, Horowitz, Szigeti, Stokowski, Walter, Schönberg, Stravinsky, Toch, Tansman, and many others.”  — Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, A Life of Music: A Book of Memories.

In a new CD, Exiles in Paradise: Emigre Composers in Hollywood (Naxos), Brinton Averil Smith and Evelyn Chen explore, with artistry and finesse, the diverse output of the European expatriates through music for cello and piano. The recording includes Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s i Nottambuli [“The Nightowls”], a work written while the composer was still living in Italy and inspired by his evening strolls in Florence.

Like many others, Castelnuovo-Tedesco came to Los Angeles because he had found work in the film industry.  By the time he arrived, California had become a magnet for musical and intellectual talent. Working as a film composer at MGM and other studios, Castelnuovo-Tedesco collaborated with many of his fellow emigres; others, he saw socially.

 “Miklós Rózsa and Ernst Toch were the two [emigré] composers with whom I became closest over the years, developing an easy, warm friendship. Both were excellent musicians, sophisticated and cultured souls; it was always lovely to chat and exchange ideas (and I didn’t find them too intimidating!),” recounted Castelnuovo-Tedesco in his autobiography. 

Rózsa, Toch, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco are among the composers featured on Exiles in Paradise. 

Said Smith: ”Los Angeles in the early 20th century was a thriving but culturally undeveloped city, with little in the way of concert or operatic culture. An influx of refugees, however, fleeing war and persecution in Europe and lured by economic opportunities and beautiful weather, rapidly formed, within a few square miles near Hollywood, one of the most talented and prolific communities in music history….These composers transformed the musical culture of America in ways that are only now beginning to be fully appreciated.”

Smith and Chen explain more about their project in this video.

Photo collage (left to right): Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Alexandre Tansman, and Ernst Toch;  Charles Wakefield Cadman, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Henri Temianka, Toch, Miklós Rózsa; Rózsa and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.