Heritage


31 August 2006: Dissolution of the Orpheus Trust

Press communication dated 30 May 2007 regarding the termination of the Orpheus Trust

Everybody who is interested in our work is asking themselves:
Why do the collections of the Orpheus Trust have to leave Austria, why are they going to Berlin?
But we ask ourselves: Why don’t they talk about the reasons why we had to close?

We have a clear answer: official institutions in Austria let the Orpheus Trust starve; they showed too little interest in our work and in the results.

Therefore, the managing board of the Orpheus Trust had to chose the termination of its activities and seek a secure placement of its collection.
On 22 June 2006, the general assembly decided, following the proposal of the managing board, and together with the artistic and scientific advisory board, to voluntarily dissolve the association as of 31 August 2006 and to order the transfer of the collection to Berlin.

Why Berlin?

The archive of the Academy of Arts is the most important relevant institution in German speaking countries and is in charge of 800 bequests, among them the archive of the Jüdischer Kulturbund and many musical estates of exiled composers like Ralph Benatzky, Hanns Eisler, Hans Heller, Georg Knepler, Artur Schnabel, Ruth Schoenthal, Misha Spoliansky and Igance Strasfogel. It is thus one of the largest relevant institutions, is reputed worldwide, has persons specializing in Austrian music, and is used by researchers and interested persons from all over the world. The music archive’s director Dr. Werner Grünzweig, is a leading Austrian musicologist in the field of exiled music.

What is the Academy of Arts’ mission?

The complete material remains as the ‘archive of the Orpheus Trust’ – it will not be divided into recordings, scores, photos, etc. After establishing an inventory by a collaborator especially dedicated to this work, the entire material will be at the public’s disposal, free of charge. Another part of the agreement is the publication of a book (editor Dr. Werner Grünzweig, co-editor Dr. Primavera Gruber) and the digitalization of the recordings. The archive of the Academy of Arts will report about its activities twice a year.


A loss for Austria?

Yes, in a way – compared to a financially secure continuation of the Orpheus Trust’s work. As long as the Orpheus Trust could still be active, when it was still fighting to survive, some institutions which could have possibly funded its work were not interested, in spite of a good cooperation. And: not every dedicated musicologist is automatically an expert on exiled music. The Academy of Arts has this expertise and it will be well served by focussing more on Austria. Who ever wants – and we hope that there will be many – to research persecuted music or to have it performed, will not be impeded by the transfer of the collections to Berlin.

Here are some details:

• Regarding the transfer of the Orpheus Trust collection to the Academy of Arts in Berlin.

On 19 September 2006 the contract between the Orpheus Trust and the Archive of the Academy of Arts in Berlin was signed by representatives of both institutions.
The Archive of the Academy of Arts, chosen by the Orpheus Trust board of trustees on 22 June 2006 is responsible for more than 800 musical estates. The music archive alone comprises more than 90 individual bequests, thematic and general collections as well as recordings. 6 archivists and sound technicians are taking care of these collections. Thus it is not only the largest such institution, it also has an excellent reputation worldwide and is being used by researchers and interested persons all over the world.
The material stays together as ‘Archive Orpheus Trust’. After an inventory has been established by a collaborator in charge, the complete material will be available to the public free of charge and a book publication, a presentation of the collection and the digitalization of recordings will be realized.
The archive of the Academy of Arts will report twice a year about its activities – the information will be transmitted to the members and friends of the orpheus Trust by a successor organization that is arranged for by the liquidators to represent the interests of the Orpheus Trust in the future. A close cooperation with the ‘European Platform for Music persecuted by National Socialism’, founded by the Orpheus Trust is also envisaged.

We are convinced that we have taken the right decision for a long-term future of the Orpheus collection. We are grateful to all the institutions worldwide which offered to help and proposed solutions. They all made valuable proposals but in the end only one institution emerged as the one best suited.

• Evaluating the beneficiary institution

In December 2005 the Orpheus Trust wrote to approx. 30 institutions worldwide asking for offers regarding a transfer of the archives and a possible continuation of its activities. Three institutions were short listed, because only they corresponded to the expectations: Beth Hatefutsoth, the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, the Archive of the Academy of Arts in Berlin and the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.

• Property issue

The Orpheus Trust was the owner of the archives – they were donated, not purchased. All its organs and donators of bequests were involved in the decision regarding the future depository and approved the board’s decision. Some of the donators even deliberately added musical estates to be transferred to the Archive of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin.

• Bone of contention – lacking funds

Financial support for the Orpheus Trust was always insufficient to support the, in our view, responsible task which had been neglected for many years by other institutions of the Republic of Austria.

Between 2003 and 2006 we intensely tried to get adequate financial support by the public authorities. We also appealed to our members and put a call for support on the internet. The echo was heart warming, but it did not change the halfhearted attitude.

In spite of the difficult financial situation, large projects, such as the France Festival 2005 and the conference ‘Face the Music” 2006 have been realized, devoting many hours of unpaid work.

But to no avail. Especially the State Secretary for the Arts did not consider our work worth while. Appeals by VIPs did not lead to a turn-around.


• The dissolution of the trust

In an e-mail dated 30 August 2006 summarized here, we wrote:
On 22June 2006, the general assembly, much to our regret, decided upon the recommendation of the board, together with the artistic and scientific advisory board to voluntarily dissolve the Trust as of 31 August 2006, due to insufficient financing. At the same time, the general assembly has decided to hand over the archives to the institution which offered the best conditions. It was agreed to transfer the material to the Archives of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.

• Future

Maybe the starving of the Orpheus Trust will serve as a new beginning, or maybe even intensify the initiatives. What we, the liquidators together with interested persons, can do is – convey information about our own research projects on exiled music or that of others, in Austria and all over the world. We will also continue to be members of the platform initiated by the Orpheus Trust.


• 10 years Orpheus Trust

In spite of comparably very small public funds, the Orpheus Trust has, during the 10 years of its existence, in more than 300 concerts and other events presented up to 3000 persecuted musicians to the public.
4730 persecuted musicians have been 'discovered' - mostly by our own research - and 1300 compositions have been documented, a library with 1300 compositions and approx. 1000 books and magazines compiled, a sound archive of more than 1000 titles established, numerous bequests or parts thereof (originals and copies) were received, inventaorized, researched and made public. Some results of our research have been published; the magazine “Zwischenwelt” (publication of the Theodor Kramer Society) had a separate ‘Orpheus-Supplement’.
Approx. 3000 enquiries were answered, a comprehensive web page was created, about 2500 members and interested parties received regular information and programs. On 5 May 2006, on the occasion of the meeting ‘Face the Music’, the ‘European Platform for Music persecuted by National Socialism’, which had been proposed by Primavera Gruber, was established by participants from six European countries.
We, the liquidators of the Orpheus Trust are still responsible for its coordination in Austria and are available for requests.

With special thanks for your support received hitherto and with best regards

Dr. Heinz Lunzer
Dr. Felix Mayerhofer-Grüenbühl
Dr. Primavera Gruber
Liquidators of the Orpheus Trust
c. /o. Sigmundsgasse 11/14
1070 Vienna