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Arts and Culture

Cellist To Perform Music of Composer Who Was Exiled by Nazis

Richard Stöhr, 1925"

Cellist Stefan Koch discovered the mostly overlooked music of Austrian composer Richard Stöhr nearly 100 years after it was composed.  Mr. Koch believes the music is largely unknown due to Stöhr’s Jewish background, and his history of being forced out of Nazi-controlled Austria in the late 1930s.

"When the Nazis first took over Austria, the idea of mass extermination of the Jews hadn't really, I'm sure they'd thought of it, but they hadn't acted on it yet.  So the idea was to simply get rid of the Jews, to force them out, to silence them.  That's what happened to Richard Stöhr," said Koch.

Credit richardstoehr.com
Stoehr was guest lecturer at Howard University, Washington DC in 1945

Fortunately, Stöhr escaped Nazi-occupied Austria and immigrated to the United States, where he became an educator and continued to compose music for the rest of his career.  Mr. Koch believes the timing of Stöhr’s decision to leave Austria saved his life, but it also crippled Stöhr’s career.

Stoehr, 1950s

"I think a tremendous injustice was done to him...The Nazis just simply wanted to silence him...and they got what they wanted.  And, not to make it sound too grandiose, but I just don't want to live in a world where that can happen to an artist," said Koch.

Credit richardstoehr.com
Stefan Koch, Hedi Stoehr Ballantyne, Bärli Nugent (daughter of one of Stöhr’s students) and Robert Conway at a September 2014 performance of Stöhr’s cello and piano music in Vermont

Mr. Koch loves the music and the story behind it, and he’s traveled around the world sharing the compositions and story of Richard Stöhr, even to Germany and Austria, where Stöhr’s work is unknown to most, despite their great interest in classical music.

Conversation between UPR's Arts Reporter; Mikey Kettinger and Stefan Koch