Responses to African-American concert singers (1924-1932)


On Roland Hayes

“In Berlin some weeks ago, Roland Hayes, Negro Tenor (Time, Oct 8), gave a concert. To Germans, black men are “colonials”; they encountered them in the French line during the War; more recently, in the Ruhr. Learning that a member of this unpopular race was to appear publicly in their midst, Berliners were indignant. Protests were made to the American Ambassador against the “impertinence” of permitting a Negro to be heard on the concert stage, against the [audacity]… of offering musically scrupulous Berlin the tunes of the Georgia cotton-pickers. Hayers appeared. He sang his first number over the boos of several thousand public-spirited citizens who had come to witness his downfall. The house grew quiet. He sang a group of spirituals, then some songs in German, in French, Italian, Russian, English, and one in Japanese. The audience was explosive. Leaving Germany, the dusky tenor received offers for 40 engagements next season.”

– Time Magazine, September 15, 1924, pg. 13

“This is completely different from the non-European dance shows that we always find to intolerably plague us. What an contrast to the brutal “black” music songs from so astonishing European trimness like that of Roland Hayes! We were prepared to greet the Negro tenor two years ago. A Negro, who sings Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms in the original language, and – dare we almost say it- also is the musical original language! Alignment, expression, soulfulness, are [some of the attributes] found in the spiritual and intellectual expression of the Lied that [we hear in] [native] German Lieder singers. The voice, not always free from foreign resonances, found its best in an eminent and thoroughly-cultivated, fabulously light connection between the falsetto and the head register, of these powers/strengths something to manners emphasized. So one quickly believes that one is hearing a black Raval, also a black Steiner; and the comparison needs also not much to make, that this artist outside of its voice also [that it is] a voice with a soft spot for the ladies (?). Sometimes Roland Hayes purred like the Pride of the song-devil from Haiti. But under all the factors [remained] one overall remarkable appearance that the interest of the listener held excitedly and closely.”

– Neue Freie Presse, 10 October 1925

Because the whites are dancing Negro-dances in their salons, the black are now singing (apparently as friendly revenge) the Lieder of Hugo Wolf and Johannes Brahms. How far has our musical culture deeply moved the Wild West territories, our own scholars don’t necessarily agree. So much is certain, however, that the “black Caruso” – so the Americans call their illustrious darling Roland Hayes – is prepared to come to Vienna for the second time, in order to generate for the triumphal procession (Siegeszug) of European culture an example of evidence: Black before white (Schwarz vor Weiss). Today in America, he is a first-rate Artist. One mention his name in the same breath as Jascha Heifez and Fritz Kreisler. Over there he receives a concert fee of four thousand dollars, and with that is also classified as a real sTar, and strives to have the bearing and manners of one.”

– Neues Wiener Journal, October 8 1925, pg. 9

On Marian Anderson

“On the same evening [as an Emil Sauer concert], there was a remarkable event in the Bachsaal: on the podium stood a svelte, modernly-dressed Negro lady and [she] sang German Lieder, Verdi arias, and conclusively her Negro Spirituals. This remarkable woman sang German Lieder with an obvious control over the style, with the language so sensibly accentuated, [and] with convincing musicality. The strange phenomenon of Negro Tenor Roland Hayes finds a counterpart that is no less remarkable in the alto Marian Anderson. She is certainly most likely the first Negress to sing Lieder from an artistic format that one has encountered in the concert hall. The often quite considerable achievements of coloured Artists take on an obvious bias against each substantiation; in spite of that, however, Marian Anderson is still an isolated incident. She is also absolutely a “first class” phenomenon. one imagines this: [she is] a member of the black race, Artists through and through, and she began her evening with Lieder from Beethoven, and [then] closed with songs by Wagner, Liszt, and Grieg (all sung in German), followed by an Aria of Eboli and then an entire section of “Negro Spirituals” – which for us is a crucial measure of value for the first half of her program. And these German Lieder – above all those by Beethoven – she snag with such a mature understanding, so inspired and deeply musical, like one [one] had not heard every day.”

– Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 17 October, 1930, pg. 8

“Marian Anderson, Negro contralto, tall, slim, elegant in appearance, obviously used to appearing on the stage, enjoyed a tremendous success yesterday in the Bachsall. Her complexion is not altogether black, but she is dark, blue-black dark voice, which she handles with artistic accomplishment and taste. She sang lieder and songs in German, then the aria of Eboli from ‘Don Carlos’, which our contraltos have become so attached to, in Italian, then a series of Negro spirituals in English. Marian Anderson is very musical, and she gives, without any posing, strong and genuine expression and is a mistress of the styles of performance. In sound her voice sounds somewhat unusual to our ears, exotic: but we readily take a fancy to its appeal. The ballad “The Three Gypsies” by Franz Liszt is one of her showpieces: she can sing it twice without tiring the attention of her enthusiastic listeners… She is successful with gradations and nuances [of tone], acquired from brilliant perceptions which enthrall [the listener] spontaneously. Interesting women concert singers are few and far between. Here we have one who will continue to engage our attention.”

– Vossische Zeitung, found in Marian Anderson’s archive at UPenn

“Without being bluessen of the exotic: the recital of Marian Anderson Negro singer – actually she is mulatto, who lately studied with Madame Cahier in Vienna – was a big surprise. The Medium-sized, slender, of course, [yet] ample brown Mademoiselle is – as far as a white person is entitled to a judgement of taste – so generous, lively appearance with inky black hair, beautiful bright eyes and moving facial expressions. In her white, long cut silk dress, with a massive earthy red flower detail at the breast, she looked as if she had bathed too long in the African sun. On a necklace she wears a pearl in Maharaja format. The essence of the artist’s generous simplicity. The voice has a negroid coloring, the less seem to resonate overtones. A deep voice, like the brown skin. It goes deep down as a very dark old outspoken [one], and up surprisingly high, although it is a fresh bright Soprani, the high F in something [limited] in volume, but still overall amazing vocal range and to a register change of color. The voice sings effortlessly. Where does this little chest [find] such force? The essence of the race is their special talent for Spirituals, for the serious [and earnest], which is related to God and heaven. For this purpose, [Marian Anderson] applied an expression of feeling whose naturalness and depth are sometimes unbeatable.”

– Salzburger Volksblatt, 29 August 1935

On Aubrey Pankey

“[Aubrey Pankey] is a black man who sings Schubert and Richard Strauss with overwhelming intensity of feeling and forms them into great unforgettable experiences. he is boon for our period where one is very easily inclined to see in all Negro musicians mere Jazzband Clowns. There are evidently black men who are messengers of culture at its greatest.”

– Wiener Allgemeiner Zeitung, November 26 1931

“I don’t know. Every so often one sees a Negro, one has the feeling that he has  a quiet longing for tap-dancing. When he doesn’t laugh convulsively and who his blank teeth, there lies the first glance, that, in the truest sense of the word, he appears to be highly out of place in Europe. It lies obviously not in the color alone, because the little bit more or less black doesn’t depend on the life, and with members of the [lively] race one can (for example) entertain very well, but rather arguably in conscience monotony of the physical. The white, especially the German, is in his feeling more emotional, his music is more melodic and spiritually more immersed. We measure with a soulful active scale of feeling, [whereas] the Negro loves [his] uniformity, in which only the forced rhythms being an expression of joy.

To whom does one need to tell this? Since a dozen years ago, Europe laid willingly in the arms of the negroid Foxtrot rhythms. The true European cannot sympathize with the Nigger-man, nor dance very well to his music. years ago, by the way, ain brilliant published article from Dr. J. Korngold [called for us] to act out against this pollution through Nigger-muisc. he wrote that… the Negro said to himself, what the white bones are right is, must also be in the European heart… Aubrey Pankey, a Negro Baritone, gave a Liederabend in Salzburg. It should at the same time pointed out, that the fear that after conquering the dance halls, the black race would also annex the German Lied hardly exists.

Aubrey Pankey – he supposedly came by his education in Vienna – is without a doubt a sincere and… clever Artist. The voice is different natured from us Europeans. It sits very far back and is very guttural. It evidently has to do with the negroid mouth-structure. For our taste it lacks color, especially in piano, the ability to modulate, [and] shading. The strength of the voice lies in the impact and force of breathing. The upper register has so much glazing volume in forte, but it lacks contrast between the dramatic and the lyrical. If this voice dampens, its inks into a tender but monotonous gray.

To the prickling fire of Richard Strauss’s songs lacked a complexion, Schubert succeeded there the best, where [Pankey] was tragic. The Negro spirituals in their narrow combined, repeated melodies, that for us Europeans is a bit austere, moaning ,and calm in their harmonic primitivity [when] most authentic. So they looked also to us, the Negro, when they were by us with their lamentations for the homeland…Mister Pankey certainly in his Art a real Artist. But this Art is more interesting empographically than it is soulful. Professor Franz Ledwinika accompanied him with great understanding. There was much praise and encores.

The protest against Negro music came, like I said, abundantly too late. Incidentally [this] carries one today already Cuba, where, like generally known, without protest the Uncle Jumba in Columbia dances the Rumba. We are retreating already closer also in Europe and perhaps there will come a day when the Old World will discover itself gain.

Police Measures

The national socialists had comprised themselves into a protest against the appointed concert of the Negro Baritone. A flyer circulated int eh city, in which they took up the position against the “Jews” and “Negro spirit” and party members indirect to the demonstrations of the concert were invited to participate. The police had had the according large measures met. In order to hold the demonstrators’ visit afar, the ticket booth was closed that evening. The police stood on the steps and halls of the house, [making it possible] to only enter the building with an entrance ticket. Also in the hall – the concert took place in the Wiener Saal of Mozarteum – were a great number of detectives in civil clothes spread out. The concert went forward without incident.

In front of the house we found more of around 250 Hitler-followers, most of them very young in age, who began around 8 o’clock to sing and as a speaking chorus to cheer. The police allowed the demonstrators at the beginning to be quiet but as it became clear that the hours-long disturbance of the peace was intentional, they began to push the same people away until Hanibalgasse, where the police formed a cordon [i.e., a line of police or soldiers preventing people from entering or leaving a building]. Even still the square in front of the Mozarteum in the direction opposite the protestant church was sealed and bolted. Before the cordon by the theater these young people carried forth their demonstration until they were pushed away from the Wache to Bismarckstrasse and over the Makartplatz, Dreifaltigkeitsgasse and Staatsbruecke. A troop of Hitler demonstrators later tried to attack and break through the Mozarteum from the Theatergasse entrance but were stopped. The demonstrators were again pushed away and also this time again without special force, before all of them without application of the Gummiknuettel. At 10 o’clock there was finally silence in the streets. One of the demonstrators to the dedication of the Nationals was stopped.”

– Salzburger Volksblatt, 10 May, 1932

“Guard Baritone After Austrians Demonstrate

Vienna. Austria. May 13. – An unparalleled situation arose here Monday evening when Aubrey Pankey, an American Race baritone, was threatened by a mob of Hitlerites who staged a demonstration outside Mozart concert hall in Salzburg.

Answering the riot call, state police rushed to the concert hall and were told by the Vienna government to put down the Hitlerite Nazis at all ocsts. After a furious battle the demonstrators were driven off. Hundreds of persons who attended the recital of Mr. Pankey were given poice protection.

Surprised at Demonstration

When told in his dressing room of the demonstration outside the concert hall, Mr. Pankey did not seem the least bit alarmed. “We are accustomed to this sort of thing in the southern sections of the United States,” he said, “but I never expected this in Europe.”

Musical leaders declared this was the first time such an occurrence ever had happened in Austria. Paul Robeson has packed concert halls in Vienna and Salzburg often in recent years and always has received courteous treatment, they said.

Attack Jews Also

It is understood that the Hitlerite Nazis are bitterly opposed to members of the Race. These Austrian Fascists heretofore have launched their attacks against Jews.

Tuesday a mob of Nazis threatened to break up the show of the famous American actress Josephine Baker who is performing in vaudeville here. They have called upon “misguided Austrians” to boycott the American star.

It is said that the Nazis is similar to the Ku Klux Klan in America.”

Chicago Defender Foreign News Service. The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967); May 14, 1932; ProQuest historical Newspapers: Chicago Defender (1910-1975), pg. 2.