Wilhelm Rettich (1892-1988), German-Dutch Composer and Conductor

Wilhelm Rettich

Heinz Moehn knew Wilhelm Rettich at least as early as 1947, when he wrote to the poet Rudolf Alexander Schröder “on behalf of my friend Willy Rettich” (“Im Auftrage meines Freudes Willy Rettich”) to share with him a setting Rettich had made of Schröder’s “Media in Vita.” Rettich also sent the photograph of himself featured here to Moehn in 1949 with a friendly inscription.

It is possible that Moehn and Rettich were associated through Schott Verlag, as many of the latter’s compositions were published by Schott. However, their bond was long-lasting and continued beyond professional associations. Two letters from Rettich to Moehn, written in December of 1972, illustrate their friendly and intensely musical bond. The first is entirely personal: Rettich sends his best wishes for the new year, and relates the news that his wife, the singer Else Barther, was ill and in the hospital. The second letter discusses two of Rettich’s compositions for men’s choir, his Die Königskinder, op. 34 and Nachtbilder, op.78.

As a Jewish musician, Rettich’s safety in Nazi Germany was tenuous. When his cantata Fluch des Krieges (Curse of War), Op.10 was specifically targeted by the Nazis, he fled Germany for the Netherlands, where he remained from 1933 to 1964. He survived the German occupation of the Netherlands by hiding in a cellar, and during this time he composed his Sinfonia Giudaica—in memoriam fratrum, Op.53, among other works. Although he had become a Dutch citizen during his time in the Netherlands, he returned to Germany in 1964.

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Baser, Friedrich. “Rettich, Wilhelm.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Frühauf, Tina, and Lily E. Hirsch. “Represence of Jewishness in German Music Commemorating the Holocaust since the 1980s.” In Dislocated Memories: Jews, Music, and Postwar German Culture. 223-239. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Moehn, Heinz. Heinz Moehn to Rudolf Alexander Schröder, 23 May 1947. Letter

Rettich, Wilhelm. Wilhelm Rettich to Heinz Moehn, 29 December 1972. Letter.

---. Wilhelm Rettich to Heinz Moehn, 31 December 1972. Letter.