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Press Releases

Austrian Cultural Forum NYC Offer New York Film Premier of Life of Exiled Gay Jewish Composer Walter Arlen

June 10, 2019 | By Austrian Cultural Forum NYC

Walter Arlen was born in Vienna as Walter Aptowitzer and changed his name to Walter Arlen when he arrived in US. He is not related to Harold Arlen.  Arlen is a Gay Jewish composer and this moving film shows his life and work.


FILM SCREENING Austrian Cultural Forum New York City


WEDNESDAY, JUN 12 2019, 06:30 PM


WALTER ARLEN’S FIRST CENTURY, a documentary by Vienna-based filmmaker Stephanus Domanig, paints an affectionate and multifaceted picture of a musician exiled in 1938, who only got to see his works performed late in life.

The film accompanies Walter Arlen for a part of his journey. With ease it paints the portrait of a remarkable man, a man who went through years of darkness but never lost sight of the “blue light of the last streetcar”.

We are extremely honored to present the New York City premiere of WALTER ARLEN’S FIRST CENTURY.

Following the 90-minute screening of the film, there will be a Q&A with exilarte’s founding Director Gerold Gruber and filmmaker Stephanus Domanig. Jeannie Im (soprano) and Dan Franklin Smith (piano) will present examples of Arlen’s musical oeuvre including “Five Songs of Love and Yearning.”


Walter Arlen 
was born in 1920 and grew up in the Viennese district of Ottakring as the grandson of the Jewish department store owner Leopold Dichter.  His musicality was noticed early on. But Austria’s “Anschluss” to the Third Reich destroyed all dreams of music when he was faced with the struggle to stay alive. The family was torn apart, but an affidavit from the US saved the nineteen-year-old. Consumed by homesickness, longing and despair, Walter Arlen threw himself into his music. He found a new home, the love of his life, and a career as a music critic for the Los Angeles Times. He kept his own music a secret, thinking a career as a music critic must inevitably compromise his integrity as a composer. But in private, he wrote stories through music that should not be forgotten: Of leaving and arriving, of searching and finding. Of the pain life inflicts upon us - and of the incredible wonders it also presents. Exile music is not written by those who life left unchallenged. That Walter Arlen’s musical memories did eventually find a stage and an audience, is in large part thanks to his partner, Howard Myers, and the exil:arte Center at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. That he finally got to hear his works - at the age of 97! - at Vienna’s Konzerthaus is just one of Walter Arlen’s many victories.

Stephanus Domanig, born in 1967 in South Tyrol / Italy, is a graduate of the Film Academy Vienna, specializing in film directing. WALTER ARLEN ARLEN’S FIRST CENTURY premiered at the Viennale 2018, and was shown at the Diagonale 2019, Tel Aviv Epos Filmfestival 2019, and the Los Angeles Jewish Filmfestival 2019. 
His other films include BACKSTAGE WIENER STAATSOPER – documentary 2019 (96 min.)FOR MY SISTERS – documentary 2014 (94 min.), JUST BALLET – documentary 2012 (102 min.), RAUNACHT – TV Movie 2006 (45 min.), LUCY McEVIL – Diseuse on a winter journey – documentary 2005 (60 min.), and BALLET SPECIAL– documentary 2003 (60 min.). He has also done various TV productions for the German cultural broadcaster “Arte” and “3sat / ZDF.” Stephanus Domanig lives and works with his family in Vienna and in Lower Austria’s Waldviertel.

Equally at home in Mozart, German cabaret, Viennese operetta, contemporary American opera and early music, Jeannie Im has been lauded by Opera Newsfor her “gorgeous line and touching intensity” and by the Süddeutsche Zeitung for her “warm, powerful soprano.” Ms. Im’s concert work includes several performances as soloist at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble (Poulenc’s Gloria and John Rutter’s Requiem and Magnificat among other pieces), soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Grace & Spiritus Chorale of Brooklyn, and the Villa-Lobos  Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with the Yale Symphony Orchestra.  She has made a specialty of championing music by composers who either died or were exiled from Germany and Austria during World War II, recently performing Five Songs for Soprano and String Quartet by Karl Weigl at the Caroga Lake Music Festival, in addition to numerous concerts of exiled composers under the auspices of Elysium-Between Two Continents in New York and throughout Europe. Operatic highlights include Gloria in the Italian premiere of Krenek’s What Price confidence at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Beatrice/Antiope in the world premiere of Lustgarten’s Dante im Exil at the Elysium Bernried Festival, Fiordiligi with Underworld Productions at Symphony Space NY, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier at the Altenburger Musikfestival, and Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare with Brooklyn Opera.   

Gerold Gruber is University Professor of Music at the Institute for Musicology at the MDW - University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, Austria. He is also the head of, the MDW’s center of study for the reception, preservation, performance, publication, and revival of suppressed European composers and musicians during the years of the Third Reich, with archival and exhibition facilities. Under his supervision published a book series, beginning withThe Impact of Nazism on Twentieth-Century Music (ed. Erik Levi, Böhlau Verlag, 2014). For his work with Austrian exile studies, Gruber received the "Golden Stars Award" given by the commission of the European Union (2009) as well as the Bank Austria Art Prize (2010), and the Innovation Prize of IG Kultur in Vienna (2014). From 2010 to 2013 he also led the project sponsored by the European Union entitled "Accentus Musicalis," a program in early music performance and research. His essays have appeared in numerous journals and collections. He is the editor of Arnold Schönberg, Interpretationen seiner Werke, 2 volumes(Laaber, 2002). His recent exile studies include Wolfgang Fraenkel, Julius Schloss, Julius Bürger, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and others. 

Dan Franklin Smith (Piano) is a resident of New York City and performs at concert venues throughout the US. He made his European recital debut in 1997 in Sweden. The following year he made his European orchestral debut in Stockholm at Sofia Kyrkan and was later featured on Swedish TV.  Soon after, he made a debut recording with the Gävle Symfoniorkester (Kurt Atterberg’s Piano Concerto). Another recording  soon followed with the Stuttgart Philharmonic (two of Swiss composer Hans Huber’s Piano Concerti). These premiere recordings received outstanding reviews and are broadcast on dozens of classical stations throughout the US. With Elysium Between-Two-Continents he has been showcased in performances of the music of Viktor Ullmann at the ACFNY and in Europe, recently in Wroclaw, Bratislava, Lisbon, Berlin and Vancouver. Major German newspapers praised his work for “stirring emotionalism, precision with keen intensity…” As collaborative pianist and vocal accompanist and coach he has been in demand for his expertise for over 30 years, performing at venues such as The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Cleveland Museum’s Distinguished Artist Series, and Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. He is a member of the American Matthay Association for Piano, and frequently performs at their yearly conferences.




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