Articles written for AUFBAU by Leonard J. Lehrman

AUFBAU 66:24 November 30, 2000 p.14
Oldest German Woman Composer

Set Texts by Nelly Sachs and Mascha Kaléko

Alice Samter, the oldest German woman composer alive today, was born in Berlin June 11, 1908--though some sources say 1907-- and still lives there. Her father, Georg Samter, was Jewish.
How did she survive there? "With hardships, like everyone else," she explained in a telephone interview with Aufbau from her home on Friedbergstraße. Her father "did not live through the Nazi era," having died in 1927, and her mother, Susanna (née Rothe), who died in 1952, was Protestant [Evangelisch], the religion in which Alice was brought up.

Works number over 300

This did not, however, prevent her from accepting honorary membership in, and having her chamber music featured in the concerts of, the Jüdischer Musiktheaterverein Berlin--at Berlin's Jüdisches Gemeindehaus, Amerikahaus, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, and elsewhere, in 1984-86. And her partially Jewish background can hardly be considered irrelevant regarding her choices of texts to set, especially Nelly Sachs and Mascha Kaléko.

A website [at] reveals that her works, which number over 300, began receiving performances right after World War II, and have been heard in Austria, Australia, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Venezuela, and the USA, as well as her native Germany. Having been interviewed on numerous radio and television programs, Alice Samter recently returned from a trip visiting friends in Sarasota, Florida. And in the "Diestel" in Berlin this past summer, she presented this musician and his group with a copy of her 1998 CD, Alice Samter: Kammermusik, AMU-Records Nr. 083-2, performed by Musica rara. (It is available from her in Berlin, or from her nephew [her closest living relative--she never married], Hansgeorg Samter, at Feldstr. 22, 46149 Oberhausen, Germany. [His email:]

The CD itself is full of gems, like the 2-minute Zwiegespräch for 2 Flutes, 9 other instrumental pieces, 4 songs (and an interlude) for voice and oboe, and one for soprano and percussion--an ironic setting of Margret Gottlieb's "Die ideale Frau"[--who can only exist "in the subjunctive"]. The style is both straightforward and uncompromising, rarely exceeding the limitations of good students, but never giving in to anything as obvious as conventional tonality or tunefulness.

Among the 13 hard-working performers, oboist Martin Noth is the busiest, along with flutist Frieder Gauer, Founder and Director of Musica rara in Erfurt. She is also the author of the program notes-- remiss only in not furnishing the texts sung (with excellent diction) by soprano Christa Sylvia Gröschke.

--Leonard J. Lehrman

The CD is available online at [34.95 DM 17.87 EUR].

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