Letter from Ferdinand Rauter to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
26. September 1942

28, Clarendon Road,
London, W.11.

Dear Dr. Vaughan Williams,

I want to thank you very much for your very kind letter. The problem with which you deal in it is very well known to me and I have tried hard to penetrate it and find a solution.
I admit that the Austrians often seemed to have imposed their culture upon other countries. This fact can, however, be understood for two reasons. First of all because the Austrian musician loves and understands his own music as part of his own self. Secondly because he judges foreign from his own tradition, not knowing that other traditions have cultural roots other than his own.
This mistake became obvious when it showed itself in daily life: In discussions between Austrian and British people, of “facts” which seemed clear and logical to both parties and yet in a quite different way. Many of us came to realize very soon, after arrival in this country, that with the translation of words the translation of real meaning did not follow. No wonder that it took us musicians quite a long time to realize that to an even greater extent the same mistake occurred in the judgement of British music. It is practically impossible to learn a foreign language outside its own country and just as impossible or even more so to understand national music outside its own surroundings. The few musicians in a few Austrian cities who had the rare chance of hearing English musicians or composers could not assess this music or those performers in the right sense and most of it was lost.
The immigration of Austrians to this country has given them the best and only opportunity of re[a]lizing this fact. As far as they were allowed to they tried to root themselves in British soil and be n[o]urished by it. Slowly they began to understand what “British” means and that the musicality of the British people was existent too, even to an astonishing degree, but different.
I believe that now we have the opportunity for real understanding between the British and ourselves, greater than ever before. Those Austrian musicians who are sufficiently mature earnestly desire this opportunity of cooperation in a mutual fertilization of ideas.
But where are the Austrian musicians in this country and who are they? You know yourself that most of them were only allowed to remain musicians in their heart but the urge to execute their art remained strong. We need them united just because of that old Austrian tradition which by now may have been wiped out in the old home country. We want to help those who had to remain too - in a spiritual sense. Nobody will understand better than you what it means for an artistic mind, created to express itself through  music, to be forced by fate to work in an uncongenial job not just for weeks or months, but for years.
The chief aims of our Group seem to me therefore:
1. To group and register the Austrian musicians and give them as much spiritual and material help as possible.

2. To create better possibilities for practising good music, for lectures, discussions, etc, in order to save the threatened flower of Austrian musical culture.

3. To cooperate as a unit with our British friends so that we may proceed united on the path of mutual understanding and artistic appreciation to help each other to be two individual, stout plants destined to give joy and beauty to generations to come.

With the general call-up of most of the Austrians our endeavour may seem futile. I do not think so, however, because I am sure that the true musician - even after ten hours of national work in a factory - will happily devote part of his remaining free hours to the practise of good music.
I hope that these aims will convince you that our desires are just the opposite of what you feared. Since the time when you helped us to be released from internment,1 you have been our best and truest friend; we cannot thank you enough for this. We can however show you proof, that we want to be worthy of your friendship and I, personally, will always use my powers, when it becomes possible through our union, to guide our Austrian musicians to the great aim of mutual understanding and esteem, so that we can work as friends and brothers, and in a happier future, reap what we have sown together.
Now you will understand that we wanted you, the Guardian of British music to protect us and our aims. The formal name of “Patron” should only be the outer sign of what you have always been: our helper and our friend.2
Very sincerely

F. Rauter.

1. VW chaired a Committee which recommended to the Home Office the release of musicians from British internment camps.
2. Rauter had written to VW about Anglo-Austrian music and relations - see VWL1680 for VW's reply.  Rauter laid the foundations for the Anglo-Austrian Music Society and had invited VW to become its patron. See VWL1680.

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Music & Migration Collections
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Typewritten carbon copy.

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