Es Geht Wohl Anders (Things Turn Out Differently): The Unexpected Life of Walter Arlen

About This Exhibit

Contributors: Michael Haas, Mary Pinkerson, William Katin 
Editor and Curator: Caroline Luce
Art Director: David Wu
Walter Arlen’s natural talent for music had been nurtured from a young age and as his eighteenth birthday approached in 1938, his fate seemed to be sealed.  He would study composition, learning from the luminaries of Vienna, and eventually take over the family’s Dichter department store. But that future was taken from him when, after the Anschluβ of Austria, Nazi storm troopers raided the family store, seizing the family’s property and arresting his father. Although he was able to secure his father’s release, Walter lost his mother and several other family members as a result of the events that unfolded that night and within a year he had left Austria to start over in America.

While torn from his home, his family and his country, Walter’s deep connection to the musical world of Vienna endured and manifested itself throughout his life in America.  After a few years working with Roy Harris in Chicago, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue graduate studies in composition at UCLA and soon earned a job as a music critic for the Los Angeles Times.  He held the post for over thirty years, immersing himself in a community of world-renowned composers and musicians, many of whom had themselves escaped the Nazis and found refuge in Los Angeles, and watching as the city grew into an international center for classical music. In the same years, he founded, built and chaired the Music Department at Loyola Marymount University, and forged a network of friends and artistic influences, and all the while kept composing, creating a series of works that were eventually performed in Vienna in 2008, seventy years after that fateful night that tore his life apart in 1938.

Walter Arlen’s life encapsulates the refrain from his earliest composition: “Es Geht Wohl Anders (Things Turn out Differently).” Although it was not the life he had imagined for himself as a young man, Arlen’s years in Los Angeles also opened up unique possibilities, opportunities, social relationships he might never have had if he stayed in Vienna. And he eventually accomplished many of his childhood ambitions: he studied composition, he rubbed elbows with many of the great European masters, and his music was performed on the Viennese stage.  The tragedies, painful losses and injustices he faced along the way only make these achievements more outstanding.  

This exhibit will explore Walter Arlen’s life and work, placing special emphasis on his years in Los Angeles. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Walter Arlen himself, who was interviewed extensively as part of the project, and to Howard Myers, who assisted with our research. We would also like to thank Schüetz Design and the Jewish Museum of Vienna, who were kind enough to share materials from their archives.

"Es Geht Wohl Anders" features works by three authors, each of which can be accessed in the menu at the top left above: 

Michael Haas, "Arlen in LA" - trained as a pianist at Vienna's University of Music and Performing Arts, Haas is a multi-Grammy winning recording producer who, beginning in the 1980s, spearheaded efforts to recover music suppressed during the years of the Third Reich, resulting in a series of recordings on London/Decca "Entartete Musik." He continued that research as Music Curator at the Jewish Museum of Vienna until 2010, and during a research trip to Los Angeles, he became acquainted with Walter Arlen, eventually producing two albums of recordings of his music for records. He is co-chairman of the center, based at Vienna's University of Music and Performing Arts, which serves as a centre for the reception, preservation and research of Austrian composers, performers, musical academics and thinkers who, during the years of the ‘Third Reich’ were branded as ‘degenerate.' Haas also serves as director of Research at the Jewish Music institute’s ‘International Centre of Suppressed Music’ at Royal Holloway, University of London, as well as research associate at University College London’s school of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Read more about Haas' storied career as a producer, curator and musical historian here

William M. Katin, "The Dichter Department Store and Jewish Retailers in Vienna," 

Mary Enid Pinkerson, “Walter Arlen Music Critic” earned her Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California School of Religion. As Community Affairs Coordinator for the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center of Jewish Studies she has befriended many European refugees and Holocaust survivors, developing service learning classes in partnership with the Jewish Family Service’ Café Europa, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Hillel at UCLA, and the 1939 Society. She also worked with the UCLA Confucius Institute and Hillel at UCLA to create an exhibition on Jewish Refugees in Shanghai that highlighted the role China played in helping save over 18,000 Jewish men, women, and children from Nazi persecution from 1933-1941.