1952 Salzburg

Jun 20, 1952 – Jul 3, 1952

Festival info

Start: Jun 20, 1952

End: Jul 3, 1952

Locations: Salzburg

Hosting member(s)


(in connection with the Third International Twelve Tone Congress)

From contemporaneous reviews and reports

“Profound changes in its organization, program planning, and artistic aims have opened up new vistas for the long-ailing International Society for Contemporary Music, which in the last two years has slowly but steadfastly regained its erstwhile prestige and re-established its truly international character. For many years the Society’s annual festivals had proved to be a playground for a limited group of Central European countries only, and within these, certain cliques had exercised autocratic rule; the ‘smaller’ countries and most national sections in the Western Hemisphere as well as in Asiatic countries were unduly neglected. Things came to a head when the United States Section retired from the Society and when, at a later point, many of the almost thirty sections took the U. S. Section’s view that the Society in its limitation of scope and appeal no longer fulfilled any useful musical–or, for that matter, social–purpose. At Salzburg last year a group of younger men took over, and they proved in the year of their work how much a well organized and internationally active society could really mean and achieve in the present-day world.

“A new idea had been tried out for the festival programs at Salzburg. Up to that point the jury of five responsible for the programming invariably examined the compositions submitted from the standpoint of the intrinsic merit of each work; now it was argued that at least one important work should be presented by each nation: thus, and only thus, could the delegates and visitors gain, at each year’s festival, a comprehensive notion of what was being written in the various countries of the world. … [T]he principle was somewhat too rigorously applied for the Salzburg Festival in 1952.”

— Peter Gradenwitz, “Current Chronicle: Norway,”
Musical Quarterly (USA), Vol. 39, No. 4 (October 1953), pp. 612-613.

“The United States and the parent body of the International Society for Contemporary Music are back in each other’s good graces. For the first time since 1948 an American composer will be officially represented in the annual I.S.C.M. festival.


“The chief bone of contention between the U.S. section and the parent body has been the size of the assessment the Americans should pay. At one time the parent body was asking as much as $600 , whereas other countries paid only $80. Apparently European composers had the mistaken notion that American composers had the same sort of incomes as American manufacturers. At all events, the U.S. section refused to pay more than the sections from other countries. The parent body retaliated by declaring ‘ineligible’ those American works which were submitted in 1949 and 1950. The U.S. section thereupon declined to submit any more works until this year, when it was conceded that the American assessment should be no heavier than that of other members.”

— Ross Parmenter, “World of Music: U.S. Group Returns – American Section Irons Out Differences with I. S. C. M.,”
New York Times, May 25, 1952, Drama, p. 7.

“The vast majority of works performed (and often badly performed) did not deserve a single hearing; again and again one had listen to ‘com-positions’ in the literal and rather unmusical sense of the sub-professional attempts to put together, more or (far) less successfully, completely undistinguished material. It is difficult to give the innocently reader an adequate picture of this orgy of incompetence. …

“In private, one would find practically every ISCM member agreeing one’s condemnation, the usual excuse or explanation being that ‘nothing was to be found.’ If, and as long as this is true, there is no logical justification for any ISCM Festival at all. One is aware that the primary object of Festivals is to give factual and empiric information about the state of modern music. But it is driving objectivity rather far to have a Festival for what, effect, becomes the main purpose of informing the public and the profession about the development of incompetence all over the world.

“Yes, all over the world. This year a new experiment was tried disastrous and, it must be said, foreseeable consequences. For the first that is to say, every country, every national section which had paid its subscription was represented by at least one work. … The musical result was both unfair and unbearable.”

— Hans Keller, “The 26th ISCM Festival at Salzburg,” Tempo, No. 24 (Summer 1952), p. 14.

“Fast jede der vierundzwanzig IGNM Sektionen, die sich an dem Salzburger Jubiläum beteiligten, war offenbar bestrebt, in einem möglichst „fortschrittlichen” Werk vertreten zu werden. Da die Ansichten über die Möglichkeiten des musikalischen Fortschritts in traditionell weniger belasteten, aber auch weniger „fortgeschrittenen” Gegenden wie Südafrika, Neuseeland, Argentinien, Brasilien andere sind als etwa in Italien, England, Frankreich, Belgien und andere auch bei den verschiedenen Komponisten, ergab sich bei der Aneinanderreihung der einzelnen Kompositionen ein wunderliches Gemisch von Stilen und Techniken, das vom romantischen Gefühlsausbruch mit falschen Bässen über den Impressionismus, Expressionismus und das abstrakte Töncspiel der neuen Himmelsstürmer bis zur superben Resignation in C beinahe alles in sich schloß, was in den letzten fünfzig Jahren auf irgendeine Weise neu und bahnbrechend gewesen ist. Bedauerlich, daß man dabei zumeist nur fromme Absicht merkte und sonst nichts.”

(“Almost every one of the twenty-four IGNM sections that participated in the Salzburg Jubilee was apparently anxious to be represented with as ‘progressive’ a work as possible. Since the views on the possibilities of musical progress in traditionally less burdened, but also less ‘advanced’ regions such as South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil are different from those in, say, Italy, England, France, Belgium and others also among the various composers, the juxtaposition of the individual compositions resulted in a strange mixture of styles and techniques, ranging from romantic emotional outbursts with false basses, through impressionism, expressionism, and the abstract tonal play of the new to the superb resignation in C, which included almost everything that has been in some way new and groundbreaking in the last fifty years. It is regrettable that one mostly noticed only pious intention and nothing else.”)

–Friedrich Saathen, “Notizen zum 26. Fest der IGNM,”
Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 7/7-8 (Wien, Austria: July-August 1952), p. 237
(in German; translated into English with the help of www.DeepL.com/Translator)

Programme information