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Karol Rathaus

Karol Rathaus

German-Austrian composer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German-Austrian composer
Countries United States of America Austria Poland
Occupations Composer Film score composer Educator
Gender male
Birth 16 September 1895 (Ternopil, Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine)
Death 21 November 1954 (New York City, New York, U.S.A.)
Star sign Virgo
The details

Karol Rathaus (Karl Leonhard Bruno Rathaus; also Leonhard Bruno; * 16 September 1895 in Tarnopol (Galicia), Austro-Hungary, today Ukraine; † 21 November 1954 in Flushing/New York City) was a German-Austrian Jewish composer who emigrated to the USA via Berlin, Paris, and London, escaping the rise of Nazism in Germany.


Rathaus began composing at an early age, beginning his studies in 1913/1914 at the Academy of Performing Arts and Music in Vienna. His studies were interrupted by his military service during the First World War 1918/1919. As one of the favorite pupils of Franz Schreker Rathaus followed him to the Academy of Music in Berlin, where he continued to study music and composition. After graduation, Rathaus acceoted the position of a teacher of composition and music theory at the Berlin University of the Arts. Rathaus lived in Berlin from 1922-1932, during which time his first compositions caused a sensation and achieved great success.

After his 1930 opera Fremde Erde, Rathaus created film music and was among the artistically outstanding film composers in Germany before 1933. He wrote the music for three films by Fyodor Ozeps. In 1933 he went to Paris and lived in London from 1934 to 1938, before he finally settled in New York.

In 1940 he became a professor of composition at Queens College. In this position he achieved prestige and popularity. In addition, he was also successful as a composer, writing many commissioned works and several film scores. He died in 1954 in New York. Handwritten manuscripts, published works, and correspondence to and from Rathaus are available for research at the Queens College Special Collections and Archives.

His compositional output includes mostly instrumental works: symphonies, orchestral works, serenades, sonatas and ballets. He saw his compositions in the tradition of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Igor Stravinsky and his teacher Franz Schreker.

In the Third Reich, his compositions were classified as "degenerate art" and assigned a performance ban. He is now considered one of the many great 'composers in exile'.

Rathaus was married to Gerta and had a son named Bernt. As of 2016, a documentary film is being made about Rathaus in exile.

Selected filmography

  • The Trunks of Mr. O.F. (1931)
  • Here's Berlin (1932)
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