23 Sept. 1896 Born in Berlin into a German-Jewish middle class family. His parents were religious but not strictly orthodox. When AW was 10 years old, his father died of tuberculosis. He adored his mother singing to him a song with a high voice for an angel and a low voice for St Peter. He received a good education, felt himself to be a loner but loved football.
He was studying law at University when he was conscripted into the
Army and fought on the Eastern front in World War I later the Western front.
He suffered terrible traumas from the cries of pain and for not going to help
one agonising soldier. He returned shell shocked and broken in health.
1919/20 He travelled to Italy, re-found strength and inspiration. Returning to Germany, he abandoned law and decided he wanted to sing. His lack of progress with his teachers prompted him to develop his own theories integrating his appreciation of music, art, literature and current psychological studies of the time (notably C.G. Jung).
1933 Hitler’s party the National Socialists take over power. Jews were further discriminated against. AW began his first manuscript “Orpheus or the Way to a Mask”.
1935 When trying to get working papers for permission to teach singing, he was advised by Kurt Singer (Director of Berlin City Opera) to contact Paula Lindberg, the famous singer and Charlotte’s step-mother, for help. AW gave Paula lessons and spoke of his own theories on the voice. First meets Charlotte and talks with her for hours about art and creativity during the next years. Had no idea he had any influence on her.
1939 In January, Charlotte leaves for the south of France. A month later, AW flees Berlin to London, helped by Alice Croner. September: War declared.
1940 To avoid internment, AW volunteers to join the Pioneer Corps, he is later invalided out.
1943 AW is given permission by the British Government to give singing lessons.
1945 World War II finishes AW begins his longest and most comprehensive manuscript “The Bridge”. (Awe's letter below)
1947 Sheila Braggins, met AW in London in 1947 at Alice Croners House in Temple Fortune on the same day that she went for an interview at Guys Hospital to possibly start Physiotherapy training. At that time he was teaching in Alice Crooner's sitting room. Roy also started lessons there at this time.
1949 Marita Gunther's date of coming to England from Germany was 1949 when she got a job as a domestic servant with a Mrs Moreau who lived in Guildford. She wrote to AW and met him in London at the studio, 139 Golders Green Road in that year. AW goes to Amsterdam for an operation with Dr Salomon, hears of Charlotte’s death but Dr S knew nothing about the paintings at that time.
1950’s AW has many students. No constant daily contact at that time. Articles are written and contacts made with leading composers, musicians, actors, writers to pass on the work but there is no great response. In ’56, Jenny Johnson performs in the Hoffnung Music Festival to good reviews. A record “Vox Humana” is issued by Folkways and is released in the US.
’56, Kaya Anderson starts lessons with Roy Hart and later with AW.
In the late ‘50s, AW’s ill health intensifies. BBC documentary with AW ‘58. Aldous and Julian Huxley visit the studio.
’59 AW’s work is acknowledged by Dr Paul Moses, Speech and Voice Professor at Stanford University, San Francisco.
Feb.1962 AW health deteriorates and he dies after developing a chest
infection while in hospital. He had been teaching up to 10 days before his
ALFRED WOLFSOHN, his early researches
;;;;;;;;;;;When Alfred Wolfsohn was discharged from the German Military Hospital in 1919, it was not because he was 'cured' from either the mustard gas poisoning that he had received in the trenches, nor the 'Combat Trauma' that he was suffering from due to his military service in the first world war; on the contrary, it was because there was no further treatment that the doctors were able to offer him. For the next ten years, he struggled with this appalling state of health.
;;;;;;;;;;;Before 1914, he had pursued singing as an interest; partly in connection with the musical training he had had but also because he had a naturally pleasing singing voice. However after the war, this was no longer the case. In the ten years following his release from the hospital, one of the first means that he pursued to restore his health was to try and re-find his lost voice. He went to a number of highly reputed singing teachers but none of them were able to help him.
;;;;;;;;;;;By 1930, he was sufficiently himself again to be able to continue his pre-war job as a singing coach for professional classical singers. They came to him to redress their vocal problems. In working with them, he began to realise that their vocal problems, like his own, were based not on their physical condition but on their psychic condition. It must be said that at this time, psychology was in its infancy so those interested in the subject, like Alfred himself, were all searching. He soon began to get some very encouraging results and many of his pupils showed sustained improvements in their singing capacities, as well as, in their psychological condition.
;;;;;;;;;;;One of his last non, singing Berlin pupils, before he fled to England to escape the Nazis in 1939, was a young girl called Charlotte Salomon. She herself had fled from the Nazis a month before him, to go to the south of France, where she painted her extraordinary autobiographical work of over 700 gouaches, called “Life? or Theatre? a play with music”. She died in Auchwitz in 1943.
;;;;;;;;;;;;It was not until 1961 that a first exhibition of her work was presented in Amsterdam. Wolfsohn was utterly amazed to learn that this collection of paintings had included him and much of the thinking behind his vocal teachings. She had given him the pseudonym 'Amadeus Daberlohn'. Her grasp of his work is quite striking. The paintings are held in the 'Jewish Historical Museum' in Amsterdam from which one can obtain information on books, a CD-rom and future exhibitions of Charlotte’s work.
;;;;;;;;;;;;In the near future, we hope that we will be successful in the publishing of Alfred’s book "Orpheus or the Way to a Mask", written during his Berlin days in the ‘30s. Charlotte Salomon refers to this book extensively in her paintings. Tragically Alfred Wolfsohn died in 1962 having never seen “Life? Or Theatre?” so he neither knew what a great artist she had become nor what a faithful practitioner of his teachings she had always been.Paul Silber
Alfred Wolfsohn : biography
These are Awe’s words quoted by Marita Gunther in a letter to Prof Tillick page 2, dated 12th October 1961.
"....When I received the news from Charlotte’s mother that “I must have known about the important part I played in Charlotte’s life." I was utterly amazed. Never had I met a more closed and taciturn person, never had all my attempts to be helpful to a person’s problems and affliction seemed so hopeless as in her case.
...............But most surprising off all, I had been a soldier for four years in the First Wold War at very young age. Though I had suffered severe injuries in body and soul, I was nevertheless a survivor, whereas millions of gifted young people had been killed. I succeeded in leaving Nazi Germany before the outbreak of war, but those left behind perished. In the Second World War I was a soldier again. Once more I was among the survivors. The thought that I must erect a memorial to one of those dead young people, haunted me.
..............The young person I chose was Charlotte Salomon. I don’t know how much I was unconsciously influenced in this choice by the fact that the only friend of my youth, who had been a gifted artist, had been killed in the First World War. Thus Charlotte became for me the forerunner of Anne Frank, of whose existence I knew nothing at that time.
...............I went further. After the 2nd World War I heard from a fellow art student of Charlotte Salomon’s at the Berlin Academy of Art, requesting me to help her again, as I had done previously. My response was to explain clearly to this woman who admired Hitler and his ideas - that the meaning of Charlotte’s personality – as depicted in her paintings – revealed how this so called alien Jewess was a soul sister of hers that she herself should continue the fight on behalf of this fallen comrade.
..............This is the outline of the manuscript “The Bridge”, which I completed 12 years ago. What has now happened with Charlotte Salomon’s work, confirms everything that I had already written about her."