In Freiburg, to celebrate Epiphany, my friend Corinna invited to a cultural soiree: Life and Music at the Pringsheim Residence was the subject of German writer Inge Jens’ lecture. A piano trio played Pringsheim’s music.
Pringsheim, whose residence in Munich was nothing but palatial, emanated from a very wealthy Jewish family. Until 1933, invitations to events at the home of mathematics professor and arts connoisseur Alfred Pringsheim (1850-1941) were highly sought after in the city’s high society. Nowadays, he is known mainly as Thomas Mann’s father-in-law.
Jens depicted the tragedy of this assimilated bourgeois German Jew who like many other educated German Jews had absorbed and integrated into German culture. With Pringsheim, this climaxed in his worship of Richard Wagner. So fascinated was he by Wagner that he not only supported him financially but also composed his own convincingly beautiful piano arrangements for some of Wagner’s music.
Leaving all this was not easy and the Pringsheims left it to the last moment. They did manage to get out of Germany in October 1939. The distressed old man, who by then had lived through six years under Nazi rule, was 89 and perhaps too weak to consider the tragedy and irony of having a joint idol with Adolf Hitler – who had caused his misery and degradation.