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Kowalski, Max

Born: 1882 AD
Died: 1956 AD
Nationality: N/A
Categories: Composers


Max Kowalski, Holocaust Composer, by Susan Morehead

(This is a truncated version of a 36 page article.)

Max Kowalski(1882-1956) was born in Kowal, Poland. His family moved the next year to Frankfort, Germany, where he grew up, studied and earned Doctorates in both Music and Law (his specialty was Copyrights). His teacher of compostition was Bernhard Sekles and voice, Alexander Heineman. In Germany from 1913 till 1931, Max Kowalski was a prolific composer of beautiful lieder in the Romantic style. Although he was Jewish, Max Kowalski wrote music of all styles and genres, from Japanese, Chinese, Danish, Arabic, French and that of many great German authors,he even wrote a Marienlieder in his Opus 12. He was friend to many other composers, artists and performers and every song cycle he wrote was quickly published until Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich took over the country. In the late 30’s Kowalski was very involved with the "Kulterbund" in Frankfort, Germany and his music continued to have popularity in their orchestral concerts. He is mentioned and highlighted by his presence at the last Kulturbund concert(1938) in Martin Goldsmith’s book entitled "The Inextinguishable Symphony". By the end of 1938, Kowalski was arrested and spent time in Buchenwald but within a month he was released and he fled to England where he spent the rest of his life teaching voice, singing in a Synagogue and making a humble living. Although no music of his was ever published again, he kept writing new works, 17 new song cycles in manuscripts which singers performed in concerts and on radio. Opus 1 is his first composition dated 1913 and first published by Leukart in Germany. It had been out-of-print many years until Dr. Walter Foster of Recital Publications in Huntsville, Texas took up the committment to bring as many of Max Kowalski’s song cycles to the public as possible. So far, 11 of his 17 previously published

Catalogue of Max Kowalski’s Works


Published Works

Op. 1  Sechs Lieder (1913) Simrock

Op. 2  Die Sonne Sinkt, Drei Gedichte von Frederich Nietzsche (1913) Simrock

Op. 3  Sechs Gesange (1913) Simrock

Op. 4  Zwolf Gedichte aus Pierrot Lunaire (1913)  Simrock

Op. 5  Drei Lieder auf Gedichte von Martin Greif (1915)

Op. 6  Simrock Zwei Klavierstücke (1913) Simrock

Op. 7  Drei Balladen von Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (1914) Leukart

Op. 8  Drei Gedichte von Martin Greif (1914) Leukart

Op. 9  Vier Lieder vierscheidener Dichter (1916) Simrock

Op. 10 Sechs Lieder auf alte Gedichte (1914) Simrock

Op. 11 Sechs Lieder aus dem Rokoko (1921) Simrock

Op. 12 Fünf Marienlieder (1927) Leukart

Op. 13 Sechs Gedichte von Verlaine (1928) Leukart

Op. 14 Fünf Gedichte von Hermann Hesse (1931) Zimmerman

Op. 15 Sechs Gedichte von Klabund (1930) Zimmerman

Op. 16 Fünf Lieder verschiedener Dichter (1931) Leukart

Op. 17 Sechs Lieder aus dem westöstlichen Divan von Goethe (1934) Universal


Unpublished Manuscripts


Op. 18    Sieben Gedichte von Hafiz (1933)

[Op. 19] Japanischer Frühling (10 lieder) (1934-38)

[Op. 20] Vier zusatzliche Lieder (Japanese verse) (1934-37)

[Op. 21] Fünf Jüdische Lieder (1935-37)

[Op. 22] Drei zusatzliche Jüdische Liede (1935-37)

[Op. 23] Zwölf Kinderlieder (1936)

[Op. 24] Sechs Heine-Lieder (1938)

[Op. 25] Zwölf Lieder von Li Tai Po (1938-39)

[Op. 26] Ein Liederzyklus von Omar Khayyam (1941)

[Op. 27] Acht Lieder (Hafiz)  (1948)

[Op. 28] Sieben Lieder (Meyer) (1949)

[Op. 29] Sechs Lieder (Hölderlin) (1950-51)

[Op. 30] Sieben Lieder (Rilke) (1951)

[Op. 31] Sieben Geisha-Lieder )(1951)

[Op. 32] Sechs Lieder auf Indischen Gedichte (1951-52)

[Op. 33] Fünf Lieder (George) (1952)

[Op. 34] Sechs Lieder auf arabischen Gedichte (1953-54)


Two Piano Works are not listed: Ein Tango fur Vera (1933)

Ein Slow Fox Trot fur Vera (1933)


I have inserted opus numbers, in chronological order, for these works, after discovering that Kowalski had himself labeled Sieben Gedichte von Hafiz as Op. 18 in the manuscript I was given by Kowalski’s daughter.



Cahn, Peter, Das Hoch’sche Konservatorium in Frankfurt am Main, 1980

Goldsmith, Martin, The Inextinguishable Symphony, Wiley& Sons, NY, 2000.

Schaub, H.F., "Max Kowalski", ZFM cxiii (1952)

Gradenwitz, Peter, "Max Kowalski." LBI  Newsletter. 1982.

Redlich, H.F., "In Memoriam"ZFM  cxix (1957)



Max Kowalski: 7 Lieder nach Texten von Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Otto von Rohr, (Bass), Wolfgang Rudolf (Klavier), True Tone Recording Co., 160 West 73rd St., New York, 12" LP, o. J.

Max Kowalski: Sieben Lieder nach Rilke, Willy Berlin (Bariton), Walter Faith (Klavier), True Tone Recording Co., 160 West 73rd St., New York, 12" LP, o. J.

Max Kowalski: Pierrot-Lieder, Hans Hotter (Bass-Bariton), Michael Raucheisen (Klavier), True Tone Recording Co., 160 West 73rd St., New York, 12" LP, o. J.

Max Kowalski: 5 Lieder nach Hoelderlin, Otto von Rohr (Bass), Wolfgang Rudolf (Klavier), True Tone Recording Co., 160 West 73rd St., New York, 10" LP, o. J.

A Clown Behind the Masques of Music, Eine Auswahl von vier verschiedenen Vertonungen von sieben Gedichten aus „Pierot lunaire"; darin u . a.: Max Kowalski, Auswahl aus op. 4, mit Edith Urbanczyk (Mezzo-Sopran) und Dunja Robotti (Klavier), Musicaphon, B00005LZS0, Juni 2001.

Symposium Opera Collection 10: Paul Bender Sings

 PAUL BENDER (1875-1947) Recordings from 1907 to1933 Previously unpublished: Pierrot Lunaire (Kowalski) – No.2 Raub, No.4 Der Dandy & No.10 Die Laterne. April 29, 2003

Other Sources:Archive of the Buchenwald Prisoners, Buchenwald Memorial Concentration Camp for Kowalski’s arrest and release.The Leo Baeck Institute, New York for the holdings Max Kowalski’s personal memorabilia found in the Max Kowalski Collection:AR7049.