‘The Backdrop’ Podcast Features Mondavi's Executive Director on the ‘Recovered Voices’ Project

Examines the 2-Day Event Presented at UC Davis

Don Roth, posing, on Mondavi Center stage
Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center, discusses a Mondavi featured program on the UC Davis podcast, Backdrop. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Roth also looks back on his 17-season tenure as he prepares to retire

In the 1930s and ’40s, the Nazi regime in Germany and elsewhere in Europe banned and destroyed what it deemed “degenerate art” — modern styles of literature, visual art and music it considered un-German.  This spring, UC Davis’ Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts hosted a unique program aimed at reviving and restoring the music of composers whose careers and lives were disrupted — or worse — during those years.

In the most recent episode of The Backdrop podcast, Mondavi Center Executive Director Don Roth discussed the project and the two-day event called “Recovered Voices,” a collaboration between UC Davis and the Ziering Conlin Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. The program featured two concerts of the nearly lost music along with a symposium including faculty from the UC Davis Jewish Studies Program.

“I've known James Conlin, and he's had this passion project for almost 30 years of recovering the music of these composers who were suppressed by the Nazi regime," Roth said in the podcast.

Here are a few excerpts:

“We discussed with enthusiasm to find a way for him to bring this project to us. You know, and the advantage of a place like the Mondavi Center is we're on this amazing campus with all these faculty resources, with all the scholarship, the learning, the teaching that goes on. And so we believed that if we were able to bring the music of the project, we could also surround that with some real contextualizing information that our faculty members would have.”

“When Conlin came to the Mondavi Center, he brought six pieces by four different composers. Zemlinsky was one, Korngold was one. Arnold Schoenberg, the most famous of the folks, was one. And then Franz Schreker. And a lot of the music, you know, just is is upbeat.”

“Conlon's coming to campus allowed us to build a further context for all the things that were lost and so many other things that were lost as a result of the Nazi regime. And it was very, very stimulating. That's the kind of thing that only can happen when you do these events on a campus like UC Davis.”

Roth also looks back at his 17-season tenure as executive director of the Mondavi Center as he prepares to retire on Aug. 31.

“What was important to me was breadth and quality. Everything. When Jeremy Ganter and I do the programs, we have to believe that everything we put on is excellent at what it is, excellent in its own field. But I felt that we could broaden that.”

“I think if I can reach many different audiences, some of which overlap, but they don't need to with the art that's important to them at the highest level in such a beautiful space.”

“That's what makes me feel really good and feel that I've accomplished. I've taken, evolved in the direction that I wanted to see it go.”

Listen to the full podcast episode here

The Backdrop podcast is a monthly interview program featuring conversations with UC Davis scholars and researchers working in the social sciences, humanities, arts and culture.  It is available free, on demand at Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicTuneInStitcherSpotify and YouTubeThe Backdrop is hosted by public radio veteran Soterios Johnson.

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