Skip to Main Content

Exiled German-speaking intellectuals in Southern California: Ernst Toch

During the 1930s and 1940s, many German Jews and intellectuals fled Nazi Germany. This LibGuide provides information about German-speaking intellectuals who found refuge in Southern California

Ernst Toch

Ernst Toch (1887-1964)

Ernst Toch was a concert pianist and an avant-garde composer who started his career in medicine. He was self-taught as a composer. With the rise of the National Socialist he was forced to leave Berlin, departing Europe for the United States. He taught composition at the New School for Social Research in New York from 1934 until 1936. He then moved to the West Coast, teaching at the University of Southern California from 1937 (Grove 1936?) to 1948. Toch also taught as a guest lecture at Harvard, Utah, Oregon and Hamline. After the war he toured Europe giving concert and taught privately. During the 1950s he lived several years in Switzerland, then returned for his final years in Los Angeles. Toch received several prestigious awards and honors in his later years, including the Pulizer and Huntington-Hartford Prizes in 1956 for his Third Symphony

While in Los Angeles, Toch lived at 811 Franklin Street in Santa Monica.

Toch was a teacher of considerable influence; a number of his students, including André Previn, became eminent composers. His orchestral works are often of a humorous character, notably the Bunte Suite (1929). In spite of the largely traditional nature of his style, he experimented at times with new devices, as in his Gesprochene Musik (Spoken Music) for spoken voices (1930). He wrote chamber music, several chamber operas, and music for films. Of his five symphonies, the Third (1956) won a Pulitzer Prize. He published two theoretical works, Melodielehre (1923; "Melodic Theory") and The Shaping Forces in Music (1948).

Years in Southern California: 1937-1950; 1958-1964. Grove: 1936-


Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Charlotte Erwin. "Ernst Toch" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Edited by Stanley Sadie. Vol. 19. London: MacMillan, 1980.

Created May 1997 by Marje Schuetze-Coburn