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Out of Time

The Vexed Life of Georg Tintner

By Tanya Buchdahl Tintner
Subjects Biography & Autobiography, Music
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Paperback : 9781554589388, 432 pages, January 2013


Excerpt from Out of Time: The Vexed Life of Georg Tintner by Tanya Buchdahl Tintner

From Chapter Two

A musical boy could have no better education than in the Vienna Boys' Choir, but for Georg it was far from an unqualified blessing. ‘My parents converted to be Lutherans in order to save trouble for their children—they thought, ’ Georg said. ‘As a matter of fact it made it much worse for me, because we were rejected from all sides. ’ On his first day one of the boys accused him of being a Jew, and from that moment his life was a misery. He was the first Jewish boy ever admitted to the choir; even Lutherans would have been rare enough. Georg had not even been aware that he was Jewish—the closest he came to Judaism was a handful of Yiddish words gleaned from Therese, who used the language when she didn’t want the grandchildren to understand. ‘My greatest disadvantage was that I was the most musical and the most intelligent among these boys, ’ he said, ‘and that of course was the worst thing that could have happened to me. ’

For the entire four years he was in the choir Georg was persecuted, principally by Rektor Schnitt. Georg was so frightened of him that on swimming excursions to the Danube he hid from him in the gorse bushes. He became ashamed of his ‘Jewish looks’, what he thought of as his ‘African’ appearance: his thick lips, which he tried to make thinner by pressing them together, and his mass of thick, crimped hair. ‘I felt like a hunted animal, ’ he said. ‘In the end they made me ashamed of my parents. It is a terrible thing, but I believed them. They destroyed the innocence of a child. He loses his spontaneity and naturalness, and that is a terrible thing. ’ But he said nothing to his parents, for they would have removed him immediately, depriving him of the music. In all the surviving photographs of Georg as a choirboy he appears unsmiling and anxious. . . .

At the end of his four years there was the ceremonial awarding of certificates. Each boy was called out in alphabetical order, but the official, probably Rektor Schnitt, passed Georg over. At the end he said: ‘And of course there is nothing for the Jew. ’ Georg remembered it as one of the worst moments of his life. In an interview more than sixty years later he stated:

“Anti-Semitism is endemic [in Austria], and when you said it was civilised I had to smile to myself because it was all but. I have since my earliest childhood been subjected to this kind of persecution and I say that without any self-pity. And in a way it was probably good for me. . . . But when that started, then I stopped being a child. ”

Of his time in the choir, Georg in later years would say only that it had afforded him a wonderful musical education. He didn't mention his persecution except to a tiny handful of people, mostly other refugees, and he refused to go into detail. When I mentioned his difficulties to Dr Walther Tautschnig, a fellow chorister Georg had been friendly with and who later spent almost three decades as the choir's director, he brushed my comments away saying that Georg was likely complaining about the spartan physical conditions they endured. Anti-Semitism was so much a part of life in Vienna that those who were not on the receiving end of it simply did not see it. The only time Georg is known to have broken his silence on what actually happened was an occasion not long after we were married. A colleague from my university days came to visit, a writer who had once been a trainee Jesuit priest. He was also, as I warned Georg, an unrepentant anti-Semite. He had hardly sat down when Georg came into the room and quietly poured out a long and detailed description of what Schnitt had done to him. It was an appalling tale of sadism, petty intimidation and terror. On our visitor it made no impression at all.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Out of Time: The Vexed Life of Georg Tintner, by Tanya Buchdahl Tintner

Foreword by Richard Gill


Part I: 1917–1954

Part II: 1954–1965

Part III: 1966–1987

Part IV: 1987–1999




Photo Credits



Georg Tintner is best known to music lovers for his stunning interpretations of Bruckner's symphonies recorded by Naxos in the 1990s. He was a man who lived and breathed music. Blessed with perfect pitch, at the age of nine he was the first Jew to join the Vienna Boys' Choir. Later, he became immersed in the concert life of the city, rubbing shoulders with Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern, and observing the great conductors of the age. But by the late 1930s Tintner had to flee and he eventually landed in Auckland, New Zealand. There could  have been no greater contrast for this gifted young musician, yet he started a new life there before moving on to Australia and, much later, to Canada.

Tintner's third wife and widow, Tanya, has documented the life of this uncompromising man and the result is a revealing window on to the artistic temperament from the person closest to him. Out of Time is a must-read for everyone who believes in the discipline that excellence in the arts demands – and the pure joy it can bring.


  • One of the 100 Best Books of 2011 cited by New Zealand Listener


``A remarkable, well-written and frank book. ''

- Shirley de Kock Gueller, Cape Times (South Africa), June 30, 2011

"One of the finest biographies I've read . .. I'm filled with admiration for the thoughtful job the author has done of it. Elegantly and compassionately written. "

- Binnie Brennan, The Reluctant Blogger

"This book . .. has been immaculately put together, fully illustrated, footnoted, indexed and deftly written with a candour that usually eludes family members who tackle biographies. Tanya Tintner's long experience as a writer and deep understanding of her fascinating subject is evident on every absorbing page. "

- Peter Shaw, New Zealand Listener

"I cannot recommend [the book] highly enough . .. a narrative that is a delight to read. "

- Donald Clarke, Donald Clarke's Music Box (blog)

"Scholarly in structure and irresistibly readable. "

- Elizabeth Silsbury, Music Council of Australia Newsletter

``In the late 1980s, Symphony Nova Scotia attracted an outstanding conductor who subsequently recorded definitive performances of the Bruckner symphonies. This fine biography of the conductor/composer, Georg Tintner, provides a thorough analysis of how yet another refugee from Nazism eventually ended up as a Canadian citizen who notably enriched our culture. ''

- Elaine Keillor, Canadian Association of Music Libraries Review, 41, no. 3, November 2013

"A wonderful biography. "

- Gillian Dooley, Adelaide Review

``[A] compelling account. ... For any avid music connoisseur, Tanya Tintner's captivating character study of an eminent 20th-century musician opens a new world. At the same time, one senses the author's search for a person. Despite 23 years of marriage, she wrote, ‘I realised that I hadn't known him nearly as well as I thought. ’ And she set out to find him. This book is not just a discovery of a true musician, but also a fascinating yet detailed cultural history of a century. ''

- Matthias Wurz, The Vienna Review, October 25, 2012

"Buy and read this wonderful book. "

- Patrick Lam, Orchestras Canada

"A brilliant new biography. "

- Benjamin Ivry, Jewish Daily Forward (USA)

"An extraordinarily compelling and moving book. ... [Tintner's] writing style is clear, elegant and highly expressive. "

- Alan Sanders, Classical Recordings Quarterly (UK)

"[Tanya Tintner] gives us something considerably more than an honest effort—a detailed coastline to Tintner's psychic continent, like those Spanish maps of the New World with frilly edges and vast, blank terra incognita interiors. Such a job requires not only perception but a prose supple and clear enough to convey it. I found very little hand-waving here, not attempts to hide ‘don't know’ behind obfuscation and ‘mystical’ hot air. The biographer has put down her best reckoning of one of the most important people in her life. ... Tintner's . .. eccentricities gave rise to a host of wonderful anecdotes, and his career shows that high art doesn't belong exclusively to the Big Deals the art and hype industry shoves in front of us. A very great musician spent most of his life creating and fostering art in out-of-the-way places. This legacy is as powerful as the recordings and ultimately more influential. The recordings merely let the world at large know what a force Tintner was. "

- Steven Schwartz, Classical Net, 2013

"[This book is] an amazing achievement . .. probably the first-ever realistic biography of an important artist. "

- Klaus Heymann, Chair, Naxos Group of Companies

"It is an extraordinary life story that is told here. At times it leaves you seething with anger that such a talent should be wilfully ignored by bureaucrats and mediocrities, pompous little people with prejudices, who had the power to deny opportunities to an artist of such integrity and stature as Tintner; and at times exasperated with Tintner himself whose unbending commitment to often somewhat outlandish eccentricities and principles made him an unattractive candidate for inclusion in the conservative circles of the musical establishment of the post-war antipodean British Commonwealth. ... The description of how these [Naxos Bruckner] recordings came about, and the varying circumstances under which they were made, provides an essential adjunct to the performances themselves, adding a dimension that increases their power and profundity. And when you add to this the life-history that led up to them, the greatness of this Bruckner conductor that shines through every performance acquires a back-story that helps to account for and magnify its stature. There is much in this book that is not about Bruckner. There are many valuable observations on the art of conducting—and many extraordinary stories of what following that profession can demand. ...And there is much in this book that is not about music, or at least not music alone. There are trenchant observations of and on anti-semitism . .. on veganism, on friendship, betrayals and mistresses—and on wives and music. ... After his death Tanya Tintner spent several years trying to discover who it was she was married to for over 20 years, and what his life had been like before she knew him, conducting over 200 interviews and finally writing this extraordinary memoir. ... As you cast your mind back over what you read, you can't help but smile at the absurdities, and then be humbled by the achievements and sheer courage, against all the vexations, of the primary characters of this compelling history. "

- Ken Ward, Bruckner Journal

"An important book . .. an invaluable book that can be recommended to music lovers just as highly as the conductor's Bruckner recordings on Naxos, which received outstanding reviews . .. all over the world. "

- Rémy Franck, Pizzicato (Luxembourg), September 2011

"Vivid, compulsively readable. "

- Neville Cohn, West Australian, May 3, 2011

"I was completely absorbed reading your life of Georg Tintner, Out of Time. I wanted to write and let you know how much I enjoyed and valued it. It is in my view not just an extraordinary story, but also a very significant literary achievement. The research is profound, and your reconstruction of his European youth is truly astonishing. ... But equally impressive is the tone: for a spouse to find the right voice to deal with a husband's life is rare indeed—often such works are a disaster. Indeed, I confess to being apprehensive when I opened the book. But I was immediately engrossed: you have dealt with Georg's professional life with authority, balance, and enormous insight, his personal weaknesss and idiosyncrasies handled unsparingly and equitably, even where they are unflattering for him and include the most intimate details of your own time with him. The world of musical scholarship is the better for this work—I was hugely impressed. "

- Professor Warren Bebbington, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Adelaide