I went to this book for some background information on the Nazi reception of modernism in music. Unfortunately, though I found it well written, and I share Kater's mordant view of the composers and musicians who were prepared to futher their careers by going along with Nazi policies, I found that I would hesitate before I cited or applied factual claims from the book without first getting independent confirmation.
The problem is that I do know one related area reasonably well, the Nazi reception and perception of Wagner. And what Kater says there is not just wrong, but wrong in ways that I find worrying. It's not that I think that Wagner is the most important issue in relation to Third Reich cultural policies - far from it. It's just that when you find that you can't trust what a book says about a field you do know, it leaves you worried about its claims in the areas you don't know.
Three examples. First, Kater wrote, "The evidence shows that although public stagings of Wagner operas nationally had been decreasing long before the onset of the Third Reich, and even more so after 1933, in absolute figures these performances still topped the list until 1942/43, with works by such composers as Verdi, Puccini, and Strauss well behind." [page 39]
In reality "public stagings of Wagner operas nationally" increased each year before "the onset of the Third Reich", right up to the 1932/33 season, but decreased immediately and dramatically after the Nazis took power, for the 1933/34 season, and that decrease continued and accelerated during the Nazi era.
And although Wagner had invariably "topped the list" under the Weimar democracy, with hundreds more Wagner performances each year than performances of any of his nearest rivals, in reality he quickly lost that position once the Nazis seized the cultural reins. Wagner had lost first place to Verdi by the 1937/38 season, regained it (by just 18 performances) in 1938/39, and then lost by hundreds of performances in 1939/40, slipping further down the ranks in subsequent years. Some people may find that surprising, but there it is.
Second, Kater wrote of Hitler's "autobiography, which he started writing while imprisoned as Landsberg in 1924-25, naming it _Mein Kampf_, not accidentally after Richard Wagner's own _Mein Leben_."
But there are two problems with Kater's claim that the title "My Struggle" is a sort of homage to Wagner's title, "My Life". One is that all that the two titles have in common is the word "My", like "My Apprenticeship" by Maxim Gorki, "My Life", by Bill Clinton, and so on. More importantly, Hitler actually called his book _Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Corruption, Stupidity and Lies_. The snappier title, _Mein Kampf_, was chosen by Hitler's publishers.
Still, maybe Kater misread the tables of performance numbers. Maybe he didn't know Hitler's own title for his autobiography. Still, _The Twisted Muse_ is Kater's sixth book about the Third Reich and its cultural policies. Shouldn't a specialist, whose publishing history suggests he'd been working this territory for over 20 years when this book came out, know this stuff?
Which leads to my third example, the problem of Kater's Rosenberg quote. Kater derided the evidence, cited in Frederick Spotts' _Bayreuth_ history, that the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg was hostile to Wagner. Kater's supposed clincher, proving that Rosenberg was a fervent Wagnerian, was this quotation from Rosenberg's _Myth of the Twentieth Century_: "The cultural accomplishment of Bayreuth is perennially beyond discussion."
But in Rosenberg's book this sentence is not in fact part of a eulogy to Wagner, as Kater would have you believe, but the beginning of a criticism of Wagner that dismisses his theories and much of his work, especially the _Ring_ and _Parsifal_. The actual passage, from Book II, chapter 4, goes:
"The cultural achievement of Bayreuth will remain forever beyond question. But nevertheless, today a turning away from the basic teachings of Wagner has begun, away from the assertion that dance, music and the poetic art are forever linked in the manner proclaimed by him; and away from the assertion that Bayreuth was, in fact, the unchangeable consummation of the Aryan mystery."
Could Kater have read the one sentence he cited, then instantly closed his eyes and shut the book so that he never saw the next sentence, which happened to change Rosenberg's meaning completely? It doesn't seem possible. It's difficult to see how this quotation could be anything other than deliberately deceptive.
Kater, obviously, was running a very strong agenda, in relation to Wagner. Now, it's possible that someone can get carried away because of a controversy, and be unreliable only in that area while remaining scrupulously accurate in all other areas. But my problem is, I don't know. I read an statement by Kater about the Nazi reception of modernism, and I wonder, "But is that really true? Or if it is true, is it misleadingly selected?" And I can't tell. I can't rely on it.
Fortunately, there's another book covering the same territory, that passes the test of being accurate in areas I know, and that seems academically scrupulous in the areas I don't know. That's Erik Levi's _Music in the Third Reich_, published in 1994, also available from Amazon. Levi is no more impressed by Wagner's antisemitism than Kater is, or I am, but that doesn't drive him to start making stuff up, and that's important.
Therefore Levi's _Music in the Third Reich_ is the book in this field that I cite with confidence, and that's the book that I've kept. I recommend Levi's book. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one.