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Conductor Joseph Trauneck (1898–1975) studied composition under Arnold Schoenberg (1919–1922) and learned his profession under Alexander Zemlinsky in Prague. In the late twenties he was employed as a musical director at various German theatres. Born Catholic, and non-religious by faith but of Jewish descent, he was driven out of Germany by Hitler’s anti-Semitic laws. Having tried to emigrate to many countries, he found refuge in South Africa in 1934. There he founded the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra and the associated Youth Concerto Festival, institutions which are still in existence today. During his years in Johannesburg, he founded two other amateur orchestras, exposed local audiences to twentieth-century modernist music, and pioneered the appreciation of orchestral music in the black townships surrounding Johannesburg. The apartheid regime of the fifties forced him into a second exile and he emigrated in 1955 to the German Democratic Republic. Artistically unsuccessful and disillusioned by the politics of the socialist state, he left the GDR and returned to his home city Vienna where he died in 1975.

Joseph Trauneck, ca. 1948