He was considered a musician’s musician, the most gifted artist in that exciting Southern California world dominated by the great emigré composers, the film industry, the brilliant soloists and the avant-gardists who made Los Angeles a musical capital. Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970) was an accomplished composer, conductor, pianist and a mentor to eminent contemporary figures like Michael Tilson Thomas – yet he never achieved the celebrity which others felt he deserved. He was not the man his public knew, a happily married gentile of Swedish extraction. His thirty-year marriage to Etta, one that seemed the epitome of mutual love and devotion, was beset by insoluble problems of identity – for Dahl was a closeted homosexual. He was also a German whose father was a Jew, and his name was not even Ingolf Dahl. His decision to disguise all of these truths, even from members of his own family, lead to fatal distortions in his creative being and public persona.
Although he numbered many famous figures among his friends, from Gracie Fields to Igor Stravinsky and Benny Goodman, Dahl always experienced life as an outsider. When he died he left behind an extensive body of correspondence and 42 years worth of intimate daily journals. Etta Dahl (1905-1970) left many written records as well. These sources, never made public before, and the recollections of many survivors, give us a portrait of an intriguingly complex character, noble and self-absorbed, creative and crankish, passionate and repressed.
The Lives of Ingolf Dahl has one other unique source, the author himself. Anthony Linick was the child of this famous marriage, the son whose very existence contributed to the elaborate deformations of fact and persona that so disfi gured Dahl’s life. With love and respect – and the historian’s devotion to the truth – he can tell their whole story at last.