Tuesday 29 October 2013

Have You Heard of Viktor Ullmann?

Aficionados of Czech Jewish music, and those of you who like to czech out new sounds, may I introduce you to the third in our series of composers - Viktor Ullmann. We hope to feature some of his music in the Memorial Scrolls Trust Service of Celebration on 9th February 2014 at 6:30 pm at Westminster Synagogue in Central London.

Ullmann's father was of Jewish heritage, but renounced his faith and officially converted to Catholicism, apparently to advance his career in the Austrian army.Victor was baptised as a Catholic and lived the majority of his life in the non-Jewish world. It was not until the Nazi antisemitic laws came into effect in Prague that he became identified officially as a Jew. Although he was able to send his two oldest children to England on a Kindertransport, he and his third wife, Elisabeth, were deported to Terezin in 1942. He died in Auschwitz in 1944.

In a biographical essay, Gwyneth Bravo writes:

"Educated in Vienna, Ullmann made important contributions to both Czech and German cultural life as a composer, conductor, pianist and music critic. Shaped by his engagement with Schoenberg's musical philosophy, German aesthetics, as well as the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, Ullmann understood the role of art as central to human spiritual and ethical development ... Within the context of his own compositions, Ullmann used form as a powerful commentary on his own self-sconscious engagement with the traditions of Western art music as he engaged with them in the works of Schoenberg, Mahler and Berg."

You may read the rest of the essay here.

Listen to some of his music here.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Have You Heard of Gideon Klein?

As we begin to prepare the liturgy and music for the Memorial Scrolls Trust Service of Celebration on 9th February 2014 at the Westminster Synagogue in London, we thought it might be interesting to introduce you to some of the Czech Jewish composers whose music we hope to feature on that day. Last week we highlighted the work of Pavel Haas. Today we'd like to present the life and works of Gideon Klein.

Born in Moravia, Klein studied composition at university, but when the Nazis closed all institutions of higher learning after occupying Czechoslovakia, he had to continue under the radar. Since Jews were banned from composing and performing, he worked under several aliases as a concert pianist. He was offered a scholarship by the Royal Academy of Music in London but anti-semitic legislation prevented his emigration and  by the end of 1941 he was deported to the concentration camp at Terezin. In fact, this terrible event gave him the opportunity for artistic expression and alongside Hass and Victor Ullmann he became a major composer from the camp. In 1944 he was sent to Auschwitz, and thence to Fuerstengruber, a coal mine c. 20 miles from the extermination camp. He died in January 1945, as the Fuerstengruber camp was being liquidated.

You may learn more about Gideon Klein and his work here.
A discography of his work may be found here.
Listen to some snippets of his music here.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Have You Heard of Pavel Haas?

Have you heard of Pavel Haas? Probably not. If you are interested in Czech music, you should czech him out :-) He was a composer, sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp for being Jewish. He was a student of Leos Janacek. He was murdered in Auschwitz on the orders of the notorious Josef Mengele.

You may read more about him here.
You may listen to some of his music here.