Search This Blog

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Silenced Voices: Victims of the Holocaust (1992)

I have owned this CD for about 10 years and it always saddens me to realize that two of the three composers represented here were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and the third probably would not have died but for the war. What a loss. Schulhoff I was already somewhat acquainted with, as he left a larger number of works and was better known in his day, but the other two are more obscure. The whole recording is wonderful and should be required listening for those who like 20th century chamber music.

Liner Notes:
Victims of the Holocaust

Ervin Schulhoff
Born: 8 June 1894, Prague, Czechoslovakia
Died: 18 August 1942, Wülzburg Concentration Camp

Ervin Schulhoff's early life and career showed all the earmarks of potential greatness. Like many famous composers and musicians he was a prodigy: by the age of ten, he had begun piano studies at the Prague Conservatory (at the urging of Antonin Dvorák). His subsequent formal education followed a typical path toward musical importance—studies in Vienna, at the conservatories of Leipzig and Cologne, and with Reger and Debussy. By 1918 he had won the Mendelssohn Prize twice—once for piano and once for composition.

In 1923 Schulhoff settled in Germany where he quickly became involved with the burgeoning arts scene of the late Weimar Republic. There he collaborated on productions with leading visual artists including Däubler, Grosz, and Klee.

He returned to Prague in 1929 where he taught composition and score-reading at the Prague Conservatory while continuing to make a name for himself as a composer, pianist, and champion of the music of his contemporaries (particularly Alois Haba). Not surprisingly, he was also a dedicated jazz pianist.

Like a number of his contemporaries, Schulhoff took an interest in the Communist Party, and he became an active member in the early 1930s. The combination of his political views and his Jewish background would truncate his career and his life. He was imprisoned during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, and died in the Wülzburg Concentration Camp on 18 August 1942.

Schulhoff's compositions were influenced by a remarkably wide range of musical styles. Impressionism, late German Romanticism, Czech and Slavic folk music, Expressionism, and even jazz can all be discerned in a very personal and eclectic body of work.

The works on this recording (the String Quartet No. 1, the Flute Sonata, and the Concertino for Flute, Viola, and Bass) were all composed between January 1924 and June 1925.

Vítĕslava Kapralova
Born: 24 January 1915, Brno, Czechoslovakia
Died: 16 June 1940, Montpellier, France

Like Schulhoff, Vítĕslava Kapralova's formal education and early career should have destined her for musical importance. She studied composition with Vítĕslava Novak and conducting with Vaclav Talich in the master classes at the Brno Conservatory from 1935 to 1937. She subsequently studied in Paris with Bohuslav Martinu and Charles Munch. During this three- year period she became one of Munch's most popular conducting students.

But again the Nazi upheaval interfered. Attempting to flee the Nazis, she went to the South of France in hope of making her way to the United States. She contracted military tuberculosis in Montpellier and died there on 16 June 1940.

The Dubnova Preludia Suite was dedicated to the eminent Czech pianist Rudolf Firkusny who befriended Kapralova during her years in Paris.

Gideon Klein
Born: 6 December 1919, Prerov, Czechoslovakia
Died: January 1945, Fürstengrubbe Concentration Camp

Gideon Klein's Duo for Violin and Cello, previously lost, was among the compositions that his sister, Eliska Kleinova, found in a package in June 1990. The first movement is dated (in Klein's own hand) 6 November 1941. The second movement is incomplete, the act of composition interrupted by his transport to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in December 1941. This incomplete work is tragically symbolic of Klein's truncated life and career. Karl Ancerl (the renowned conductor) wrote: "Had he survived, Gideon would have achieved the highest standard as piantist, composer and conductor."

Klein's formal studies Were also cut short. In 1939 he enrolled as a doctoral candidate in Musicology and Philosophy at Charles University in Prague while continuing his studies in composition with Alois Hába at the Prague Conservatory. But in 1940 the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and the enforcement of the Nuremberg Racial Laws put an end to these studies as well as to Klein's performances as a pianist (although for a while he continued to perform secretly under the name Karel Vranek).

Klein was among the first to be sent to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp where, incarcerated among many other artists, composers, and writers, he soon became an extraordinary force as a pianist, educator, conductor, and composer. But even this exceptional creative activity amidst horror and deprivation was short-lived. Like almost all of those who did not die in Theresienstadt, Klein was sent to other camps: first to Auschwitz and finally to Fürstengrubbe, where he died in late Janary 1945.

Those compositions which survive reveal the influences of Janacek and Schoenberg and a blending of expressive folk elements from Gideon Klein's Moravian background. But these works are not derivative; rather they display a deeply mature and creative command of compositional techniques, especially in Klein's treatment of thematic material and use of tonal textures.

In this world premier recording of the Duo for Violin and Cello, the listener will not hear a reconstructed version of the second movement. Instead, it ends abruptly, unfinished as Klein left it. Perhaps what is unheard speaks most powerfully.

—Mark Ludwig and Martin Donoff

Some Notes about Musical Culture in Terezin
by Gideon Klein
While inspecting the weekly music program published by the Freizeit Gestaultung,* people who never lived here will look at the multitude of music reproduced here with admiration and amazement. They will admire both the feasibility of producing demanding works and the multitude of choices.
The quantitative (cultural) calculation of Theresienstadt would correspond to the cultural activity of a metropolitan area. Of the highest standard are the performances by instrumental soloists; these musicians played a major role in the musical life of their respective countries. If we consider the demands of the programs connected with the strain on the artist who lives in a changed setting under unfavorable living conditions we will understand that these artistic efforts cannot be evaluated alone by the standards of a metropolitan critic.
Written 20 August 1944 at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. Translation by Dr. George Homer.
* "Administration for Free Time Activities," a prisoner organization responsible for organizing cultural activities in Theresienstadt.


Theresienstadt was not just a Concentration Camp or a transit point to the Nazi death camps. It was a propaganda device, which the Nazis used to deny the existence of the Final Solution.

On 24 November 1941, a transport of Jews was sent to transform the small garrison town of Terezin into the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. In this camp the Nazis incarcerated some of Europe's most gifted artists, musicians, and writers. Despite the inhuman living conditions, an active cultural community sprang up. Musical instruments were smuggled in and performances were given secretly in the barracks.

But these very activities were co-opted by the Nazis and used as part of a plan to deceive both the international community and Jews under German occupation. Performances were staged for a visit of the International Red Cross; the camp was transformed into a Potemkin-like village with gardens, playgrounds, and an outdoor music pavilion for a propaganda film entitled "The Fuhrer Presents the Jews With a City," all designed to give the impression that Theresienstadt was a "Paradise Ghetto" for the Jews.

But of the 140,000 people who were transported to this "Paradise Ghetto," 33,000 died from starvation, lack of medical care, disease, starvation, overcrowding, and torture. Of the 87,000 people transported from Theresienstadt to the Nazi death camps, five percent survived. Of the 15,000 children who passed through, only 93 survived.

Track List:

Ervin Schulhoff
String Quartet No. 1 16:58
Universal Editions/ASCAP
  1. i Presto con fuoco 2:26
  2. ii Allegretto con moto e con malinconia 4:25
  3. iii Allegro giocoso alla slovacca 2:52
  4. iv Andante molto sostenuto 7:01
The Hawthorne String Quartet

Ervin Schulhoff
Concertino for Flute, Viola, and Bass 15:25
Universal Editions/ASCAP
  1. i Andante con moto moderato 5:50
  2. ii Furiant 3:15
  3. iii Andante 3:56
  4. iv Rondino 2:09
Fenwick Smith flute • Mark Ludwig viola Edwin Barker bass

Vítĕslava Kapralova
Dubnova Preludia Suite, for solo piano, Opus 13 7:35
Cesky Hudebni Fond
  1. i Allegro 2:04
  2. ii Andante 2:16
  3. iii Andante semplice 1:18
  4. iv Vivo 1:44
Virginia Eskin piano

Ervin Schulhoff
Sonata for Flute & Piano 12:02
Universal Editions/ASCAP
  1. i Allegro moderato 4:36
  2. ii Scherzo: Allegro giocoso 1:32
  3. iii Aria: Andante 3:07
  4. iv Rondo-Finale: Allegro molto gajo 2:26
Fenwick Smith flute • Sally Pinkas piano

Gideon Klein
Duo for Violin and Cello 9:13
G. Schirmer/ASCAP
  1. i Allegro con fuoco 6:32
  2. ii Lento 2:35
Si-Jing Huang violin
Sato Knudsen cello

Download Link: Enjoy the Music!

Other recordings of music by Ervin Schulhoff:
Other recordings of music by Gideon Klein:

No comments:

Post a Comment