Samstag, 10. September 2016

Pavel Haas, Karel Berman - Composers from Theresienstadt, 1941 -1945

Tomorrow will be the 26rd "Tag der Erinnerung und Mahnung" with different activities against racism, neo-nazism and war.

Inspired by that event we feature the album "Pavel Haas, Karel Berman - Composers from Theresienstadt 1941 - 1945". Pavel Haas wrote the "Lieder" on this album for Karel Berman, who premiered them in Theresienstadt. The recordings were done in Prague in 1985.

Theresienstadt concentration camp, also referred to as Theresienstadt Ghetto, was established by
the SS during World War II in the fortress and garrison city of Terezín (German name Theresienstadt), located in what is now the Czech Republic. During World War II it served as a Nazi concentration camp staffed by German Nazi guards.
Tens of thousands of people died there, some killed outright and others dying from malnutrition and disease. More than 150,000 other persons (including tens of thousands of children) were held there for months or years, before being sent by rail transports to their deaths at Treblinka and Auschwitz extermination camps in occupied Poland, as well as to smaller camps elsewhere.

The Czech composer Pavel Haas was born to a Jewish family in Brno on 21 June 1899. The Haas family encouraged the young Pavel’s increasingly evident talent, and by the age of fourteen he had already produced his earliest attempts at formal composition. At the Brno conservatory, Haas studied from 1920-22 with the eminent composer Leoš Janáček, who was a decisive influence on his compositional style. While Czech composers in general, and Janáček in particular, played an important role in shaping Haas’ artistic sensibility, however, he also drew inspiration from a diverse range of sources including Moravian folksong, Jewish synagogue music, and art music composers such as Stravinsky, Honegger, Milhaud, and Poulenc. His mature style is evident particularly in his opera Šarlatán (The Charlatan), which premiered in Brno on 2 April 1938.
As it did for so many Jewish musicians across Europe, the Nazi onslaught brought about dramatic changes to Haas’ life and career. Performances of his works were banned, and he and his wife were forbidden employment. On 2 December 1941, Haas was sent on a transport from Brno to Theresienstadt, where he continued to compose. His first composition in the ‘model ghetto’ was the choral work Al S’fod (Do not lament), based on a Hebrew text by David Shimoni, followed by the Study for Strings (1943), and the Four Songs on Chinese Poetry (1944), both of which were performed by prisoners in Theresienstadt itself. The bass Karel Berman performed the Four Songs in Theresienstadt in 1944, and frequently included the work in his post-war programmes.
Haas was deported to Auschwitz on 16 October 1944, and probably died in the gas chambers shortly after arrival.
One of the most active and popular musical performers in Theresienstadt, the bass Karel Berman was born in Bohemia on 14 April 1919. His studies at the Prague Conservatory were forcibly interrupted by the Nazi invasion, and in 1941 he was deported to Theresienstadt, where he distinguished himself as a versatile musician in a range of activities from stage directing and conducting to composition and performance: as a pianist and, most notably, as a bass. Berman’s many opera performances in the camp included Czech composer Smetana’s The Bartered Bride and The Kiss, as well as Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute. He was also featured as a soloist in the renowned performance of Verdi’s Requiem in the ghetto, under Rafael Schächter’s baton. He gave frequent solo recitals, incorporating standard repertoire, Czech compositions, and works by young Theresienstadt composers. An extant programme from a concert on 22 June 1944 includes, for example, works by Beethoven and Dvorák alongside Pavel Haas’ Four Songs to the Text of Chinese Poetry, a work that Berman continued regularly to include in his post-war programmes. In addition to his prolific performance activities, Berman also became conductor of a girls’ chorus in Theresienstadt, and conducted one performance of the one-act comic opera In the Well by the Czech composer Vilém Blodek. He also composed some notable works, including Three Songs for high voice and piano, a suite for piano titled Terezín, and a cycle of four songs for bass and piano titled Poupata (The Rosebuds); some of these works were performed under the auspices of Viktor Ullmann’s Studio für neue Musik (Studio for New Music). In one of his most enthusiastic reviews in Theresienstadt, Ullmann described Berman as an ‘eloquent, courageous, all-round talented artist, singer, composer, conductor’.
Berman was taken to Auschwitz in October 1944, and after a few days was transferred to Kaufering, a sub-camp of Dachau. He survived a death march and was liberated by the American army in May 1945. After the war, Berman returned to the Prague Conservatory to complete his studies, and graduated in 1946 as a singer and stage director. He has since worked in both capacities, and has been particularly active as a performer in operas, oratorios, as well as solo recitals throughout Europe and Japan.
(256 kbps, front cover included)

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