Track of the Month: OCTOBER 2019
"By no means did we sit weeping on the banks of the waters of Babylon. Our will to create was commensurate with our will to live." — Viktor Ullmann, Terezin composer
“Viktor Ullman was pictured at the fiftieth birthday party of his teacher and mentor Arnold Schoenberg. His Third String Quartet (Terezín 1943) opens with a lush romanticism reminiscent of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Its transformation, though, is not to transcendent joy, but to fear and despair. . . . Violinists Glen Cherry, Miguel Perez-Espejo Cardenas, violist Kathryn Sievers, and cellist Joel Moerschel gave a tremendous reading. . . .
YOU ARE LISTENING to the first movement of String Quartet No. 3, Op. 46, composed in Terezín by Viktor Ullmann, a prolific Czech artist who perished in Auschwitz. Ullmann completed this work on January 18, 1943, when he was 43 years old, and it is widely regarded as the instrumental masterpiece of his Terezín period. It is performed here by the Hawthorne String Quartet on the CD "Concert for Terezin," produced in 2002 by TMF and Turquoise Bee Productions as a benefit for Terezín flood relief.
Ullmann was a renowned pianist and composer. He studied with Schönberg in Vienna and with Zemlinsky in Prague, and worked as a conductor in Zurich. He fled Germany in 1933 and returned to Prague, where he worked as a music teacher and critic and studied at the Prague Conservatory. On September 8, 1942, he was deported to Terezín. At that time his list of works had reached 41 opus numbers including three piano sonatas, song cycles, operas, and the piano concerto Op. 25, which he finished in 1939, nine months after the Nazis entered Prague.
In Terezín, Ullmann was a major force as a composer, pianist, and mentor. He also organized a chamber music series, The Studio for Neue Musik, showcasing music of twentieth-century masters, such as Schönberg, Zemlinsky, and Haba, alongside works of his imprisoned colleagues. On October 16, 1944, Ullmann was deported to Auschwitz; he was killed in the gas chambers there on October 18.
HEAR A DRAMATIC LIVE PERFORMANCE of Ullmann's "Cornets Christoph Rilke" at "Our Will to Live," the TMF benefit concert at Symphony Hall, Boston, November 11, 2019.