Music from Theresienstadt Performed

Austrian Press Agency (06/17/2008)

Music from Theresienstadt Performed
First Chamber Music Festival in Schloss Laudon

Works from the concentration camp by expelled composers will be presented over the course of five evenings from August 11 – 17

The simple answer to the question why there should be another summer program of concerts in Wien-Penzing: “Because in Vienna there is nothing being performed in August.” While summer festivals prefer to take place outside the city and because Vienna is overflowing with “tourist concerts,” the aron quartett invites one to a series of concerts with “great but intentionally-forgotten music from August 11 -17 in the Wasserschloss Laudon in the western part of Vienna, emphasized the initiator Peter Weinberger during a press conference today.

He is referring to the chamber music by composers who were either expelled or murdered by the Nazi regime. They form the heart of the festival and will be juxtaposed in the form of a “deliberate cultural restitution” from the classics of concert literature. Hanns Eisler, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart start off the series with Finnish pianist, Henri Sigfirdsson, also invited by the aron quartett. Under the title, “America” they will dedicate the evening to Austrian composers who found a new home in Los Angeles, performing works by Eric Zeisl and Korngold, contrasted with those written by Arnold Schönberg and Antonin Dvorak.

At the center of the program is the evening, “Theresienstadt,” in which the aron quartett, together with pianist Manfred Wagner-Artzt and tenor Alexander Kaimbacher, will perform works by Viktor Ullmann, Hans Krasa, Gideon Klein and Pavel Hass written in the concentration camp. The history of Ullmann’s ‘String Quartett Nr. 3’ serves as an example of the fate of this music. It was composed only a few months before the deportation and murder of Ullmann in Auschwitz-Birkenau, kept against the will of the composer who wanted to have his works destroyed. There are many more works, such as the quartets one and two from Ullmann, which we don’t know at all,” said the violist Georg Hamann. Important to emphasize is that it is not so much the tragic fate of the composers that make these piece worth hearing but rather the fact that this “great music would have survived if history hadn’t intervened.”

The festival is also striving to offer reflection on the artistic works that were created in Theresienstadt by including a conversation with a survivor of Theresienstadt, Rudolf Gelbard. “It deeply saddens me that there is still today a pseudo, ‘kitchig’ picture of Theresienstadt held also among people of good will,” said Gelbard, who tries to “make adjustments to the myth of concentration camp culture.” It is natural to recognize that the prisoners escaped their fate through music and philosophy, that they “live on” through their music; one must never forget, however, the reality of the Holocaust. “Theresienstadt can only be seen in connection with the annhiliation of European Jewry,” warned Gelbard, also and particularly when wishing to honor the quality of the music.