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Sonnet de Louïze Labé Op.34/1

Viktor Ullmann (b. 1898 - d. 1944)

Katya Apekisheva (photo credit: Jack Liebeck)

Katya Apekisheva (photo credit: Jack Liebeck)

Composer
Viktor Ullmann (b. 1898 - d. 1944)
Composition Year
1941
Work Movements
1. Claire Vénus
Artists
Katya Apekisheva [piano], Charlotte Riedijk [soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Viktor Ullmann is perhaps the most impressive and the most extraordinary of the composers who were sent to Terezin. Before the War he had like many composers earned his living working in opera houses both as a conductor under Zemlinsky and as fully-fledged Intendant, which turned out to be very good preparation for working in Terezin where he was given enormous responsibilities organising the camp’s musical activities. These had begun as an underground activity but the Nazis quickly realised the advantage of diverting the inmates through performances created and organised by the inmates themselves with the useful additional propaganda advantage of deceiving the outside world about how the Jews were treated in the camps.

Ullmann composed twenty three works while in Terezin and wrote a remarkable essay Goethe and Ghetto, where he describes the challenge of composing and producing music under such conditions. For him art was central to the spiritual and ethical development of humanity and he confronted the desolate landscape of Terezin in spiritual and aesthetic terms. As he explained it, earlier, when one did not feel the impact and burden of material life because comfort—this magic of civilization—suppressed it, it was easy to create beautiful forms.  Yet, in Theresienstadt, where in daily life one has to overcome matter through form, where everything musical stands in direct contrast to the surroundings: here is a true school for masters.

This collection of six songs begins with three composed in Terezin. It is probably not fanciful to make a connection between the little birch tree (Berjoskele) and of the first song and the Polish village of Birkenau, which also means birch tree. The village of Birkenau was demolished to make way for the extermination camp at Auschwitz Birkenau. 

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Sonnet de Louïze Labé Op.34/1

Composer: Viktor Ullmann (b. 1898 - d. 1944)
Performance date: Tuesday 29th June 2010
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Viktor Ullmann (b. 1898 - d. 1944)
Work Title Sonnet de Louïze Labé Op.34/1
Composition Year 1941
Work Movements 1. Claire Vénus
Language German
Artist(s) Katya Apekisheva [piano], Charlotte Riedijk [soprano]
Performance Date Tuesday 29th June 2010
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:02:20
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation S-solo, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Viktor Ullmann is perhaps the most impressive and the most extraordinary of the composers who were sent to Terezin. Before the War he had like many composers earned his living working in opera houses both as a conductor under Zemlinsky and as fully-fledged Intendant, which turned out to be very good preparation for working in Terezin where he was given enormous responsibilities organising the camp’s musical activities. These had begun as an underground activity but the Nazis quickly realised the advantage of diverting the inmates through performances created and organised by the inmates themselves with the useful additional propaganda advantage of deceiving the outside world about how the Jews were treated in the camps.

Ullmann composed twenty three works while in Terezin and wrote a remarkable essay Goethe and Ghetto, where he describes the challenge of composing and producing music under such conditions. For him art was central to the spiritual and ethical development of humanity and he confronted the desolate landscape of Terezin in spiritual and aesthetic terms. As he explained it, earlier, when one did not feel the impact and burden of material life because comfort—this magic of civilization—suppressed it, it was easy to create beautiful forms.  Yet, in Theresienstadt, where in daily life one has to overcome matter through form, where everything musical stands in direct contrast to the surroundings: here is a true school for masters.

This collection of six songs begins with three composed in Terezin. It is probably not fanciful to make a connection between the little birch tree (Berjoskele) and of the first song and the Polish village of Birkenau, which also means birch tree. The village of Birkenau was demolished to make way for the extermination camp at Auschwitz Birkenau.