Violin recital features works by composers killed in the Holocaust
One of the many tragedies of World War II was the loss of many gifted artistic creators to Nazi tyranny.
In classical music, there is a list of up-and-coming composers who could have charted new directions for music if they had been allowed to live their normal lives, and three of them will be featured at a concert on Tuesday at the Norton Museum of Art at West Palm Beach.
The concert, dubbed “Jewish Voices,” also features pieces by two other composers who survived the Holocaust but whose life trajectories were forever changed by war.
MORE ARTISTIC COVERAGE:The collections on display at Norton cover works from the 15th century to the modern era
Violinist Arnaud Sussmann, artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach, will give the concert, accompanied by American pianist and composer Michael Brown. Sussmann, originally from Strasbourg, France, presents the concert in honor of his grandfather, Jacques Sussmann, who survived imprisonment in Auschwitz.
Sussmann and Brown gave the program last year at Holocaust memorial events in Illinois and Wisconsin.
“This program grew out of my desire to learn and perform works by composers whose lives and careers were cut short during World War II,” Sussmann wrote in a prepared statement. “Three composers on this program were directly affected by the Holocaust – Erwin Schulhoff, Robert Dauber and Pavel Haas all perished in concentration camps, and Mieczylaw Weinberg’s entire family was murdered by the Nazis after the invasion of Poland.
“My own grandfather, Jacques Sussmann, survived the camps but lost many members of his family there. As a musician, I felt there was no better way to honor their memory than to promote and perform works by composers who were silenced during the war,” Sussmann wrote.
On the program, the “Suite for violin and piano” by Schulhoff (1894-1942), a Czech pianist and composer whose career was destroyed by the Nazi occupation of his homeland. A modernist whose music was known for its embrace of American jazz, he was deported to the Wülzburg concentration camp in Germany and died there of tuberculosis.
Also on the program is the only surviving composition by Dauber (1922-1945), an Austrian cellist whose “Serenade” for violin and piano was written in 1942. That year he was sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, where the Nazis allowed a cultural life to flourish as a way to ward off investigations into what was really going on in the camps. At Theresienstadt, Dauber was the principal cellist for several performances of Hans Krása’s children’s opera “Brundibár”. Dauber was sent to the Dachau concentration camp in 1944 and was murdered there in March 1945.
Haas (1899-1944) was a Czech composer whose work included film music in the emerging Czech cinema of the 1930s. His ‘Suite for oboe and piano’ was written in 1939; Sussmann and Brown will perform an arrangement of the work for violin and piano. Sent to Theresienstadt in 1941, Haas took part in its musical life, writing several works including a cycle of melodies on Chinese poetry. He was sent to Auschwitz in October 1944 with several other composers, including Krása and Victor Ullmann, where they were gassed to death.
The other two songwriters on the program were luckier, but their professional lives turned out to be different from what they would have otherwise. Samuel Adler, born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1928, came to the United States in 1939 when his family fled the Nazis; his father became a cantor of a temple in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Adler, who celebrated his 94th birthday earlier this month, has composed more than 400 pieces — 26 of which were written during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said in February — and has had a stellar college career. distinction, notably as a member of the composition faculty at Juilliard. Sussmann will perform Adler’s “Lullaby.”
The fifth piece on the program is “Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes” by Polish Soviet composer Weinberg (1919-1996), who fled the Nazis in 1939 by emigrating from Warsaw to the Soviet Union (his parents and younger sister, however, , were killed at the Trawniki concentration camp). In the USSR, he met Dmitri Shostakovich, who became the young composer’s mentor.
Weinberg’s music has gained increasing respect and performance in recent years (his opera “The Passenger” was staged at the Florida Grand Opera in 2016), and includes 26 symphonies, 17 string quartets, seven operas, and many other pieces . The “Rhapsody” was written in 1949.
The concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Norton Museum of Art. Tickets are $40 ($30 for museum members) and can be purchased by visiting norton.org.