"OUR WILL TO LIVE" • ANDRIS NELSONS • ANNETTE MILLER • Members of the BSO • the Symphony Hall debuts of music by Viktor Ullmann and Hans Krása • the North American premiere of the new TMF commission by the late ANDRÉ PREVIN • award recipient Norman L. Eisen • Monday, November 11 • Symphony Hall, Boston
"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."
— Terezín composer Viktor Ullmann
Viktor Ullman and Hans Krása were legendary forces in the cultural life that persevered in the Terezín concentration camp amidst grave suffering and the ever-present threat of transports to "the East," or Auschwitz. The Ullmann and Krása pieces chosen for our program were part of an outpouring of creativity in Terezín in 1943-1944, shortly before both composers — along with Gideon Klein and nearly every other artist in the camp, were sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. It is truly a privilege to debut these superb, masterful works at Boston's Symphony Hall, bringing them — in the hands of celebrated artists — the audience they amply deserve.
Viktor Ullmann was born in 1898 in Teschen and became a rising star in the circle of Arnold Schönberg, Alexander Zemlinsky, and Alban Berg. His lyrical synthesis of tonality and Schoenberg’s twelve–tone system distinguishes him among the most gifted composers of the Second Vienese school of classical music.
On September 8, 1942, Ullmann was deported to Terezín. His oeuvre had reached forty-one opus numbers plus three piano sonatas, song cycles on texts by various poets, operas, and the piano concerto Op. 25, finished in December 1939, nine months after the entry of German troops into Prague. In Terezín, he was a major figure as a piano accompanist, organizer of contemporary music concerts, and composer. Ullmann’s melodrama, "The Chronicle of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke," was among his last works completed in Terezín. Its premiere in the camp was given just three weeks before Ullmann's death in Auschwitz on October 18, 1944.
Hans Krása was born in 1899 in Prague. His primary influences were Mahler, Schönberg and Zemlinsky, as well as Les Six. His debut as a composer came with his Four Orchestral Songs Op. 1, performed to great acclaim under Zemlinsky's direction in Prague. This was followed by his Symphony (1923) performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski.
Krása's major achievement was the opera Verlobung im Traum (Betrothal in a Dream), after a novel by Dostoyevsky. This work debuted at the Neues Deutsches Theater in Prague in 1933 under Georg Szell and was awarded the Czechoslovak State Prize.
Brundibár, a children's opera based on a play by Aristophanes, was the last work Krása completed before he was arrested by the Nazis on August 10, 1942. Krása was sent to Terezín, where he reworked Brundibár for the available forces; it was performed fifty-five times in the camp and features in the infamous Nazi propaganda film from 1944. While he was interned in the ghetto, Krása was at his most productive, producing several chamber works, including the Overture for Small Orchestra that appears in our program.
Krása was sent to Auschwitz on October 17, 1944; he was not yet 45 years old.