April Concert to Feature “Forbidden Music” of the Holocaust

HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 29, 2008) – During the Nazi occupation of Europe, the works of many Jewish composers were considered degenerate and therefore banned. The works of three such composers will be presented this April in a string quartet performance entitled "Reflections of the Soul – A Legacy of Forbidden Music."

Sponsored by Holocaust Museum Houston, the April 7 concert will be performed by members of the Houston Symphony, including concertmaster Angela Fuller and violinist Kiju Joh, violist Linda Goldstein and cellist Kevin Dvorak. It will feature works by Alexander Zemlinsky, Erwin Schulhoff and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Before each piece, narrator Ira J. Black will speak about its composer and the piece’s background.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby Street in downtown Houston. Tickets are $10 for members of Holocaust Museum Houston and $15 for nonmembers. For ticket and seating information, visit www.thehobbycenter.org or call 713-315-2525.

Goldstein and Dvorak developed the idea and program for the concert. "These composers’ music should be heard," Goldstein said, "and it reminds us how much art and music are being suppressed in other countries. It deals with all genocides. Who knows what else has been lost?"

Dvorak called the works "forgotten string quartet masterpieces" and said the idea for the concert stemmed from a desire to expose people to this genre of music.

"It will be a very accessible program," Goldstein said. "Once exposed, people will want to hear this music once again and wonder why they have never heard any of it before."

Zemlinsky was born in Vienna in 1871 and studied piano from a young age. He was admitted to the Vienna Conservatory in 1884 and won the school’s piano prize in 1890. He also studied composition and began to write music. 

He was conductor at Deutsches Landestheater in Prague from 1911 to 1927, after which he taught and worked as a conductor at the Kroll Opera in Berlin. When the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933, he fled to Vienna, and in 1938, he immigrated to the United States, settling in New York City. He died there in 1942, virtually unknown in his adopted country. It wasn’t until the 1970s that his music gained notoriety in the United States.

His most well-known work is Lyric Symphony, a seven-movement piece for orchestra, soprano and baritone, set to poems by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. The quartet will perform his "String Quartet No. 1 in A major Op. 4."

Schulhoff was born in Prague in 1894. He studied composition and piano in Prague, Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne and later embraced the avant-garde influences of jazz and Dadaism in his performance and writing after World War I. 

In the 1930s, as a result of his Jewish descent and radical politics, he and his works were blacklisted by the Nazi regime. He also had trouble in his native Czechoslovakia because of his Communist sympathies. When the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, he performed under a pseudonym. His petition for citizenship in the Soviet Union was approved in 1941, but he was arrested and imprisoned before he could immigrate. He was deported to the Wülzburg concentration camp, where he died of tuberculosis in 1942.

The quartet will present one of Schulhoff’s most widely performed works, "Five Pieces for String Quartet."

Korngold was an Academy Award-winning composer born in Brünn, Austria-Hungary in 1897. He studied music under Zemlinsky and had success in Europe with his opera "Die tote Stadt." He moved to the United States in 1934 where he composed several film scores, winning the Academy Award in 1939 for "The Adventures of Robin Hood." He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943 and died in Los Angeles in 1957.

The quartet will perform his "String Quartet No. 2 in E flat major Op. 26."

"If it hadn’t been for the Holocaust and the banning of these composers and their music, we wouldn’t have to justify a concert for them," Goldstein said. "This music would be famous on its own as masterpieces of originality and beauty."

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. 

For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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