March 2-8, 2001
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U.Va. conference to give voice to music silenced by Hitler
The logo for the Entartete Musik recording series refers to music the Nazis' banned. "Entartete" means "degenerate."

U.Va. conference to give voice to music silenced by Hitler

Staff Report

In the early 1940s the Nazis transported 140,000 people to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the small town of Terezín, Czechoslovakia. There they incarcerated some of Europe's most gifted artists, musicians, composers and writers who, despite the inhuman living conditions, sustained an active cultural community.

Theresienstadt was not only a transit point to the Nazi death camps. It was also used in the Nazis' carefully constructed propaganda campaign to deny the existence of the Final Solution. Part of the camp was transformed into a quaint village with gardens, playgrounds and an outdoor music pavilion, where a propaganda film was made to show the place as a model ghetto. Performances were staged, including one for the International Red Cross. Nevertheless, almost all of the composers and artists in the camp were eventually sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Composers such as Viktor Ullmann, Hans Krása and Ervin Schulhoff were among some 35,000 artists and musicians who perished in Terezín. Of the 15,000 children who passed through Theresienstadt, only 93 survived.

Hawthorne String Quartet
Formed in 1986, the Hawthorne String Quartet includes violinists Ronan Lefkowitz and Haldan Martinson, violist Mark Ludwig and cellist Sato Knudsen from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. They have made several recordings of music from composers persecuted during World War II and will perform at U.Va.

During the course of World War II, the Nazis blacklisted compositions from Europe's modernism movement, music written by Jewish composers, music containing explicit sexuality, black jazz and any piece written in opposition to Nazi ideology. They branded this music with the term "entartete musik" (degenerate music).

Through their efforts, a generation of musical innovation and promise was not only abruptly curtailed in Europe, but excluded from its rightful status in history.

"There is a clear linear progression of Germanic composers from Mozart to Mahler into the 1920s that was cut off when the Nazis starting banning certain music and composers," said fourth-year music major Benjamin Levy. He began researching the topic last fall while taking a class on the music of World War II with U.Va. professor Scott DeVeaux. Some of the composers and musicians managed to emigrate. Some went to the concentration camps and did not survive. Some of their music was saved, however.

cast of "Brundibar"
 
This photo shows the cast of "Brundibar," a children's opera written by the Czech composer Hans Krása in the concentration camp of Terezín. The girl in black in the front row is Ela Weissberger, who will participate in the conference.

Levy has organized an international conference on "The Music Suppressed by the Third Reich," to be held at U.Va. March 23-25. It will bring together musicologists, internationally acclaimed musicians and conductors, researchers from the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Jewish historians discussing the Nazi impact on the development of music in Europe and America.

The Hawthorne String Quartet and violinist Miriam Kramer from London will perform in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium Saturday night. The quartet has recorded all of the Terezín chamber music for the recent "Entartete Musik" recording series. Other musical performances will feature works that were performed before World War II and then banned by the Nazis, while still others have never before been publicly performed.

Conference participants include Mark Ludwig, director of the Terezín Chamber Music Foundation; Bret Erb, music researcher at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Michael Haas, executive producer of London/Decca Records Entartete Musik Series; and Terezín survivor Ela Weissberger, who lived at Theresienstadt from the age of 11 to 15.

Events include a discussion between Gottfried Wagner, great-grandson of the composer Richard Wagner and a musicologist in Milan, Italy, and Holocaust historian Abraham Peck, who teaches at the University of Southern Maine, about the relationship between Germans and Jews after 1945. The two have a book coming out in April on their dialogue. Also, Martin Goldsmith, founding host and executive producer of National Public Radio's "Performance Today," will talk about his new book about his parents, The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany.

Over the past 13 months, Levy raised approximately $40,000 to organize the conference, with support from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Shoah Foundation, the Terezín Chamber Music Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Hillel International. Other sponsors include the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, the Byck Foundation, the U.Va. departments of history, music, and French, the Judaic Studies Program, College of Arts & Sciences, the Raven Society and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. The Judaic Studies Program at George Washington University, plus the music departments at GWU and the University of Richmond also have contributed.

Conference schedule
See http://www.virginia.edu/music/holocaust for a complete list of participants and for registration information.

Friday, March 23

2 - 3:30 p.m. The Rotunda "London/Decca Records' Entartete Musik Recording Series" "The Third Reich's Musical Road to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp"

4 - 5:30 p.m. Old Cabell Hall Auditorium "Exiled Composers in England (including Berthold Goldschmidt)" "Music Research and the Holocaust"

6 - 8 p.m. Newcomb Hall Ballroom Dinner reception with John D'earth and The Free Bridge Jazz Quintet

8:30 - 10 p.m. Old Cabell Hall Auditorium "Richard Wagner's Political and Cultural Influences on Hitler" "How to Handle Family Histories as Part of World History After the Shoah: The Wagner-Peck Case"

Saturday, March 24

9 - 10 a.m. Old Cabell Hall Lobby Breakfast

10:15 - 11:45 a.m. Garrett Hall Commons Room "Kurt Weill and Ernst Krenek" (Panel discussion/recital)

Noon - 1:30 p.m. Old Cabell Hall Lobby Boxed lunches available 2 - 3:30 p.m. n Rotunda "Finding a Voice: Musicians and Terezín" (Lecture/recital)

4 -5:30 p.m. Old Cabell Hall Auditorium (Lecture/ recital) "Jewish Musicians in Nazi Germany ­ The Judische Kulturbund"

8:15 -10:45 p.m. Old Cabell Hall Auditorium Gala Concert

 


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