The Czech Embassy presents "Phoenix from the Ashes: Terezín in Words and Music", a free concert honoring composers and writers at Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp, to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day April 28.
The program features "Phoenix from the Ashes", a song cycle composed by Stillman, based on poetry and stories from "Vedem: The Secret Publication by the Boys of Terezín", and "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" by children from Terezín. The concert also includes works by three major composer-musicians-writers imprisoned at the camp.
Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, and Ilse Weber were among the 50,000 Jewish artists in many genres at Czechoslovkaia's Terezín (Theresienstadt in German), which the Nazis tried to portray as a Jewish arts colony. Like most at Terezín/Theresienstadt, they were sent on to their deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau and other killing camps.
- Viktor Ullmann, an advanced student of the great composer Arnold Schönberg, was a celebrated conductor and concert pianist before World War Two. In 1942, Ullmann was deported to Terezín, where he became a prolific composer of three piano sonatas, a string quartet, several dozen lieder (art songs), orchestral works, and an opera, "The Emperor of Atlantis or Death Abdicates".
Ullmann wrote, "Theresienstadt has served to enhance, not impede, my musical activities, that by no means did we sit weeping…our endeavor with respect to Art was commensurate with our will to live." He was a frequent performer and conductor for the camp's numerous musical presentations.
Ullmann was deported on one of the last transports to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was killed at age 46 in the gas chambers in 1944.
- Gideon Klein was a composer, pianist, writer and educator, who was especially devoted to teaching Terezín's orphans. During his three years there, Klein, like Ullmann, also performed often in the camp's concerts and operas. and prolifically composed. Klein created several choral works, a piano sonata, a "Fantasy and Fugue for String Quartet", and a string trio that he completed days before he was deported to Auschwitz.
He was killed at the Fürstengrube subcamp just days after his 26th birthday -- and only days before Soviet troops arrived in January 1945.
- Ilse Weber was a poet, author, and composer of works for children. She took care of many children at Terezín. Weber chose to accompany them to Auschwitz. To calm them, she sang her lullaby-lieder, "Wiegala". (Click here to hear her sing it).
At age 41, Weber and her son, Tommy, were killed with those children in the gas chambers.
Performers at the Czech Embassy concert are:
- Pianist Judith Lynn Stillman has been hailed by Wynton Marsalis as "a rare find, a remarkable virtuoso, a consummate artist". She holds Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees from The Juilliard School, where she received the Dethier Prize for Outstanding Pianist, and also won the Juilliard Concerto Competition, among many others. Stillman is a soloist, recording artist, chamber musician, choral conductor, composer, and artist-teacher. She has been visiting artist in the Czech Republic, China, and Russia.
- Soprano Lori Phillips performed most recently at the Metropolitan Opera in March as Marie in Alban Berg's "Wozzeck". "Opera News" has praised Phillips in Wagner's "Die Walküre" as "a terrific Brünnhilde: her voice started out in excellent form and kept getting better, her clarion upper register sending chills down one's spine." Click here to hear Phillips in a variety of roles.
May this concert, and the Congressionally established Holocaust Remembrance Week, April 27–May 4, help ensure "Never Again".
This year's theme is "Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses".
The final words of Ilse Weber's lullaby echo today, "How silent is the world!"
For more info and reservations: "Phoenix from the Ashes: Terezín in Words and Music", April 28, 6 P.M. Free, but advance registration is required at http://goo.gl/rkGsYm. Czech Embassy, www.mzv.cz/washington/en/, 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. Judith Lynn Stillman, www.judithlynnstillman.com. Lori Phillips, www.loriphillips.com. Congressionally established Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 28, and Holocaust Remembrance Week is April 27–May 4.