Robert (gurdonark) wrote,


I'd like to tell a story this evening about a man about whom I read. His name was Hans Krása.

He grew up in what is now the Czech Republic. During his formative years, he received training in the piano from well-known pianists (in particular Zemlinsky, who had been Schoenberg's piano teacher), and managed to catapult himself into the ranks of professional conductors and composers without obtaining a formal academy degree. He became an assistant conductor for a theater orchestra in Prague. His works, such as the five minute Overture for a Small Orchestra emphasized melody in a time when atonal and twelve-step music was becoming the vogue--but it is not a reactionary style. Krasa himself wrote of being informed by Schoenberg's sense that music must be passionate rather than empty, and yet he strove to find a music both accessible and melodic.

Had he been born in another era, then his tale would be one of a gifted composer, encouraged by his parents, who made a career of music and then had chosen to live in Prague after having experienced the bohemian life in Paris and Berlin. Since he lived in the era he did, his tale is changed by fact that the Nazi takeover of Prague happened when he was about 40ish.

He'd just finished a children's opera. Though he wrote it in German, it could not be performed due to the anti-Semitism of those in control. He was sent to the 'show camp' of Theresienstadt, where his children's opera, Brundibar, received dozens of performances. The Nazis encouraged cultural life there to try to deceive outside observers about their intentions. The Nazis even made a propaganda film which touted the camp's culture.

Krasa did not give up. He wrote a number of chamber works, and he produced his opera. It is arguable that his most productive years were in that ghastly place. When the Nazis deemed the "show camp" no longer necessary, they shipped him to Auschwitz, where he died at their hands.

Krasa did not live the life of a soldier or an activist. He ran in musical circles devoted to hunting new avenues in sound and interesting experiences, not fortitude against unspeakable hardship. Ultimately, he was in a no-win situation, surrounded by oppressors, without money, without a 'career', with only a kind of temporary sufferance.

Yet from the darkness, he kept on creating light. Tonight I am thinking about a man I know only from my reading, and remembering what fortitude can do to make a difference. I believe in lots of different forms of the after-life, but in particular this one--we can learn from those who went before what it means to strive--and to succeed despite impossible odds. Then we can remember.

fountain burst

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