The Czech composer Viktor Ullmann was born on 1 January 1898 near Prague, the son of an army officer. After fighting in World War I he studied in Vienna with Arnold Schoenberg and Alois Hába, a fellow Czech, and then taught, lectured, wrote, and worked for Czech radio.
During World War II, Ullmann was sent to Terezin (Theresienstadt) in 1942, where he was very prolific, writing sixteen works in less than two years, including the one act opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis, oder Die Tod-Verweigerung ('The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Abdicates', 1943). The libretto, also written in Terezin, was by Petr Kien. Although not a Jew, Ullmann's music of this period was inspired by Jewish themes, quoting, for example, Josef Suk's Asrael in the opera. Sadly, he was killed in Auschwitz on 17 October 1944.
Ullmann's music includes a piano concerto, three string quartets and many songs. His seventh piano sonata (which includes variations on The Song from Palestine) was used as the basis for a reconstruction, in 1989, of a second symphony.
CD Spotlight. Flaming Intensity - String quartets by Ullmann, Shostakovich and Laks impress Gerald Fenech. '... in this miraculous music you can also experience passion, hope, gratitude and the unlimited resilience of the human spirit.'
CD Spotlight. Alternative Worlds - Jewish cabaret music surprises Gerald Fenech. '... those who decide to take the plunge will be rewarded with riches aplenty.'
CD Spotlight. Neo-classical Verve - Music by victims of the Nazi death camps, heard by Howard Smith. 'Worth its weight and then some, in Euros.'
CD Spotlight. Vividly Atmospheric - Music by composers in Theresienstadt, heard by Howard Smith. 'The Nash players' programme is presented with their customary aplomb ...'
Ensemble. Taking Risks - English Touring Opera's Autumn productions, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett
Ensemble. An Ecstatic Success - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the Sagra Musicale Malatestiana
Ensemble. Of Purest Heart - An unusual double bill at LA Opera impresses Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Distant Sound - LA Opera's 'Recovered Voices', reviewed by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Music in Captivity - Malcolm Miller was at a lecture recital by Ronald Senator, with Teresa Gobel and Miriam Brickman
Ensemble. An acquired taste - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Munich, by Tess Crebbin and Sissy von Kotzebue
Ensemble. Holocaust opera - A powerful, deeply moving performance of Viktor Ullmann's 'The Emperor of Atlantis', reviewed by Lawrence Budmen