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Fate and Fairytales: the music of Wilhelm Grosz and Zikmund Schul

Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds

Kate Rotheroe (Soprano), Rhian Hughes (Flute)
Ian Buckle (Piano), The Cassia Quartet

A concert of chamber works by two composers in very different conditions of exile, Grosz and Schul, and a world premiere of a work for harp by Gideon Klein, composed when he was 15.


Hilda Miller

Image by Hilda Miller

Wilhelm Grosz (1894-1939) traversed many genres, integrating jazz and cabaret into his serious concert music. Born in Vienna, Grosz moved to Berlin in 1927, taking up a post as artistic manager of Ultraphon recording company. In 1933, he escaped back to Vienna with his wife, stepson and three-year-old daughter, before moving to London and finally New York. Grosz’s concert material has remained largely untouched – ignored post-war, when avant-garde atonality was at the forefront of concert music, only briefly explored in Decca’s “Entartete Musik” series.  The works presented today reflect Grosz’s interest in writing for children, no doubt inspired by the birth of his daughter Eva.

Little is known about the early life of Zigmunt Schul (1916-1944). Together with his father, he fled from Kassel to Prague in October 1933, taking up lessons with Alois Hába, and researching the music of the private prayer room (shtibl) of the Lieben family. In 1941, Schul was sent to Terezín, where he befriended Viktor Ullmann, who acted as his mentor. Schul continued to write music in the ghetto, but died of tuberculosis in June 1944. His works reflect a preoccupation with Jewish subject matter, combined with a modernist aesthetic and interest in microtonality.

Among numerous sketches and unfinished pieces by Prague-based composer and pianist Gideon Klein, are the Four Small Harp Pieces dating from 1935 when the composer was 15. They were written for Klein’s friend, the harpist Marie Grünfeld. Only the first piece is in fair copy, and today’s performance is its world premiere. Klein was transported to Terezin in 1941, and was later murdered in an Auschwitz sub-camp.

Zrzavy, arr. Schul: V’liyrushalayim (String quartet & voice)
Schul: Dunkle Klange (Schiksal) for Alto, Flute, Viola & Cello
Schul: Zaddik for Violin, viola and cello
Schul: Uv’tseil Knofecho for String quartet
Schul: Chassidische Tänze for violin & viola
Klein: Movement for Harp (world premiere)
Grosz: Kleine Sonate for piano solo
Grosz: Vom Morgen bis zum Abend (7 short songs, piano & voice)
Grosz: Neue Kinderlieder (4 songs, piano & voice)
Grosz: Fairytales (String quartet, flute, harp, voice)
Encore: Grosz, The Woodward Lullaby (piano & voice)

Pre-concert talk
12:30pm: Performing the Jewish Archive researcher Dr Joseph Toltz (Sydney Conservatorium of Music) explores the lives and music of Wilhelm Grosz and Zikmund Schul.

Admission free

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