OBITUARY: Gerhard Rosenfeld ; Composer of an Opera about Willy Brandt
Childs, David, The Independent (London, England)
GERHARD ROSENFELD was best known for his opera Kniefall in Warschau ("Kneeling Down in Warsaw"), first staged in Dortmund in 1997. It is one of the most important operas composed in Germany since 1945.
The two-hour work deals with the life of Chancellor Willy Brandt from his flight to Norway in 1933, to escape the Gestapo, to his resignation as Chancellor in 1974. The title refers to Brandt's mission to Warsaw, in December 1970, when, visiting the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto memorial, he spontaneously fell to his knees as if asking for forgiveness for Nazi crimes committed in Germany's name. The act attracted worldwide attention at the time. The opera was the idea of John Dew, British director of the Dortmund Opera House, who commissioned Rosenfeld to compose it.
Gerhard Rosenfeld was born in Konigsberg (now in Russia) in 1931, but settled after 1945 in the Soviet Zone of Germany, which became the German Democratic Republic (DDR) in 1949. He studied music at Humboldt University in East Berlin and, after graduation, under Hanns Eisler, collaborator of Bertolt Brecht and composer of the DDR's national anthem. Rosenfeld composed six operas and was most successful with Der Mantel ("The Overcoat") inspired by Gogol's book of the same name. Also successful was Das alltagliche Wunder ("The Everyday Miracle"), first performed in Stralsund in 1973. Among his last works was Requiem fur Kaza Katharinnna, first heard in 1991, and regarded as a commemoration of all persecuted Roma and Sinti.
Rosenfeld's big breakthrough came with his First Violin Concerto, first performed by the Dresden Philharmonic in 1963. Although he tried his hand at the full range of music, from chamber music to a cello concerto and symphonies, many Germans remember him for his film scores. His introduction to this activity came through the composer Rudolf Wagner-Regeny and Eisler. With Eisler's help, Rosenfeld was appointed lecturer in film music at the famous Babelsberger Filmhochschule at Potsdam. …