Powerful Music from a Concentration Camp

By Bloom, Elizabeth | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

Powerful Music from a Concentration Camp


Bloom, Elizabeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Last fall, violist Tatjana Mead Chamis recruited three of her colleagues in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to help her regenerate degenerate music.

Entartete Musik, or degenerate music, was a term used by the Nazis to discredit or suppress composers, particularly Jews, in the Third Reich.

Since that time, the Clarion Quartet - Ms. Chamis, cellist Bronwyn Banerdt and violinists Jennifer Orchard and Marta Krechkovsky - has researched, rehearsed, performed and shed light on music by composers such as Viktor Ullmann and Erwin Schulhoff, who died in concentration camps. The idea for such a quartet came from Pittsburgh doctor Frank Lieberman, who approached Ms. Chamis with the idea for a concert of Entartete music.

The group gave its first concert in March. On Tuesday, the Clarion Quartet performed at Terezin, or Theresienstadt, the former concentration camp and ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic, during the PSO's European concert tour. Ullmann, who studied with Arnold Schoenberg, composed his String Quartet No. 3 at Terezin. That work, along with music by Schulhoff and an arrangement by Boris Pigovat, were featured on the program.

Terezin, which had aspects of both ghettos and concentration camps, was also a propaganda tool for the Nazis, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"In Nazi propaganda, Theresienstadt was cynically described as a 'spa town' where elderly German Jews could 'retire' in safety," according to the museum's website. "The deportations to Theresienstadt were, however, part of the Nazi strategy of deception. The ghetto was in reality a collection center for deportations to ghettos and killing centers in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe."

The PSO's four-country, 14-concert tour began May 17 and concludes with a performance in Munich on June 4. …

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