Personalities | Viktor Ullmann | Modern Era | Classical

(Vikh’-tor Uhl’-man) 1898–c. 1944
Czech composer

Ullmann studied in Vienna with Schoenberg and also in his native Prague with the pioneer of microtonal music, Alois Hába. In his own music their influence is joined by those of Mahler, Zemlinsky (with whom he studied conducting), Debussy and Weill, among others. His powerful opera Der Sturz des Antichrists (‘The Rise of Antichrist’, 1935) was not performed due to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, and in 1942 Ullmann was arrested and interned in the Terezín ghetto. In his two years there he wrote prolifically, notably the courageously satirical and movingly humane opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis (‘The Emperor of Atlantis’, 1943). In 1944 he was transferred to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where he presumably died or was executed (no records survive) soon thereafter. Since most of his music was unpublished his name was forgotten until the posthumous premiere of Der Kaiser von Atlantis in 1975. Numerous other productions, and performances and recordings of his surviving music, show him to have been one of the most gifted of the group of composers who worked at Terezín before their deaths at Auschwitz.

Recommended Recording:
Der Kaiser von Atlantis, soloists, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (cond) Lothar Zagrosek (Decca)

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