Starting at sundown on Sunday, May 5, 2024 and going until sundown Monday, May 6 nations around the world will be marking Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, in honour of the more than six million Jews who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis.

As time passes and the historical events of 80-plus years ago slip further and further away, and there are fewer and fewer survivors left to tell their stories, the observance of this day gains even greater significance. Observing Yom HaShoah and educating those who do not know about the events leading up to the Holocaust and the Holocaust itself is crucial so that we do not slip into the abyss and repeat history.

Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art)

When the Nazis came to power after the 1933 German Federal election, they were quick to start implementing artistic suppression laws. Any music, film, literature or art which was viewed by the party unfavourably was categorized as Entartete Kunst. (Degenerate Art). Typically this was any art created by Jews, any creation that depicted the influence of jazz, negroes, or simply any art that was viewed as being too abstract.

In July of 1937, there was an Entartete Kunst exhibition organized by Adolph Ziegler, who was an artist and member of the Nazi party. His job ultimately, was to purge German society of what the Nazis declared Degenerate Art. The day before the exhibit opened on the 19th of July, Hitler delivered a speech where he went on a tear declaring “merciless war on cultural degeneration…and silencing chatterboxes, dilettantes and art swindlers.”

The result of the Entartete Kunst movement and the purging and silencing of artists was that much of the highly progressive and inspired art created during the Weimar Republic years would be forever lost. In the realm of music, Germany would cease to be the hub of Western art music post-1945.

Tune into Intermezzo every day at 1 p.m. this week to hear music that commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day. With the exception of Monday all of the composers’ music you will hear was categorized as Entartete Kunst. Throughout the entirety of the 1 p.m. hour Tuesday through Friday you will hear music written by these truly inspired and unique musical voices. Many of the compositional voices you will hear were lost forever in camps such as Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, and Treblinka.

Monday, May 6: Henryk Górecki Symphony no.3 Symphony of Sorrowful Songs


First performed in 1977 Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is a three-movement symphony that perfectly encapsulates the mood of sorrow, loss, remembrance and reflection that is so necessary on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Górecki was a devout Catholic, but nevertheless, many of his family ended up in camps. As he once stated, "Many of my family died in concentration camps. I had a grandfather who was in Dachau, an aunt in Auschwitz. You know how it is between Poles and Germans. But Bach was a German too—and Schubert, and Strauss. Everyone has his place on this little earth.”

Scored for soprano and orchestra, the symphony explores themes of motherhood and the effects of war. The songs that Górecki makes use of are

  • 1st Movement- based on a late 15th-century lament of Mary from the Lysagora Songs collection of the Holy Cross Monastery in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains
  • 2nd Movement-libretto based on a prayer to the Virgin Mary inscribed by Helen Błażusiakówna on the wall of her Gestapo Prison Cell in Zakopane; a town in southern Poland.
  • 3rd Movement-Taken from a Selsian Folk Song of a mother searching for her son killed by the Germans in the Silesian Uprisings of 1919-1921

The first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, and the second movement from that of a child separated from a parent. 

This is a Symphony that will reach into your soul, and make you contemplate and remember. It has become one of the real masterpieces of the later part of the twentieth century.

Tuesday, May 7: Erwin Schulhoff Double Concerto for Flute and Piano

gdhjErwin Schulhoff

Schulhoff was an Austro-Czech composer and pianist. Early on in his studies at the Prague Conservatory, he was encouraged by Dvorak. Later Schulhoff would join the faculty of the Conservatory in 1929.

Schulhoff’s music shows the influence of many different styles. His early works show the influence of Debussy and Strauss, while his late works show the influence of jazz and ragtime. Schulhoff himself performed often as a cabaret pianist in the 1920s.

He had communist sympathies, and he was of Ashkenazi-Jewish descent, so his works were immediately banned in Nazi Germany, and he could no longer perform there.

In 1941 Schulhoff was deported to Wülzburg prison near Weissenberg, Bavaria. Schulhoff died of tuberculosis there in 1942.

Written in 1927 Schulhoff’s Double Concerto for Flute and Piano, was composed for his friend the flute player Rene le Roy, who would later become a flute teacher at the Paris Conservatory. The work is infused with the sounds of jazz and Austro-German romanticism. It is a tour-de-force for both instruments.

Wednesday, May 8: Pavel Haas String Quartet No. 2

sfjkjPavel Haas

Born in Brno 1899, Haas was a Czech composer whose output was not particularly large, but what he did composer was of the highest calibre. Today he is mostly known for his string quartets and his song cycles.

He studied at the Brno Conservatory, where he was a student of Leoš Janacek. Like Janáček Haas’ music often makes use of modes that are outside the realm of major and minor keys. Other areas where Haas drew creative inspiration from were Czech folk melodies as well as jazz.

He was hyper-critical of his compositions and it is for this reason only 13 of his works have opus numbers. He is thought to have composed as many as 50 works.

As a Moravian Jew, Haas was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1941. At Theresienstadt, he came into contact with composers Viktor Ullman, Gideon Klein, and Hans Krasa. It was Krasa who convinced Haas to continue to compose in the camp. It’s thought Haas composed eight works in Theresienstadt. In 1944 he was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he died upon arrival.

Composed in 1925 three years after he had completed his studies with Janáček, Haas’ String Quartet no.2 is inspired by the Moravian Highlands, nicknamed “Monkey Mountains.” Haas gave a title to each one of the movements:

  • 1. Landscape (Krajina) - Andante
  • 2. Coach, Coachman and Horse (Kočár, kočí a kůň) - Andante
  • 3. The Moon and I... (Měsíc a já...) - Largo e misterioso
  • 4. Wild Night (Divá noc) - Vivace e con fuoco

The quartet makes use of some marvellous textures and effects, such as re-occurring grace note motives in the first movement, and sliding up and down the fingerboard in the second movement. The closing movement makes use of folk melodies and jazz, making a fantastic dreamlike kaleidoscope of sounds and musical colours.


Thursday, May 9: Hans Krása Suite from the Opera Brundibar

fghHans Krása

Born in 1899, Krása would go on to study at the German Music Academy in Prague. After graduating he took a steady job as a répétiteur for the State Opera House in Prague. It’s there where he met the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky; Krása would become a protégé of Zemlinksy. He followed him to Berlin, where he would meet members of the French group of composers known as Les Six. Eventually, Krása became homesick and returned to Prague where he would take up his old post at the State Opera House.

As a Jew, Krása was arrested by the Nazis in 1942 and sent to Theresienstadt. While he was in the camp he helped organize cultural life in the ghetto.

Krása’s children’s opera Brundibar based on a play by Aristophanes was completed just before his arrest in 1942. In Theresienstadt, he reworked the opera so it could be performed with the resources he had available to him in the camp. The opera would be performed 55 times, and would also be used in the Nazi Propaganda film Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet ("Theresienstadt: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area") This was a film created by the Nazis to dupe the Red Cross into thinking Theresienstadt was a place were Jews were being treated well and humanly.

Soon after the filming wrapped up in the fall of 1944, Krása was shipped off to Auschwitz where he died upon arrival. He was just 44 years old.

Friday May 10: Berthold Goldschmidt Cello Concerto

dggjBerthold Goldschmidt

Born in 1903, Berthold Goldschmidt was a German Jewish composer whose musical career blossomed during the heyday of the Weimar Republic. He was encouraged by the likes of Ferruccio Busoni, and in 1922 he enrolled in the Hochschule fur Musik, where he became a student of Franz Schrecker.

Soon after graduation, Goldschmidt achieved success with his Passacagalia op.4 which earned him the prestigious Mendelssohn Prize. The climax of his career happened with the premiere of his opera Der gewaltige Hahnrei which was first performed in Mannheim in 1932. Goldschmidt was hailed as one of the brightest hopes of his generation.

Unfortunately, this was also on the eve of the Nazis taking power in the Reichstadt. Goldschmidt who was Jewish saw his compositions and his career stifled by the regime. He was advised to leave Germany in 1935 by an SS officer. This was advice Goldschmidt took to heart. He ended up immigrating to England in that year.

Goldschmidt ended up living a somewhat more muted career in England. He worked as the Music Director for the BBC’s German Service.  In 1958, feeling neglected by England’s compositional establishment, he decided to stop composing altogether. He made his living quietly as a conductor, pianist and teacher. It was not until the 1980’s he saw a resurgence of interest in his music, and in 1982 began composing again.

Written in the early 1950 Goldschmidt’s Cello concerto was written for the great English cellist William Pleeth. However, the origins of the concerto go as far back as the early 1940s. Goldschmidt had written a cello sonata for his friend the cellist Emanuel Feuermann. Feuermann died in 1942, and the score was lost due to the confusion and upheaval of the Second World War. Goldschmidt would make use of several of the themes from that earlier cello sonata in his cello concerto.

The concerto overall has a rather elegiac character to it, with the exception of the final movement Tarantella. It’s here where Goldschmidt writes some pyro-technics for the cellist. It is considered to be one of the truly great cello concertos that are far too rarely performed.

Tune in all week as we put to air these remarkable works, written by composers whose voices were silenced by the Nazis