Terezin variations : codes, messages, and the summer of 1944

Debenham, Jory and Beckerman, Michael and Sayer, Derek (2016) Terezin variations : codes, messages, and the summer of 1944. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis examines the final musical compositions of Pavel Haas, Hans Krása, Gideon Klein, and Viktor Ullmann through the lens of variations form. These four instrumental works were written in the Terezín concentration camp in the summer of 1944, when the Nazi propaganda campaign promoting Terezín as a haven for the Jews of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was at its height. Somewhat unexpectedly all of these pieces make use of some kind of variation technique, employing it in different ways to comment on their situation and experience. Each chapter connects a variations composition with a historical moment, offering an analysis of the piece within the historical context. What emerges is a portrait of four artistic individuals who engaged deeply with their situation and environment and expressed it through their music. Pavel Haas used symbolic quotations and paraphrases to express themes of nationalism, death, home, and façade, while Hans Krása employed musical topics, unusual juxtapositions, and the reconfiguring of the Baroque passacaglia form for his evocations of façade, incongruity, fear, and death. Gideon Klein adapted a Classical Theme and Variations model to embed quotations revealing the dark aspects of the camp that the Nazis were trying to conceal, and Viktor Ullmann, the most philosophically-oriented composer of the group, used variations as a way of searching for truth in the spiritual as well as the mental and physical realms. Through these analyses, I offer new insight into the historical situation of Terezín and the expressive capacity of the music as the composers of Terezín used one of the most simple and flexible musical forms for their most profound artistic expression.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
?? theme and variations, terezin, viktor ullmann, hans krasa, gideon klein, pavel haas, theresienstadt, ??
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Deposited On:
08 Aug 2016 13:20
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:36