Viktor Ullmann – Revival of interest in Prague-resident composer killed in Holocaust

Viktor Ullmann

Composer Viktor Ullmann, who lived in Prague before being sent to the concentration camps by the Nazis, is enjoying something of a revival in Czechia.

Composer Viktor Ullmann was born in Těšín but spent much of his young life in Vienna. In 1919 he moved to Prague to study music, later working with the city’s New German Theatre and Czechoslovak Radio.

Both Ullmann’s parents were from families of Jewish descent but had converted to Roman Catholicism. In 1942 the Nazis sent him to the Terezín ghetto, where he wrote the opera The Emperor of Atlantis. In late 1944 he was murdered at Auschwitz.

Ullmann’s work is considered part of the unique Czech-Jewish-German cultural ferment of interwar Prague. He is little-known in Czechia but that is now changing thanks to the Musica non grata project of Prague’s National Theatre and a parallel project of the Moravian-Silesian National Theater in Ostrava, Operas of the Terezín Composers.

It was in Ostrava in February that Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis and, for the first time ever in Czechia, The Broken Jug were presented.

This edition of Sunday Music Show looks at the last mentioned piece, as well as Ullmann’s Slavonic Rhapsody.