Out of the darkest isolation, a composer saw light

Out of the darkest isolation, a composer saw light


norman lebrecht

April 03, 2020

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

In a dark moment of isolation, I found myself listening to Viktor Ullmann, a student of the atonalist Schoenberg and the microtonalist Haba who never really found his voice until darkness descended and he faced segregation and extinction. Before 1939 he’d enjoyed fragments of international attention, with a piano sonata premiered in London at the Wigmore Hall and a few more glimmers of invitation.

In 1939, after the Germans occupied Prague, he set about writing a piano concerto …

Read on here.


And here.


  • Ullmann says:

    not ‘the Germans’. the ‘Nazis’.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Yet another album to add to my bulging wish list!

  • Sam says:

    I was very involved in the upcoming Leipzig new production of Ullmann’s “Der Sturz des Antichrist,” which for obvious reasons had its planned March 21 premiere cancelled. A real shame, as it is an true masterwork, and will hopefully be heard in Leipzig in a future season.

  • Hmus says:

    Let me also recommend Pavel Haas, a Czech victim of the Holocaust and a truly individual voice as a composer who has not so far recievd the attention that is warranted. Try his string quartet # 2

  • fflambeau says:

    Atonalism? No thanks. I prefer Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, early Bernstein, Alan Hovhaness and people who know melodies. Atonalism is the god that failed.

  • Joel Lazar says:

    I conducted the Washington DC premiere of his “Emperor of Atlantis” almost 20 years ago; deeply impressed by Ullmann’s gift and equally shaken by the circumstances under which it was written. Ironically at the same time I was involved with a production of “Magic Flute”.

  • Joel Lazar says:

    Correction! Almost 30 years ago…Mozart anniversary year 1991.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    Here’s a performance by

    Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.
    Joseph SWENSEN, Direction.
    Nathalia ROMANENKO, Piano.


    A prominent orchestra I would say.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    The pianist Nathalia Romanenko is clearly committed to Vikto Ullmann’s music. Here is a concert, where in memorian, the piano is in one of the rail trucks used to transport victims to Auschwitz.


  • José Bergher says:

    Suggested reading:
    “Music in Terezin 1941 – 1945” by Joza Karas
    This excellent book was published in 1985.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Chilling story, and a very strong work by a very gifted composer.

    The Exil Arte Centre in Vienna dedicates itself to whatever music by emigres and nazi victims has been recovered:


    Especially Michael Haas has spent infinite efforts for the forbidden music of that period, including producing the famous Decca CD series ‘Entartete Musik’: