HANS KRASA (1899 - 1944)
Hans Krása (1899-1944) came of age in his native Prague, which was a major crossroads during a watershed period of European musical life. If his early promise had not been cut short by World War II and the Holocaust, Krása might have continued emerging as an influential composer of his generation.
Krása learned piano and violin as a child and went on to study composition with Alexander Zemlinsky. After graduating from the German Music Academy in Prague, he became a vocal coach at Prague's German Theater, and briefly worked in Berlin at the Kroll Opera before returning to Prague. While thoroughly grounded in the music of the classical and romantic masters, Krása was strongly influenced by the new directions of the early twentieth century, especially impressionism and other French music. In the late 1920s he traveled to Paris to study with Albert Roussel. Krása self-consciously sought to reconcile traditional tonality with modernism. Of his musical style Krása wrote: "I am sufficiently daring, as a modern composer, to write melodic music. This reflects my whole attitude to music, whether it is called modern or anything else. My music is strictly founded on the concept of accessible melodic character."
Krása's first important success as a composer came in 1920 with his Four Orchestral Songs, based on the "Songs from the Gallows" poems of Christian Morgenstern. His 1923 Symphony was performed under Serge Koussevitzky in Boston, and his 1933 prize-winning opera Verlobung im Traum (Betrothal in a Dream), based on a Dostoevsky story, was conducted in Prague by George Szell. Krása produced numerous chamber and vocal works, and composed incidental music to the theatre piece "Youth at Play" by Adolf Hoffmeister, later his collaborator on Brundibár.
Krása, a Jew and an anti-fascist, was arrested by the Nazis on 10 August 1942 and sent to the Terezín concentration camp. Like the other Czech composers imprisoned there – Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas – Krása became part of a remarkable creative community. Krása's compositions at Terezín include a set of songs, the Passacaglia and Fugue for string trio (1943), and the Overture for Small Orchestra (1943-44) presented on this recording. The children's opera Brundibár, which Krása re-scored at Terezín, is the core of an extraordinary legacy.
On 16 October 1944 Krása was deported to Auschwitz and murdered upon his arrival.