PAUL KLETZKI (1900 - 1973)
Born in 1900 in Łódž as Pavel Klecki, Paul Kletzki (the Germanicized form of his name) became famous after the Second World War as a distinguished conductor. From about 1921 to about 1942, however, Kletzki was primarily active as a composer—although he did conduct his own music—and, within this approximately twenty-year period, created a remarkable series of works of just over thirty opus numbers. After about 1942 he fell silent as a composer, somewhat like Sibelius, and in Kletzki’s case, as in Sibelius’s, it is difficult to ascertain the reasons for his silence. He later explained that his post-war cessation from composition emanated from “The shock of all that Hitlerism meant [which] destroyed also in me the spirit and will to compose”. But there may have been other contributing factors. Perhaps he perceived a “disconnect” between his compositional development and the larger evolution of art-music after the war. It is noteworthy that he did little to advertise or conduct his own music after 1942; indeed, he acted as if his music had totally ceased to exist, although major libraries had preserved the published scores of at least some of his works.
Coming from an upper middle-class Polish-Jewish family in Łódž, at nine, Kletzki received his first lessons in violin from a Madame Schindler-Suess, a student of Joseph Joachim. An infant prodigy as a violinist, in 1915 he became the youngest member of the Łódž symphony orchestra. In 1919 he left Łódž to study philosophy at the University of Warsaw, and, at the same time became a composition student of Jules de Wertheim (Julius von Wertheim) and joined the conducting class of Emil Mlynarski. From 1920 to 1921 Kletzki fought in the war between Poland and the Soviets. During this conflict he was almost killed by a bullet which grazed his skull, while many of the soldiers in his unit perished. Resuming his studies in Warsaw, in 1921 he won first prize in a composition competition sponsored by the Warsaw Philharmonic for his Ouverture to the Florentine Tragedy by Oscar Wilde. With the proceeds from this award he went to Berlin to complete his studies at the Hochschule für Musik, where he studied composition with Friedrich Koch. By 1925 Kletzki had begun conducting his own music; between 1925 and 1933 he conducted his orchestral pieces with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Berlin Radio Symphony, and the orchestras of Bremen, Dresden, Essen, Dortmund, Duisberg, Lübeck, Kiel, Heidelberg, and Gothenburg in Sweden. From 1925 he began teaching at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, and from 1929 to 1930 he served on the council of the Bund deutscher Komponisten.