The solo piano music of Viktor Ullmann : from Prague to the Holocaust--a performer's guide to the complete piano sonatas and variations / by John Paul Healey.
Viktor Ullmann was a composer, conductor, teacher, pianist, and music journalist from a small town in northern Bohemia. He lived and worked in Prague and Vienna before being deported to Theresienstadt in the fall of 1942. He continued composing for slightly more than two years before being sent on a transport to Auschwitz in October, 1944. He was murdered there at the age of 46. Ullmann produced a large body of compositions in various genres. His music for solo piano, the topic of this thesis, includes a set of variations on a theme by Arnold Schoenberg and seven piano sonatas. Long thought to have been lost, the scores survived the war but are only now being made available in performer's editions. Chapter I offers an account of Ullmann's biography in three sections. The first section covers his student days, his early experiences as a musician and his relationship with the Anthroposophical movement and ends with his arrest and deportation to Theresienstadt. The second offers a brief history of Theresienstadt and describes its state at the time of Ullmann's arrival. The third covers Ullmann's musical activities in Theresienstadt. Chapter II offers an overview of Ullmann's methods and techniques as a composer of piano music. Special attention is given to the harmonic and contrapuntal styles of the Schoenberg Variations and the seven piano sonatas. Influences from several of his contemporaries are examined. Chapters III through V undertake an analysis of Ullmann's solo piano music, intended for the performer or the interested listener. It includes background information about the variations and each of the sonatas as well as a discussion of his approach to form, harmonies, and counterpoint. Numerous musical examples are included in the discussion of each piece. The Appendix includes translations from German into English of Ullmann's essays as a music critic in Theresienstadt. In reading these concert reviews, performers and aficionados will gain insight into Ullmann's strong and compelling views on music literature and performance practice. They will also experience vicariously the wondrous and vivid musical life of the ghetto through a first-hand account.
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