Pianist Renan Koen, hunted down the compositions that were composed by composers that were held at Terezin Concentration Camp by the Nazis during the second world war. Koen will perform these works of art in her project called “Before Sleep”.
We all know what the Jews went through in the concentration camps during the second world war. However, most of us don’t know that among these camps there is a culture camp. This camp which only had artists is called Terezin. The composers that were taken to Terezin and later sent to and killed in Auschwitz, continued to create while they were in Terezin. Renan Koen, who found the compositions of Pavel Haas, Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klien, and Zikmund Schul after a long struggle, is now preparing for a concert that will reveal these works of art to the audience. The project includes both piano and choral pieces. The Nazım Hikmet Academy Choir will be conducted by Erdem Nusret Karataş, and the performance will also include documents of the people that lived and were killed in the camp, a video interview that is based on the resistance of a Dutchman who is not Jewish, and other video interviews. We talked about the project with Renan Koen, who is now working on the final preparations of the performance.
Ceren Arseven: How was searching for the compositions?
Renan Koen: Finding the notes was very difficult. Firstly, I researched for the composers that were at Terezin. The camp has a foundation and I received information from them. Then, I identified the compositions that were for the piano. Later, I started to look for the notes. First, I found one piano piece and one choral piece. I was deeply affected by the determination and faith of the composers; such as, Haas, Ullmann, Schul, and Klein, and how they managed to continue creating music with their positiveness despite all difficulties. Thus, I decided to enlarge my research. I contacted two publishers, one in England and one in Germany, that publishes these notes. However, of course, the conditions to compose in the camp was horrible. Most of the time they couldn’t find something to write the notes on, so they used standard ruled paper. Later on, the fair copies of the notes were made and the order of the sections were mounted.
Ceren Arseven: What did you feel in this period?
Renan Koen: I was very excited before I became involved in it. It was a huge discovery for me. I was incredibly excited when I received the notes. When I first started to play, I was taken aback by them. I wasn’t familiar with the kind of music. I had never heard such a thing. When I fathomed what had happened through the notes, everything changed for me. The excitement left itself for a huge discovery. I was completely in it.
Ceren Arseven: You are not only a pianist, but also a music therapist. What kind of recovery does this project offer?
Renan Koen: The piano sonata of Viktor Ullmann says a lot about this. He wrote this composition for his children. At Terezin, all the families used to live together. In the composition you can feel the amusement of the children. He has a symbol that he attributes to the Nazi soldiers. He makes such a strong pause that you can hear the footsteps of the Nazis. That sound interrupts in the most sentimental moment and very fiercely. Many different emotions are side by side in the compositions. Mutiny, acceptance, isolation... It ends with a manifest that says, “someday our voices will be heard”. I hope to help them to be heard with this project.
Ceren Arseven: How did you name the project?
Renan Koen: A sonata of Viktor Ullmann is dedicated to a woman that was sent to Auschwitz from Terezin and was killed there. There is a section of mourning in the sonata. A poem by Austrian poet Karl Kraus takes place there and its name is “Before Sleep”. The poem talks about somebody who is waiting for death.
Ceren Arseven: How did they find the piano?
Renan Koen: There isn’t one in the camp, of course. However, one night Gideon Klien and his friends secretly escape the camp, and they find an old piano in a bar that is next to the camp. One of the legs of the piano is broken, too. They carry it and bring it to the camp, and they hide it in an attic and fix it. They composed all their work on that piano.
Ceren Arseven: What happens to the artists in the end?
Renan Koen: It’s sorrowful, one dies in Terezin, and the other three in Auschwitz.
They wrote history with music.
The works of art created at Terezin cannot be regarded solely as compositions. The people who had no other way to explain what was going on, documented the events with musical notes so well... You can understand the entire story, by playing or listening to the music. They held on to music. They told the history with notes. They tried to give hope to children and morale of resistance to future generations.
“Before Sleep”, which contains piano and choir compositions that were composed at Terezin Concentration Camp, will be performed at Zorlu Drama Stage on the 13th of April, Monday at 8:30 PM. The guest of honour will be the worldwide known music historian Gottfried Wagner.<
Interview / Ceren Arseven / Newspaper / April 5 2015 /Source
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