Renan Koen’s third album project Holocaust Remembrance “Before Sleep” released by Kalan Müzik will be available at music shops both in cd and dvd format on November 24th 2015.
The Camp Composers “Before Sleep” is the product of many years of detailed research conducted by Renan Koen on the lives of Pavel Haas, Gideon Klein, Zikmund Schul and Viktor Ullmann, 4 composers who were imprisoned in the Terezin Concentration Camp during the Second World War and who died there or in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The album is composed of piano and choral works composed by these four composers before and during their imprisonment.
Turkey Premieres The Turkey premieres of the piano and choral works of these 4 composers were performed on April 12th 2015 at Zorlu Performance Arts Center Drama Stage, later to be documented for future generations in the body of the “Before Sleep” album project. The concert took place thanks to the contributions of the Quincentennial Foundation, Municipality of Şişli and Anadolu Kültür. In this concert, Renan Koen, who is also the researcher and creator of this project, played the piano works. Choral works were performed by Nazım Hikmet Academy Chorus under the direction of Erdem Nusret Karakaş.
A Document for Future Generations The works selected by Renan Koen were recorded in Babajim Recording and Mastering Studio. All of these works testify to the extremely difficult circumstances they were composed in and the composers’ strong will and discipline which is in part related to the strong musical education they received during their childhood. What stands out in these works is the idea that the composers relentlessly kept creating despite all these difficulties with extreme determination and what Koen calls “positive resistance”. In the DVD, there are extracts from the concert where Koen also talks about her project “Before Sleep”, interviews both with people who lived the horrors of World War 2 and their descendants; alongside interviews with Dr. Gottfried Wagner and Osman Kavala. A musical analysis of the works, especially those on Viktor Ullmann and Gideon Klein’s piano sonatas, can also be found in the DVD. The musical analyses, the life stories of the composers when they were in the camp are carefully documented to pass this heritage to future generations down to the tiniest detail.
‘ascension’ “in memory of the Heroes of the Holocaust” The “ascension”, a work which Koen composed for viola and piano and collaborated with Ulrich Mertin in the album, is the final track and has been dedicated to the memory of “the Heroes of the Holocaust”.
A Lasting Work of Art Thanks to the support of the Quincentennial Foundation, Anadolu Kültür, Kariyo&Ababay Foundation and Dr. Erol Hakanoğlu, the “Holocaust Remembrance “Before Sleep” project, in addition to the cd and the dvd, has an additional booklet, with the biographies of the 4 composers, program notes and Renan Koen’s analyses of their works in four different languages including Turkish, German, French and English, which allows music-lovers and researchers from all over the world to appreciate the project better.
They are, Pavel Haas, Nico Veldius, Gideon Klein, Saul Kastro, Simone Ishaki, Viktor Ullmann, Zikmund Schul, and millions of others that are not named here... As they were disappearing under the shadows due to time and evilness of humankind, two valuable researchers, two people of art and music, Renan Koen and Gottfried Wagner chose to bring them to light.
I am, Pavel Haas
I was born in 1899 in Czechoslovakia. I was only 45 when I was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.
I am, Gideon Klein
I was born in Czechoslovakia in 1919. With superior musical talent. My intense musical training ended when I was sent to Terezin in 1941. When I lost my life tragically in the camps in 1945, I was only 26. The works I have composed in Terezin and before the war was discovered luckily.
I am Simone Ishaki
I live in Istanbul. I come from a family that witnessed the war in Marseilles when I was five and that migrated from France in the 1900s. Despite of the many separations and losses in my family, I still live in Istanbul.
I am Saul Kastro
I was born in Kuzguncuk, Istanbul in 1901. I moved to France in 1919, and after the war I was first taken to the Drancy camp and later sent to the Royallieu Campeigne. I barely could resist to see the end of the war. 10 days later I when I could take it no more, weak and ill, I was just 40. With the dairies I had in the camps, I wanted to leave traces to the future of what we went through.
I am Zikmund Schul
I was born in Germany. I am a composer. In 1941 I was sent to the Terezin Camp. I died there. Ullmann is going to say these about me: “With Schul we lost a very important personality that manged to become a human in its true meaning, and a significant artist that paved his way with ambition. What I am about to say are not usual words one says after the deceased.”. He was certainly right when he said these just before I died: “This is so bad for me. Give peace, purified from my sins... Contrary to your happy people and ancient creation.”.
I am Nico Veldius
I am the son of Dutch resister Bastian Wilkiss Veldius. I still live in Turkey.
I am Viktor Ullmann
When I was sent from Prague to Terezin I was a known musician. In Terezin, as an organizer, maestro, pianist and music critic, I participated in building a cultural life in the “spare time activities” in this so called “show camp”. With reckless abandon to the physical and psychological attitudes I was subjected to, I continued to compose.
I am Ella
I was among the children that sang in the Brundibar opera that was performed 55 times in 1944. The opera was created on the order of the Nazi officials to deceive the Red Cross officials and to demonstrate that conditions at Terezin was supposedly healthy and humane; completely unreal. Those children that performed in the opera, most of them, were sent to Auschwitz. I survived. I live in America now. They often ask me, “how did you move on, how did you survive in the camps as a child?”. I simply answer: By singing.
They are, Pavel Haas, Nico Veldius, Gideon Klein, Saul Kastro, Simone Ishaki, Viktor Ullmann, Zigmund Schul, and millions of others that are not named here... They are the people that were shaped by war and tyranny, they are the people that were intended to be exterminated by genocide, yet they chose life not only physically, but also with their backgrounds, perspectives, and cultures. Even in the center of absolute evilness, they resisted. In spite of the low chances, they released the power of life within through music and the will to survive. They reflected their inner lights through talent, and they added meaning to their lives even in the endlessly inhumane and meaningless circumstances of the camps and they resisted by blessing life. They are very different personalities, respectable and unforgettable people. In fact they should never be forgotten. What they did, what they went through, their works and their experiences... As they were disappearing under the shadows due to time and evilness of humankind, two valuable researchers, two people of music and art, chose to bring them to light. Renan Koen and Gottfried Wagner, researched, examined, and collected the documents that were fading due to the ruthlessness of time, and presented them to the people of Istanbul in an event that was organized to memorialize the Holocaust, which was sponsored by the municipality of Sisli, Anatolian Culture Group, and the 500th Year Foundation, in company with the Nazim Hikmet Choir. This project that was created after long and dense researches, is actually the first of many to come. Now, it’s time to give the floor to Renan Koen and Gottfried Wagner.
Gottfried Wagner- I have been invited by Jewish Communities in the entire world, across five continents throughout my professional carrier. I have been living in Italy for 35 years, but I lived in New York, as well. I worked in the administration of the Kurt Weill Foundation, due to my interest in the Jewish culture and history that was related to what they went through in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, as you would imagine, it’s not easy to achieve this when you are the grandson of Willfried Wagner, who was a militant Nazi. It’s quite a serious struggle, isn’t it? Hence, I have always regarded my duty in the Kurt Weill Foundation as a passport, an identity. You shouldn’t generalize, a totally different person may come out of the darkest tribe.
Dalia Maya: Lately, I’ve been reading the autobiography of Zak Ebrahim. He is the son of a prominent Hamas terrorist. He is exhausted by terror and claims that people need to be constructive. He is a son that left his father’s path. In his book, he talks about the difficulties he faced.
Gottfried Wagner : Yes, it’s difficult. Absolutely very difficult. But you know, especially the period I was working at Kurt Weill was very important for me. I grew up in the aftermath of Hitler’s Germany. Of course, it was dominated by a deep silence. Some of the subjects were not discussed. Yet, I grew up in a very political environment. Our family property was being used by American soldiers. As for us, we were living in the gardener’s house next to it. This was like a huge gift to me. When I looked out, I used to see the American soldiers coming and going, their flags with the stars and stripes were hanging in my grandfathers house... Naturally, these created questions in my mind. I was 4-5 years old, and I was very curious. I wondered what had happened. The house was used for big parties. I was a hungry little child, living in the post-war era. But the Germans could never want something from the American intruders. That’s how my father used to tell me: “Say nothing! Don’t ask for anything from them! You are a German and you can’t ask for help from Americans!”. One day, as I was looking at a party out of my window, I saw a marvelous cake. I was craving for it. I was hungry. I didn’t care what my father had told me. With juvenile instincts, I asked for it. It was the first time I was meeting with an African American. In a plate, he brought me a slice of cake with an orange next to it. I understood that, they were “good Americans”. Although they were intruders, they were being nice to the people. I never had a problem with them about anything. They taught me the first personal lesson of my life with the piece of cake they offered me in my grandmother’s house, in the graveside of Richard Wagner, who were both racists and anti-Semites. The first attempts of questioning of a child... Among the grown up people, despite their alienation, one person regards another like a human being and treats like one. How a great contradiction was this, what I have witnessed in this house, when compared to things I had heard at home and in the German society. This short story started to shape my future life. And there was music too, of course. At the opera, one could only listen to Wagner. However, this music, as a child, scared me. For it was very dark. It was talking about escaping from sins and purification of the blood. And as a child, I did not understand much, of course.
“As a matter of fact, it is possible to describe what had happened on those dark times with these words: Experiencing radical evil”
Theresienstadt/ Terezin concentation camp is a special case in which evil- especially onto Jews- was exercised in such an unfathomable level.
Like in every kind of evil, creating beauties within this evil is going to be possible at all costs, maybe even despite of the man himself. Viktor Ullmann, a Jewish artist among many others that was taken to Terezin, wrote these to his diary: “composing as an artist was a way to advance ethical values; it meant creating a moral world against evil and resist to it.”
D.M. : Dear Renan, let’s talk a little about you. How did you start to research this music? How did this journey that leads to the musical world of the Terezin Camp begin?
Renan Koen : I was struck by the Terezin Camp. As a child, I have never heard of the existence of a camp, in which the artists were being sent to. When I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it. Then I started to wonder. What did the artists there do, with their music life? How did they continue, were they able to continue? What kind of compositions did they create? What was left from them? As I researched, as I learned that these artists managed to continue to create in these inexplicable circumstances, I was driven from one shock to another. How did they possibly manage to create there? The music, the art, the literature, the poetry... Firstly, I wrote to the Terezin Foundation. After I gathered the list, I started to research their lives and works. Naturally and primarily, I was curious about the compositions they had written for the piano. Then, with time I discovered that the choral pieces were very strong as well. Not only the music, but also the lyrics were very powerful. I started to order the notes, but this process took a couple of years. In 2011, in the Neve Shalom Synagogue, I performed one piano suite and one choral piece. As I researched, I wanted to go deeper; as I went deeper, I wanted to understand the artists more. This project that seemed to be an external course, was in a way and internal one. A huge internal course. Understanding what had happened in Terezin, what those composers went through was really tough. And it was an incredible journey that went deeper and deeper.
D. M. : How did the two of you come together?
R.K. : As I researched, I was thinking that these things should be shared. This is how the seeds of the “Before Sleep” project was planted. Firstly, I went to the 500th Year Foundation that has always helped me and still helps me. I told them that I wanted to organize a concert that would be open to everyone. I want everybody to know what happened in the past. Because this is vital in shaping the future. At this stage, I wanted the concert to be at Depo. For this reason, I contacted the chairman of Anatolian Culture, Osman Kavala. He too believed in the project from the very start. Therefore, he contacted the Sisli Municipality, because Depo was too small. The major of Sisli loved the project too, so we started to talk about Zorlu PSM, which was much more appropriate for the project.
When you have a purpose that would be good for the society, only an instant takes for a collaboration to be formed. Hence, Renan contacts Gottfried Wagner, whom she knows that made deep researches on Terezin, and tells him about her project. Less than 15 minutes after the e-mail, replies start to come. They take advantage of technology, they use Skype, exchange thousands of e-mails, documents...
G.W. : As far as I’m concerned, this is a mission. As soon as I set foot in New York, primarily, in some way, I had to convince the people that I wasn’t a Nazi. I had wonderful friendships. For example, Hanna Busoni. She comes from a Jewish family in Berlin. She was completely assimilated. I lived at her place for some while; we discussed on concepts like guilt, shame, pain and sorrow. Because if you’re coming from a certain place like I do, you don’t talk about some things. In the German society and in the Wagner family, you are taught to behave in one way. Because of that, you’re surrounded by wrong information even about yourself! Still, I firmly believe that guilt cannot be inherited. Not at all! I was born in 1947, and I chose a completely different path for myself. Therefore, it’s extremely important that one has monologues, talks with oneself. Only then, you can reach a dialogue. And dialogue is a very long path that is going to last for generations. In a way, when you take this seriously, it becomes a commitment to life. Very clear. When you take this seriously, dialogue becomes a way of life. In my life too, dialogue has been a major source for developments. On this path, I came across with the Jewish dialect. You ask a question and you are answered with a question. It is a typical reaction. When the question isn’t clear enough, you answer it with another question for the sake of clarity. For me, this is a very directive approach. It has a significant role in my cultural and intellectual life. For example, I go to Tel-Aviv and I’m going to give a speech in the university. Of course my duty at the Kurt Weill Institute is a passport in my pocket. Yet, they still stare at you. “Who the hell are you?”. And I tell them, “Listen to me, I’ve got things to say. It’s always possible to change your paths in life. You always have a choice. With all its consequences, of course”.
D. M. : Psychiatrist Victor E. Frankl, who is a camp survivor himself concluded in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” that among the survivors some of them had managed to give meaning to their lives. Do you think the ones that continued to work with music and arts was a way for them to search for meaning?
R.K. : It was beyond search for meaning.
G.W. : Yes, very very powerful.
R.K. : They wanted to resist positively. With music, they resisted in a very strong way. They transformed the inexplicable circumstances they witnessed there into music every day, every minute, every second, every moment...
G.W. : We’re talking about “man” here. Such a power! “No one can take me. Behind me an SS commander stands with a machine gun. He may take my pride, he may take my humanity, but as a composer I am going to continue to compose my music.”. This is the spirit.
D. M. : At the same time, according to the Jewish faith, life should always prevail.
G.W. : Yes, “LeChaim”.
D. M. : Gottfried, you created the Post-Holocaust Discussion Group. Is this a way to add meaning to your life? Or a way to purify your blood?
G.W. : We started our talk with the 6 million that lost their lives, and we added more. The second world war left us a Himalaya made out of dead bodies. This will never go away. 16 million dead bodies. This is the starting point. But you cannot divide them into groups. It is not possible. At this very point, there is a path. You get convinced that the primary condition to step on that path is to listen to others. This is the only approach. All parties should be ready to listen to what others have to say. This is a must. In psychoanalyzes it is possible to establish new foundations in your lives this way. From here, I have to go to New York to attend a conference on the Armenian Deportation. But of course I have to talk about the Jewish Genocide that happened in Europe too. With my past, this is an obligation! It’s an honor but a responsibility at the same time. There are things it brings and there are things it takes away. I, for example, would never be able to achieve my carrier in Germany with the approach that I have. What Primo Levi had said perhaps should be the motto of my life: “You should judge people according to what they personally are, and you shouldn’t place them in a corner of a group”.
But when we talk about the past, we talk with our intellectual build-up. On the other hand, many times we do not apply these thoughts, interests and experiences on our lives. We can’t do, well we don’t do anything on daily sorrows, Syria, Somalia...
G.W. : I don’t exactly think like that. But you’re right. We cannot create sensibilities by staying academic. Sensibility comes primarily from one’s experience. Contradictions always exist. Yet, we always have to talk. We have to talk about all kinds of genocide. We have to talk about Pope Francis’ words. As Sigmund Freud says, people usually cover their lack of communication by inventing enemies. And here lies the difficult part of the job. The primary principle to establish some sort of change is to be able to criticize and self-criticize. If there’s no balance, dialogue cannot be achieved. On Skype, in talks, we have to establish dialogue and awareness and make our stands on issues likes ISIS or whatever is happening in Nigeria and other places. We have to listen to the Syrian refugees, and do whatever we can to help them. If there are 200 women and children in a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, this is a scandal. If I was a father in Syria, what would I do? Wouldn’t I do everything I can to put my family in that ship?
D.M. : If you had something to say to future generations, what would that be?
G.W. : “Have courage for life.”
R.K. : “Get rid of monophonic captivity and try to reach polyphonic freedom.”
I am Gottfried Wagner
I am the grandson of the Wagner family. I think that a man should be evaluated not by the name of the family, but by what he has done. As a musicologist and a philosopher I research and give lessons across the world on German culture, Jewish culture and history and politics of the 19th and 20th century. I worked as a dramatic counselor in the making of the “Lost Childhood” opera that tells the story of the Terezin Camp. I lived the virtue of rejection. I still live it.
I am Renan Koen
I was born in Istanbul and I still live there. I’m a pianist and music therapist. When I went to the Terezin camp and discovered that there was a concentration camp for the Jewish artists I was completely surprised. When I learned that the artists continued to create while they were living in the camp, I was surprised a thousand fold. I researched, questioned, and researched deeper. I studied. I studied the music, I lived the music. And one more time I wanted to give life to the falling stars of the Holocaust. One more time I wanted to give life to the composers that were taken away by the Holocaust at Terezin. I wanted to give sounds to the notes they left behind. I wanted to perform these compositions for the first time ever in Turkey.
I am Erdem Nusret Karakaş
I am the conductor of the Nazim Hikmet Choir. As the soloists of the choir, we have a mission. We want to establish polyphony in life. Every sound should have its place in life. Every sound must have a say, and every say must have a space. As it is in our choir.
Chairman of Anadolu Kültür
When Ms. Koen first mentioned the project to me, I thought that such a concert would be very meaningful to memorialize the Holocaust. As you know, these issues are not very well known in our country or the dynamics of internal and external daily politics affect the way we look at the past. And this creates the risk of instrumentalization of the memorialization of the Holocaust. On the other hand, works of art that deals with the situations of humans, tragedies in a sincere way can touch people’s hearts without taking intrumentalization in the equation. Ms. Koen’s project is a very good example for this. It takes its power from the Jewish composers that were sent to the concentration camps and continued to compose there. This project does not only talk about the pure evilness of the Holocaust, it also talks about the spirit of the Eastern European Jews that resisted and continued to create. This project make us learn more from history and not only that, it gives us a lesson about humanity and sets us an amazing example.
Mayor of Şişli
Decades ago, people were forcefully moved from their homes, villages and cities and they were transformed from sorrows to lights. Today we let fly thousands of, millions of birds from our hearts for them. With the melodies we are going to hear in this event that was organized by us, the 500th Year Foundation and Anadolu Kültür, we are going to travel to possibly the coldest and the darkest times of Europe.
Those sorrowful experiences that were lived in those years has been guiding us in achieving social peace across the world. On all unfortunate issues that is going on in today’s world, it is the duty of all of us to reflect the international will on the struggle of human rights.
As I am speaking before you, as its mayor, I would like to talk about my city, Sisli. Sisli is a district in which many minorities live together and is one of the oldest districts of Istanbul that protects and sustains minority cultures. In Sisli, we produce services to conserve common life. In this context, I desire that Sisli sets an example to our country and humanity.
Chairman of 500th Year Foundation
We are always honored by working with Renan Koen and supporting her in her projects. We always regard her as a profoundly creative and scrupulous artist, and it is always a great pleasure to work with her. We always want to be involved in and give support to her projects. <
Interview / Dalia Maya / Şalom Dergi / May-June Issue 2015 /Source
Interview Photographes: Tania Sisa
Concert Photographes: Alberto Modiano
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Tonight’s Holocaust remembrance concert has an interesting guest. Gottfried Wagner, the grandson of Richard Wagner- who is known as the composer that the Nazis loved. He is going to tell us about the concentration camps and the lives lived there, that he studied his entire life. We got together with him at a meal before the concert.
Today perhaps something very new is going to happen in Turkey. Holocaust, the Jewish Genocide is going to be memorialized with a concert. Actually, this kind of concerts have been organized by the Jewish community for years. But this time, it’s going to happen in a big concert hall, open to everyone, and with a very special guest. Music historian and writer Dr. Gottfried Wagner is going to attend the event. Yes, your guess is correct; he is the grandson of the famous composer Richard Wagner.
The concert, which is going to be performed at Zorlu PSM, is organized by 500th Year Foundation, Anatolian Culture, and the Municipality of Sisli. The star of the concert is the pianist composer Renan Koen. The artist is attending to the concert as a pianist and a soprano. She is going to be accompanied by the Nazım Hikmet Academy Choir. Renan Koen is also the “founding mother” of the event. The person who arranged the concert, convinced the sponsors, found Gottfried Wagner, and chose the compositions to be performed is her.
In the event, the compositions that were written in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp will be performed. And right there, Gottfried Wagner is going to step in and tell us about the concentration camps and the lives lived there.
Wagner is an interesting personality. Last night we got together with him at a meal before the concert. He is a person that likes to explicate and when words come to the Wagner family, he never hesitates to talk about it. He received piano training, but he is not a musician; he chose to be a researcher and a writer. “As there was a pianist like Lizst and a composer like Wagner in the family, it was impossible for me to become a musician” he says jokingly. (His great grandmother is Lizst’s daughter Cosima Wagner). There is a rather meaningful reason why he chose to research the Jewish Genocide and the concentration camps, of course. As you know, Wagner’s music and some of his thoughts had been very much embraced by the Nazis. For this reason, Wagner’s compositions were never performed in Israel for decades. However, Gottfried Wagner faced this matter and even attended conferences in Israel in the 90’s, before his grandfather’s music was ever performed. (Wagner’s compositions could only be performed in Israel in 2002 along with harsh criticisms). “A person makes a choice”, he explains. His choice has been different from his sister who’s in charge of Beiruth Festival that’s left from their grandfather and also from Barenboim’s who often makes eccentric remarks: To become a Holocaust expert, that’s always in a struggle with his last name and that would only known to the people that is interested in the subject. His grandmother is someone who knew Hitler personally. Him too, was raised in Beiruth among these memories. But he chose to get to know the Holocaust and its victims. He even chose to leave Germany behind; he lives in Italy, and travels constantly.
Wagner knows the Theresienstadt camp very well. He had examined thousand of documents and met with survivors. In Istanbul, he is going to talk about this camp and the composers that were there. Yes, one characteristic of this camp that was located in Czechoslovakia is that most of the people in it were artists and composers. As we learned from what Renan Koen had told us is that those composers didn’t give up and continued to create with a broken piano that they managed to move there. Almost none of them could survive the Holocaust. Yet, their works could reach today. Renan Koen chose four composers among them. “None of them are pessimistic sorrowful compositions”, she explains. “On the contrary, they are filled with hope and energy”. Obviously, the works of Haas, Klein, Ullmann, Schull and their friends was a part of the will to survive and to leave a trace behind.
It’s not surprising that one of the endorsers of the night is the municipality of Sisli. For Sisli is probably the district that the most non-Muslims live in, and their culture had left many marks in it. The Mayor is someone who dreams of watching the Beiruth Festival some day and a person who is very much interested in music, Hayri Inonu. He doesn’t answer my question “What did you think about the idea of this concert?”. He is almost shy about it, and says, “don’t ask me a question like that; when it’s about art, concerts, and culture we must do something”.
In the end, I ask that cliche question to Wagner: “Have you ever been in Turkey before?”. “Of course”, says Gottfried Wagner, and he tells me that he had conducted Carmina Burana in Ankara in 1974. From his six-week Ankara experience he remembers talented chorists and tanks that wondered in the streets. Well, that’s not so wrong...
The concert tonight will be a step for Turkey to establish stronger bonds with history. To comprehend others’ pain, and to approach to them with compassion and empathy is something rather new to us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been putting the Holocaust aside as a tragedy that only concerns Europe. But finally we are more courageous in dealing with the issues of the past. Who knows, maybe tonight is going to be a start. After so many feverish discussions, the music of the Jewish composers, and “Wagner’s choice” can be a guide to us. We can turn back and look into the past. Somewhere there, maybe we can see Gomidas, the Armenians, and find a way to approach to the issue with more empathy. <
Columnist / Cem Erciyes / Radikal Gazetesi / 13.04.2015 /Source
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The final arrangements have been made for the concert that is organized to memorialize the composers that lost their lives in a concentration camp during the second world war in Istanbul. Pianist-composer Renan Koen and the guest of honor of the concert, music historian-writer Dr. Gottfried Wagner got together before the hotly-anticipated concert.
The architect of the project, pianist-composer Renan Koen and the guest of honor of the concert music historian-writer Dr. Gottfried Wagner got together for the final rehearsals of the concert- Holocaust Remembrance Concert- that is going to take place tonight at the Zorlu Performance Arts Center Drama Stage in collaboration with the municipality of Sisli, 500th Year Foundation, and Anatolian Culture. The famous music historian Gottfried Wagner accompanied Renan Koen who is by the piano for the final preparations.
“THE THING THAT AFFECTED ME THE MOST IS THE FACT THAT THEY CONTINUED TO CREATE EVEN IN SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES”
Pianist-composer Renan Koen who was carrying out evaluations after the rehearsal said, “The project is based on a concentration camp that was built in Terezin within the boundaries of Czechoslovakia. In this concentration camp, all the artists were in captivity. The artists continued to create there. When I first heard about this, I was amazed by it. I started to research the composers due to my curiosity on how they continued to create in those circumstances, as they were in captivity. Then, I contacted a foundation in Terezin. They sent me the whole list of composers. Later on, I researched the piano and choral pieces. Finally, I started to use these to build this concert project. The thing that affected me the most with these composers and their works is the fact that they continued to create even in such circumstances, they never gave up on music or themselves, everyday they sustained their positive resistance within, fed this, and documented these to pass them on to the future generations through music. This was very important for me.”.
THE GUEST OF HONOR DR. GOTTFRIED WAGNER
Renan Koen informed us that they had decided on inviting someone that stayed in the concentration camp and then they contacted music historian/writer Dr. Gottfried Wagner and said, “after building this event, there was a common idea to invite someone who had lived in this camp and survived. Then, I had the idea of inviting Dr. Gottfried Wagner, and I e-mailed him. I told him that a concert was going to be organized with valuable collaborations, and asked him if he would like to give the opening speech. He replied immediately and told me that he would do that with pleasure, not only that, he added and asked me if we could build the entire event together. We had a very busy month, and tonight we are going to watch three of his valuable works.”.
Gottfried Wagner told us that they had been working very hard for the project and added, “our determination is to remember significant formations. [This] Extraordinary music shows us that we shouldn’t give up even in the worst moments and we should stand up and struggle with evil. So this bond means delivering a message that is very humane.”
Wagner also said that there is a responsibility concerning the communication with the future generations, and that the bridges are going to have important roles in future combinations.
Wagner added that he was very pleased that Renan Koen had contacted him and said, “I was very happy when Renan contacted me. We had the chance to talk on Skype. We share a similar view on how the future must be shaped. This caused an intense dialogue to form for the project. We can see each other whenever we want. Thanks to Skype, you have a chance to talk simultaneously with people that are in different continents, that are anywhere. This presents a great opportunity to establish projects such as tonight’s.”.
In tonight’s concert that will be at Zorlu Performance Arts Center Drama Stage at 20:30, compositions of the composers that lost their lives at the Theresienstadt concentration camp will be performed.
Interview from Rehersal before Concert / Newspaper / Sabah / April, 13 2015 / Source
Pianist, composer and music therapist Renan Koen, will be performing her project, “Before Sleep” in Zorlu PSM on April 13th. The performance includes the stories and compositions of four Jewish composers that lived in a concentration camp in Terezin, located in today’s Czech Republic, during the second world war. The event is endorsed by the Municipality of Şişli, Anatolian Culture and 500th Year Foundation. The son of Richard Wagner’s grandchild will attend the event as a speaker. We talked about the project with Koen.
Selay Sarı: Which composers are in the focus of “Before Sleep”?
Renan Koen: Pavel Haas, Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, and Zikmund Schul. Schul could never leave Theresienstadt, Hass and Ullmann were killed in the gas chambers in Auschwitz, and their youngest Klien lost his life in Fürstengrube.
Selay Sarı:Hans Krasa was also in Theresien and composed music.
Renan Koen: Yes. In fact, he composed an anti-Nazi opera in the camp titled “Brundibar”. Brundibar is not in our program, but in a video that will be shown, and is prepared by Gottfried Wagner starts and ends with it. So, the audience will have a chance to hear that, too.
THE CAMP OF ARTISTS
Selay Sarı:How did they compose in such circumstances?
Renan Koen: Some of them were able to bring their instruments with them, but for a long time they didn’t have a piano. Gideon Klien and his friends found a piano with a broken leg in a ghetto surrounding the camp, and at night four young men secretly carried the piano to the camp. In the meantime, we have to remember that the people in the camp were subjected to extreme working conditions for 100 days. They were working continuously and when they had the time, they were creating. Not only the composers, writers too. Most of the people in Terezin were artists. The Nazi’s aim was to control and destroy Jewish art and culture.
Selay Sarı: How were these compositions discovered?
Renan Koen: Unlike Auschwitz, when the Russians entered Terezin, they didn’t damage it much. For that reason, some of the notes were discovered in tin boxes, and some of them were given to the remaining people in the camp by the composers before they were sent to Auschwitz. Even today, some compositions that are yet unknown can be discovered in some private collections. I am trying to reach to all of them.
Selay Sarı: How can you define the “mood” of the compositions?
Renan Koen: Pavel Hass’ “Al S’Fod” is a very good example to your question. “Don’t mourn, don’t cry” says the composition, “however they try to suppress you, stand up and resist”. In a way, the compositions reflect the incredible solidarity and and struggle to survive among the people in the camp.<
Interview / Selay Sarı / Newspaper / Milliyet / April, 10 2015 /Source
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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.<