Pavel Haas: Janacek's most gifted pupil?
Haas's personal and professional life was almost exclusively connected with Brno. The city that, after Prague, was supposed to become the second major music centre of Bohemia and Moravia, evolved, similarly to the capital, on the basis of the two-nationality division. This state of affairs was not surprising, however. We can deem it to be a reflection of one of the characteristics of the national situation in the Austrian monarchy in the last third of the 19th century, which also encompassed emphasis on the political and cultural role played by language and art. In numerous permutations, this situation would last until 1945. While Brno-based German composers, who identified themselves with the broader German and Austrian context, drew upon traditionalist techniques, a distinct line of modern Czech music formed. One of its early protagonists was Pavel Krizkovsky (1820-1885), who was linked up to by Leos Janacek (1854-1928). After 1918, the music culture was markedly influenced by Janacek and his pupils.
For a long time, Janacek himself was the key musical figure in Brno and Moravia. The inception of the so-called Moravian compositional school was related to his teaching at the Organ School in Brno (2) and, later on, to his giving master classes at the Prague Conservatory (which had an agency in Brno). In 1919, Janacek initiated the establishment of a state-funded conservatory in Brno. From among Janacek's students too was a grouping that in 1922 founded the Club of Moravian Composers, whose active members included Pavel Haas himself. From 1923, together with the Czech Society for Contemporary Music and the German Literary Artistic Society, the Club of Moravian Composers constituted the Czechoslovak section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). (3) Janacek's pupils were assigned the difficult task of cultivating the tradition of Moravian music, linking up to the singular idiom of their teacher and concurrently seeking their own, authentic creative poetics. For the majority of them, the task proved to be unfeasible. Nonetheless, the ways of their facing up to Janacek's model now give us a valuable testimony. Some of them embraced other compositional patterns or left for Prague, so as to hone their skills in Vitezslav Novak's composition class, whereas others began devoting more to teaching, performing and organisational work than to composing.
There is no need to write apologies honouring Janacek, just as we should not condemn Janacek's students for their failing to follow entirely in their teacher's footsteps. Despite having plenty of objections, despite striving to differentiate themselves from their teacher, many of them, either wittingly or inadvertently, did emulate the poetics peculiar to Janacek.
Understanding Haas: Helfert and Peduzzi
Pavel Haas was one such composer. References to his having been influenced by Janacek, his teacher, can be found in both the period reviews and the specialist musicology literature. Local writers mentioned Haas's name in connection with Janacek's compositional school back in the 1920s. When, somewhat later, Vladimir Helfert, in his study Czech Modem Music (1936), alluded to Haas's orientation towards Stravinsky and Honegger, he also stressed the fact that, in conjunction with Janacek's impact, the composer's creative poetics had been notably enriched with elements of constructivism and novel sonic expression. According to Helfert, such a synthesis, however, occasionally led to "empty experimenting", with cases in point being Haas's Fata Morgana (1923), String Quartet No. 2, Op. 7, and Psalm XXIX.
Comparing Janacek and Haas also served as a good parallel for Lubomir Peduzzi, Haas's pupil and the author of the monograph Pavel Haas: Life and Work of a Composer (1993). He praised Haas as an exceptional musical figure who, although not ranking among the best-known and most popular, was nevertheless a composer who in a singular way adopted Janacek's style. In Peduzzi's opinion, Haas was not a Janacek epigone, he was his successor. Similar conclusions were reflected in other of Peduzzi's studies, as well as, later on, in articles by other writers, identifying Haas as the one and only of Janacek's pupils to have comprehended his teacher's style. Such views, however, may give rise to the spontaneous question of to what extent they project the personal ambitions of those who voice them. In this respect, it should be pointed out that Peduzzi's relationship to Haas was highly personal and that his interpretation was guided by the endeavour to elevate him as a momentous positive quantity among the prominent composers of inter-war music in Czechoslovakia. Having an awareness of these motivations is important, yet they should not be condemned. Such a phenomenon could be perceived as a testimony about the time, a righting of old wrongs. Champions of "forgotten composers" seek to attain for their works to be understood, and are willing to engage in polemics on their behalf.
In Janacek's class
Who, then, was this most gifted of Janacek's pupils? Pavel Haas was born on 12 June 1899 in Brno, into a Jewish family. His father, Zikmund Lipmann Haas (1871-1944), a businessman, and his mother Olga, nee Epstein (1874-1933), a daughter of a Russian official of a steam boat company in Odessa, married at the Brno synagogue on 27 March 1898. Zikmund Haas was initially employed at the local branch of the Taussik & Sohn textile company, yet in 1907 he opened his own shoe shop, to which he gave the proud title "U Zajice, Czech Industry Footwear". Although Brno had long been a city with a German-majority population, upon the industrial boom it experienced in the late 19th century it began to be transformed by workers of Czech origin, who arrived in great numbers from the Moravian and Bohemian countryside. The Brno businessmen promptly adapted to the change. Thus it comes as no surprise that the Haas family predominantly communicated in Czech. On the other hand, the shop's operation also required that they speak excellent German, hence the parents decided to enrol their sons, Pavel and the two-year younger Hugo (born on 19 February 1901, died on 1 December 1968), in a German elementary school, after completing which the boys continued to study at the 1st Czech Technical Secondary School (Pavel joined the first class in 1910). Evidently at his father's discretion, Pavel started to take piano lessons from Anna Holubova (1883-1972). His inclination and talent clearly indicated that music would be his future profession. Music was the only thing he was really concerned about, with his zeal overshadowing the failure in other subjects. Pavel Haas's first preserved piece, Konzertstuck No. 1, for piano, is dated 7 August 1912. In the 1913/14 school year, he interrupted his studies at the 1st Czech Technical Secondary School, and the following year he left for good. He joined the Music School of the Beseda brnenska (The Brno Beseda Philharmonic Society), where he studied harmony, subsequently counterpoint and other theoretical disciplines, taught by Jan Kune (1883-1976), a pupil and close associate of Janacek, who would later on be appointed the first director of the Brno Conservatory. Bearing witness to Haas's diligence and determination is the 1915/16 curriculum of his, on whose second page he wrote the motto "Will! Strength! Character!!!!!" The first preserved autograph scores of Haas's hail from this period of time. The juvenile pieces also include chamber songs to lyrics by German authors. Surprising too are the two unfinished orchestral scores set to Old Testament themes, Jonas (Jonah, 1914) and Odchod Izrade zEgypta (The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, 1915), for which he was inspired during the Haas family's summer visits to Pavel's uncle Richard Reichner, cantor of the Jewish community in the town of Kolin nad Labem, where he acquainted himself with synagogue music. Even though none of these early pieces have proved to be of enduring value, Pavel's music written in this period, the selection of the subjects and the manner of treatment do suggest his musical ambitions and literary education. To what degree all this would be transformed into a genuine interest in music was to be revealed in the next phase of his life.
Following its opening, in September 1919, the Haas brothers were among those who enrolled at the State Conservatory in Brno. Hugo began studying voice, yet soon changed to drama, ultimately becoming a renowned actor and director. Pavel started to study composition with Jan Kune, and, owing to his skills, directly advanced to the third grade of the four-year course. Under Kune's guidance, he completed his first opus-numbered pieces: Small Prelude for piano, Op. 1; Songs to J. S. Machar's Poetry, Op. 2; and String Quartet No. 1 in C# minor, Op. 3. The latter work's artistic merit is still acknowledged nowadays; although marred by a juvenile gaucheness, it reveals the talent of a promising composer. The pen scrapes in the autograph document that the quartet attained its final form after it had been revised under Janacek's supervision.
Pavel Haas joined Leos Janacek's class in September 1920, at the beginning of the fourth grade. Janacek acquainted his students with his own working methods, the specific poetics of folk music, as well as with the current compositional techniques and theory. In addition to individual composition classes, Haas and his classmates also attended Janacek's lectures on phonetics and applied musical forms. In the second year, Janacek focused on analysing Dvorak, Smetana and Debussy works, and gave lectures on the folk song. According to Pavel Haas's testimony, Janacek was extremely vivacious, and he often applied unconventional approaches and had original ideas. At the end of the winter semester, for instance, he tasked his students with composing an opera scene to the text of the Russian playwright Viktor Krylov's comedy The Third (The Wild Girl). Edified by Janacek in phonetics, particularly the melodic cadence of questions, they were asked to focus on short sections and attempt to render the nature of the dramatic text. Under the tutelage of an accomplished composer and seasoned teacher, Haas gained the dexterity necessary for technical mastering of music material, a prowess that was entirely in accordance with the contemporary music development. He took over from Janacek stratification of the rhythmic structures and the principle of instrumental figuration, which not only forms the character of the melodic treatment but also impacts on the macrostructure, connecting passages with different tempos into a continuous flow. Although at the time Janacek pursued his own distinct style, he allowed Haas to fully evolve a singular creative potential.
Supervised by Janacek, Haas wrote the cycle Chinese Songs for middle voice and piano, Op. 4 (set to lyrics by Kao Shi, Tsui Hao and Thu Fu, 1921), and the symphonic poem Scherzo triste for orchestra, Op. 5 (originally titled May Festival, 1921). In the former, he brought to bear his experience with piano stylisations of Moravian folk songs, attempting an impressionistically colourful representation of old Chinese poetry. Notwithstanding the evident spontaneity, by means of which Haas strove to overcome a number of technical insufficiencies in his compositional work, the cycle's artistic value should not be overestimated. The latter piece bears distinctive biographical features. Haas's draft of the content of the May Festival, written in the sketch, refers to the painful experience of his first love. The piece's significance exceeds the framework of a mere student work. Haas completed his music studies with a graduation concert, at which he played his String Quartet No. 1 in C# minor, Op. 3. He received the diploma from his teacher Leos Janacek on 28 June 1922.
Pursuing his own path
The first responses to Haas's String Quartet No. 1 were positive. Although the critics viewed it as a student work, they universally emphasised the composer's evident creative potential. As in the case of other students of Janacek's of the same age (Bretislav Bakala, Osvald Chlubna), they acknowledged Haas's invention and craftsmanship, yet took issue with his compositional derivativeness, "hackneyed polyphony", which deprived the piece of freshness and airiness. When confronted with similarly formulated assessments, the question arises of when a composer can be relieved of the suspicion of having imitated someone else's creative methods or standardised model. If we are to identify in Haas's biography the qualitative transformation of the acquired compositional routines into a poetics of his own, we must define the point at which this input began to be cultivated and developed. Paradoxically, it happened at the moment when his possibilities of continuous work were limited as a result of a major change in his living conditions, which occurred immediately after he had completed the master school. Although Haas tried to assert himself as an occasional music performer, composer and teacher, he failed to gain recognition in all three respects.
The endeavour to pursue a career as a musician led Haas to Saarbrucken, where he served as a rehearsal accompanist at the local theatre. A few months later, he left his job for financial reasons and returned to Brno, where, for over a decade, he would work in his father's shoemaking business. During this period, however, he never ceased to compose.
Probably owing to his brother Hugo's contacts, Pavel Haas was commissioned to write incidental music for several plays. In 1921, under a pseudonym, he created the music for a new Brno adaptation of Karel Capek's drama R.U.R., and two years later for a production of Quido Maria Vyskocil's The End of the Petrovskys. In 1923, he composed the music for a production of Georg Buchner's Woyzeck at the Revolutionary Stage of the actor and director Emil Artur Longen. Later on, Haas wrote the music for the plays A Merry Death (Nikolai Nikolayevich Evreinov), Pulcinello's Victory (Blahoslav Zavadil), The Black Troubadour (based on Samson Raphaelson's short story The Day of Atonement) and Primus tropicus (Zdenek Nemecck), the latter for the Vinohrady Theatre in Prague.
The sporadic commissions he received from theatres diverted the promising composer from more ambitious creative intentions. Yet Haas's works dating from the second half of the 1920S did not come into being quickly and easily. The autographs that have been preserved do bear witness to plenty of creative plans, but the orchestral scores and operatic drafts remained mere fragments. From 1923 to 1930, Haas only completed four chamber pieces and a single male chorus. Some of the qualities of his style, later on highlighted as quintessentially Haas, actually have their roots in this period. Noteworthy too is the fact that since that time Haas had often composed with regard to the specific performance possibilities. What is more, he connected his works with selected musicians and ensembles (the newly formed Moravian Wind Quintet, alongside the Moravian Quartet and the Moravian Teachers' Choral Society). The first piece Haas independently completed following his studies was Fata Morgana, for tenor, string quartet and piano, Op. 6, set to Czech translations of Rabindranath Tagore's poems (1923). In the introductory motto in the autograph, the composer referred to a "symbolic farewell to everything that was and never will come back". This profoundly personal statement anticipated his future creative transformation. Fata Morgana was followed by String Quartet No. 2, "From the Monkey Mountains", Op. 7, which was premiered on 16 March 1926 by the Moravian Quartet and whose novel techniques gave rise to a diversity of opinion.
Haas had garnered the inspiration for writing the work during his summer stay in the Czech-Moravian Highlands, nicknamed the "Monkey Mountains" by those living in nearby Brno. He gave special titles to each of the four movements (I. Landscape, II. Coach, Coachman and Horse, III. The Moon and I, IV. Wild Night), which should be understood as expressing characteristic atmospheric scenes. The piece reflected in Haas's music a new, modern direction, which at the time had been ushered in by the French composers associated in Les Six, Igor Stravinsky and other contemporary music creators. The sonic illustration in the second movement of a horse-drawn carriage travelling on a bumpy road brings to mind Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231. Audible too is a jazz inspiration, particularly in the final movement, in which Haas employed a percussion set, which, besides onomatopoeia and excessive holding on to the subject, was castigated by the period critics, who deemed it to be an insensitive erosion of the desired stylistic purity of chamber music. Perhaps with regard to the criticism, or for performance reasons, Haas removed the percussion in the wake of the premiere, given by the Moravian Quartet on 16 March 1926, whose audience did not appreciate this experiment. (The ensemble went on to perform only the work's quartet version.)
Two years later, in 1927, Haas composed the song cycle The Chosen One, for tenor, flute, horn, violin and piano, Op. 8, to poems by the Czech author Jiri Wolker. It was followed by the male chorus Carnival, Op. 9, to lyrics by the Brno-based poet Dalibor Chalupa (1928/1929). At the same time, in 1929, Haas completed the Wind Quintet, for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, Op. 10, whose first movement contains melodic phrases referring to synagogue songs, motifs that, especially at the end of the 1930s, would appear in Haas's works ever more boldly.
Music for film and radio
The precipitous expansion of mass media, radio and sound film in particular, influenced the work of composers not only in the major cultural centres, but also in places that were rather peripheral in this respect. Haas and a number of his peers too were impacted by this development. In an interview for the paper Moravske noviny, published on 23 October 1933, Haas formulated his view of contemporary art evolving within the context of technical progress as follows:
"Genuine art never ceases to be related to life. It is an idealised picture of life. It seeks stimuli and inspirations in contemporary life. That is why genuine music of the age of the aircraft, the submarine and the radio cannot be identical with the music of the time of the stage coach and the sailboat. If one is a child of his time in terms of his opinions, his behaviour and his way of life, his opinions of art must not remain one hundred years behind. [...] If we love the telephone, wireless telegraphy, radio, sound film ... we must be open to modern art."
The Brno Radio studio, founded in 1924, started to broadcast music programmes the next March, with Jan Janota (1874-1957), the Kapellmeister of the National Theatre in Brno, being appointed as the head of the department. On 1 October 1926, it engaged the conductor Bretislav Bakala (1897-1958), Pavel Haas's colleague from the Club of Moravian Composers, who first worked there as an accompanist, chamber player and solo pianist before, in 1930, assuming the post of the chief conductor of its orchestra. The Brno Radio Journal broadcast popular, as well as older and contemporary, primarily Moravian, music, affording particular scope to the works of Janacek. During the first few decades, it mainly transmitted live productions performed by the radio ensemble, which between 1926 and 1930 expanded from the original chamber formation into a small, 26-member orchestra.
In 1930, Bretislav Bakala asked former schoolmates and colleagues of his to write a composition for the Brno Radio orchestra, which would also befit the technical capacities of the radio broadcast. His intention was in line with other similar projects elsewhere in the world, with music for radio being perceived as an independent artistic discipline, possessing peculiar aesthetic qualities. At the end of the 1920s, the new radio music style won over a host of fans, yet there was also a growing number of adversaries.
For this occasion, Haas wrote the Overture for Radio, Op. 11 (1930/31), to verse penned by his brother Hugo, a short piece akin to a cantata, intended for a small orchestra and a male vocal quartet, who were also assigned the role of narrators. The work is a celebration of radio and its pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi.
The Haas brothers continued to work together in the years to come. Hugo, at the time an actor at the National Theatre in Prague, also began appearing in films. In 1925, he performed in several silent movies, yet he would only fully bring to bear his dramatic talent after 1930, upon the global triumph of the talkies. His brother's rising star in cinema made it possible for Pavel to compose music for the features Life Is a Dog (1933), The Little Pet (1934) and Mother-Hen (1937).
In his film scores, Pavel Haas mainly capitalised on his experience with jazz and sense of witty situational characteristics. (When it comes to jazz, the use of the term within the context of Czech inter-war music had its limitations, as authentic jazz was not performed in Prague or Brno at the time. Commonly referred to as "jazz" was contemporary dance and pop music, influenced by American jazz, accompanying the shimmy, one and two-step, Boston, fox trot, blues, and other fashionable dances at bars and music halls.)
According to the memoirs of the prominent Czech actress Adina Mandlova, however, Haas's compositions did not overly appeal to film producers and those persons whose funding was crucial for the Czech cinema industry. When working on the score for the film The Little Pet, for instance, Pavel Haas was at loggerheads with the Moldavia-Film production company. Following the screening in Germany of the German version of the comedy Life Ls a Dog, using his music, yet under the name of another composer, Haas brought legal action, yet the parties ultimately settled the dispute amicably. And as regards the next film, Mother-Hen, Haas, for unknown reasons, signed his score with the pseudonym Ivan Pavlas.
Immediately after the premiere of the Overture for Radio in the summer of 1931, Haas made a trip to Germany, during which he outlined an organ concerto. The piece is referred to in one of the preserved sketches, which, after the fashion of Janacek, contains the peal of the bells of Cologne Cathedral. Later on, Haas changed his initial plan and completed the work under the title Psalm XXIX, Op. 12 (1931/32), in whose second section he set to music the text of Psalm 29 in the Bible of Kralice (the first complete translation from the original languages into Czech), for baritone, female chorus and chamber orchestra with organ.
In the 1930s, Pavel Haas experienced several major changes in his personal life. Towards the end of 1931, his mother, Olga Haasova, came down with a serious illness, which ended with her death on 25 December 1933. Overwhelmed with grief, he decided to write the cantata Commemoration in her memory, to a text provided by Frantisek Kozik (1909-1997). Yet the piece, to which Haas would return on several occasions during the 1930s, remained unfinished.
In 1932, he met in Brno the Russian doctor Sonya Jakobson (nee Feldman, 1899-1982), the wife of the linguist Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), who at the time was teaching at the Masaryk University. The couple had arrived in Czechoslovakia in 1920, as members of the Soviet diplomatic mission. They initially settled in Prague, where Sonya worked at several hospitals. Following their relocation to Brno, she opened her own surgery, with one of her first patients being Haas's seriously ill mother. Over the course of time, Pavel and Sonya fell in love, and she divorced Roman Jakobson. In 1935, they married, and two years later had a daughter, Olga. Soon after the wedding, Sonya assumed a significant part of the material responsibilities for the family, thus allowing Pavel to fully devote to music, composing and teaching theory (as documented, his pupils included Karel Horky, Richard Kozderka and Lubomir Peduzzi). The happiness Haas found in his personal life was duly reflected in his music. In 1935, he wrote for the Brno-based pianist Bernard Kaff the five-movement Suite, Op. 13, which, owing to its brilliant and sonically impressive stylisation, met with positive responses right at its premiere, within a concert given by the Club of Moravian Composers in Vienna on 10 February 1936. The piece has ever since remained one of Haas's best-known and most frequently performed works.
At the time when his love for Sonya was at its peak, Pavel plunged into writing his first, and only one, opera. Musical drama had attracted him in the past too, as documented by a preserved fragment of a sketch of the opera Der Harfner (1914). Haas gained further experience with the genre in Janacek's composition class. Although the aforementioned task to compose a scene from the comedy The Third (The Wild Girl) can certainly not be deemed a real artistic accomplishment, it may indeed have made an impact on his future orientation in this domain, just as the premieres of Janacek's operas at the Provincial Theatre in Brno in the 1920s may have had. At the time, Haas was intrigued by a few dramatic subjects, yet the intention to set them to music came to naught owing to the aborted negotiations with the respective authors. Several sketches of Haas's have been preserved, including for Stanislav Lom's play The Penitent Venus and Karel Capek's The Outlaw. Evidently hailing from the beginning of the 1930s is his draft libretto for the opera The Dybbuk, based on the eponymous play by the Jewish Russian writer Salomon Anski, yet in this case too Haas failed to see through his intention.
In 1934, Haas set down to composing the tragicomic opera in three Acts (seven scenes) The Charlatan, Op. 14 (completed in 1936). He penned his own libretto after the novel Doctor Eisenbart by Josef Winckler (1881-1966), based on the life of the travelling surgeon Johann Andreas Eisenbarth. The selection of the story of a quack was in line with a subject that had proved to be popular among the Czech avant-garde artists back in the 1920s (also treated by Emil Frantisek Burian, in the opera The Quacksalver). What is more, in some respects, it reflected Haas's personal life. One of the first versions of the libretto, accompanied by numerous notes, features the belle Amaranta (Sonya Jakobson), the wife of the university professor Nitpicker (Roman Jakobson).
In the case of this opera, Haas again had bad luck when negotiating with the author of the novel. In all likelihood, he and Winckler entered discussions after September 1935, when the infamous Nuremberg Race Laws came into force. In consequence, Winckler, whose wife was Jewish, withdrew completely from the official cultural scene and, amidst the fraught situation, would have found it risky to establish co-operation with a Czechoslovak composer of Jewish origin. Pavel Haas, however, was not to be deterred. Following years of seeking, he was not willing to forego the longed-for subject of a libretto and thus opted for a not overly honourable solution: to conceal Winckler's name. He transposed the story into a different milieu and Czechicised the names of the characters (including that of the lead personage, "Eisenbart", to whom he ultimately assigned the name "Pustrpalk"). As regards the music, Haas was evidently inspired by Janacek, while also striving for a mixture of styles. Yet unlike Janacek, who chose subjects and stories imbued with ebullience and raging passion, which he set in a realistic manner, Haas approached opera as a stage genre that served to foreground the performance and whose stylisation was rather kindred to Igor Stravinsky's. While working on the opera, he created the six-movement orchestral Suite, Op. 14, whose aim it was to draw attention to the opera under preparation. The Charlatan received its premiere on 2 April 1938 at the National Theatre in Brno. The opera was a resounding success, as confirmed by numerous period reviews. In the same year, in quick succession, Haas composed String Quartet No. 3, Op. 15 (1938), and the cycle of Slovak-Moravian songs From Evening till Morning, Op. 16 (1938).
With the Star of David
Prior to and after the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Hitler's army on 15 March 1939, the situation of the Haas family members dramatically altered. In February 1939, Hugo was sacked by the National Theatre in Prague, at the time when his wife, the actress Marie Bibikoff, was recovering from a complicated labour. Fortunately, both of them were granted French visas and soon, on 1 April 1939, fled to France, from where they managed to travel to the USA. Hugo and Marie left behind in Czechoslovakia their two-month-old son Ivan, whom they entrusted to their relatives in Brno. Pavel Haas and his family too attempted to flee abroad, yet his applications for Soviet, British and US visas were all rejected. On the top of everything, they had to take care of little Ivan, who was officially registered as their own child. Nevertheless, they did have some luck amidst the difficult situation. The race laws implemented in the occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia stipulated the obligation for the local people to document their "pure race" origin. Before the Soviet Union was attacked by the Nazi forces, all the papers pertaining to Sonya's descent were destroyed in a fire, hence it was not possible to prove her Jewish ancestry and, consequently, the Haas couple were affirmed as racially mixed. Yet the Nazi authorities also prosecuted the non-Jewish members of mixed families, with the consequence being a rising number of separations. Pavel and Sonya got divorced, following which she was allowed to reassume her medical career and thus, at least to a certain extent, sustain her family. Their divorce was an entirely formal act and the couple continued to live together, up until the spring of 1941, when Pavel was forced to move out and find another dwelling.
World War II put an end to Haas's life and work, as he did not escape the tragic collective fate of the Jews. Under the arduous conditions, music offered him a gateway into another, more joyous universe. The first piece Haas wrote in this period sprang from his need to face up to the occupation and his own unfortunate lot. Within a short time, he composed the three-movement Suite for Oboe and Piano, Op. 17 (1939), in which he quoted tunes from the Saint Wenceslas and Hussite Chorales, indicating the piece's ideational intent. In the phase of putting the finishing touches to it, however, Haas abandoned the work, without giving it an opus number, which was only added after his death, and with regard to the chronology of his oeuvre. Many a time, researchers have voiced the assumption that it may have been a sketch of a more extensive piece, for tenor and piano, or, possibly, orchestra, whose text was hidden or destroyed by the composer. This hypothesis, backed up by Haas's undocumented statement, is also supported by the vocal nature of the melodic structure, as well as the manner in which the solo part is written. In the following work, 7 Songs in Folk Style, Op. 18 (1940), for high voice and piano, Haas combined, with his inherent levity, simple folk tunes with a rhythmically and harmonically refined instrumental accompaniment. The unfinished Symphony for large orchestra has remained a mere torso. The stylised Jewish Psalm chants in the second movement give way to a march, employing drums and piccolos, and quoting the Nazi anthem Die Fahne hoch (The Horst Wessel Song), blended in the conclusion with the motif of the third movement of Frederic Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B[flat] minor, Op. 35 (Marche funebre), in a way clearly emphasising that it concerns a parody. In the third movement, which has only been preserved as a bare outline, Haas intended to quote the Hussite war song Ye Who Are Warriors of God. The work on the symphony, however, was interrupted by outer tragic circumstances.
On 2 December 1941, Pavel Haas was summoned by the Nazi authorities and transported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto (Terezin), where Jews and some political prisoners from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and, later on, from other occupied countries and Germany itself, were concentrated. A number of outstanding musicians found themselves together in the camp, among them, the violinists Egon Ledec and Karel Frohlich, the pianists Bernard Kaff, Gideon Klein and Alice Herz-Sommer, the singers Walter Windholz and Karel Berman, the conductors Karel Ancerl, Rafael Schachter and Franz Eugen Klein, and the composers Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, Karel Reiner, Hans Krasa and Zikmund Schul. After overcoming the initial depression-triggered passivity and rejection, Pavel Haas engaged in the ghetto's cultural life, composing pieces for the confined musicians and ensembles. According to the contemporary witnesses, he fervently produced one work after another. Apart from the pieces that have been lost or remained mere fragments, those preserved include Al S'fod (Do Not Lament, 1942), a male chorus to David Shimoni's text, dated November 1942. Upon Karel Ancerl's suggestion, in the second half of 1943 Haas created the Study for string orchestra (1943), for the newly formed ghetto ensemble, who unofficially performed it on 1 September 1944, within the shooting of the propagandist picture Terezin: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area (Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem judischen Siedlungsgebiet), directed by Kurt Gerron. The last preserved Haas piece is 4 Songs on Chinese Poetry, for bass (or baritone) and piano (1944), written upon the request for the singer Karel Berman.
The most noteworthy of his works that have not been preserved include the Fantasy to a Jewish Melody, Partita in Olden Style and Variations for Piano and Orchestra, composed for the pianist Bernard Kaff. The unfinished Requiem for solo voices, chorus and orchestra was intended to be a mass for the Theresienstadt Ghetto victims. Haas was most likely prompted to write the piece in reaction to the death of his 73-year-old father in May 1944. Soon after the Terezin film had been made, mass transports of the ghetto prisoners to the Auschwitz extermination camp commenced. Between 28 September and 28 October 1944, a total of 11 trains with 18,400 people were dispatched from Terezin. Only 1,574 survived. Pavel Haas was not among them. After arriving in Auschwitz, on 17 October 1944, he was declared unable to work and, together with Bernard Kaff, sent forthwith to a gas chamber.
Having reached the end of Haas's life story, we can now raise the question of the position he occupied within the context of Czech music. He was not a successful composer, if we are to gauge success in terms of the direct interest on the part of audiences. Although immediately after being completed his works were performed at concerts held by the Club of Moravian Composers, in the post-war era they were not in general demand. The interest in Haas's legacy only occurred later, particularly in relation to the reception of Janacek's music, accompanied as it was by the endeavours to map the maestro's direct influence and to define his organisational and educational significance. Haas's example in particular can serve for the formulation of the answer to the question of how Janacek impacted his pupils. Already during his lifetime, Haas was considered one of the most intriguing, and most faithful, students of Janacek's. Yet Janacek's influence would only fully manifest itself at the moment when, striving to find his own creative methods, he distanced himself from his teacher. Haas was a composer who to an extent greater than that of Janacek's other pupils responded to the stimuli arriving in Czech music from outside, primarily those of the French modernists. By his embracing the tendencies that would in the future affect the development of modern music, he resembles a few other Czech composers of note (Martinu, for instance). Yet these partial syntheses notwithstanding, Haas did not craft a truly singular style of his own. Another essential trait of Haas is that he made only a rather marginal contribution to the future evolution of Czech music. This may have been down to several reasons, some of them being purely practical. Haas did not compose continuously, and his educational activities were not ample. After World War II, the awareness of Haas's music was for a long time limited to a select few, mostly chamber, works.
(1) The exhibition was created by Ondrej Pivoda.
(2) The Organ School was set up through the Association for the Cultivation of Church Music in Moravia, which accrued from Janacek's initiative in 1881. Tuition at the Organ School started a year later, in 1882.
(3) The Club of Moravian Composers was part of the ISCM until 1933. Duplicate national sections also operated in Spain (Madrid and Catalonia) and Sweden (Stockholm and southern Sweden, i.e. the historical province of Schonen, which only in the early 17th century broke away from Denmark and was annexed to Sweden).
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|Title Annotation:||portrait; Leos Janacek|
|Author:||Pivoda, Ondrej; Spurny, Lubomir|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2016|
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