Boosey & Hawkes in cooperation with the Exilarte Center at the mdw - University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna presents Hans/Hanuš Winterberg’s rich, previously unpublished music. His first career as a composer in Prague ended with the Nazi occupation and, though surviving the war and re-establishing a career in Germany, his music suffered a surprising second ‘suppression’ after his death.
The music of Czech composer Hans/Hanuš Winterberg (1901-91) has recently been made accessible for the first time by Boosey & Hawkes, in cooperation with Exilarte. Deported from Prague to the Terezín Ghetto towards the end of the war in 1945, Winterberg thankfully avoided the transports to Auschwitz and was liberated from the camp by Soviet troops. As few family members had survived the war, he emigrated to Southern Germany in 1947 where he worked for Bavarian Radio and the Richard Strauss Conservatory. A handful of works by the introverted and reclusive composer were performed and broadcast over the following decades but none were published and his music fell increasingly into obscurity.
After Winterberg’s death his musical estate was sold to the Sudeten German Music Institute with a range of contractual strictures, including the suppression of any performances until 2031, in a manner that bizarrely mirrored the experiences of the young composer in the 1930s. It was only through the efforts of Winterberg’s grandson Peter Kreitmeir and the Exilarte Research Centre in Vienna, that the music was ‘liberated’ once again and is now being published in cooperation with Boosey & Hawkes, recorded and performed.
Winterberg’s works reveal his folk roots, mixed with contemporary trends including serialism, polytonality and impressionism. Like his Czech contemporary Martinu, many of his scores are rich in fantasy, exploring dreams and surreal subjects and moods. His output includes symphonic works and a collection of concertos including Piano Concerto No.1, recorded by Jonathan Powell and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra for release this year on Capriccio, coupled with Symphony No.1 and Rhythomphonie. His chamber music has been issued on three discs from Toccata Classics including the piano works 7 Neo-Impressionistic Pieces and the Suite Theresienstadt composed during his wartime internment at the camp.
The complex, polyvalent nature of Winterberg’s cultural and musical identity is a direct result of his background and experiences. The composer summed it up with the comment: “Nationality? What kind of backward, perverse idea is this?” Michael Haas, producer, musicologist and staff member at the Exilarte Research Centre in Vienna, describes how it “involved being musically rooted in the Bohemian-Moravian tradition, being close to the Second Viennese School, speaking better German than Czech, and being able to either avow or ignore his Jewish identity until 1939, when ignoring it was no longer possible. Hans/Hanuš Winterberg’s life and work offer a prime example of the fate of art and artists when politics demands clear-cut identities, and where ambivalence is the source of inspiration and creativity.
“Winterberg belonged to the German-speaking Jewish cultural elite in Czechoslovakia during the interwar period. As a student at both the Prague State Conservatory and the German Academy, he was influenced on the one hand by the Bohemian-Moravian tradition. He is indebted to Janácek especially in his use of folkloric elements, but above all in his fondness for polyrhythmic structures – a characteristic that links him with Pavel Haas, Hans Krása, Bohuslav Martinu and Erwin Schulhoff. On the other hand, he is also close to the Second Viennese School, with this influence certainly transmitted through his teacher Zemlinsky. He wrote about his career in an autobiographical sketch: “Originally inspired by Arnold Schoenberg, in the end, I found a polyrhythmic, polytonal path.”
> Read Michael Haas’s complete Winterberg article
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> Further information on Work: Piano Concerto No.1
Photo: courtesy of Peter Kreitmeir
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