June 21. Pavel Haas’ Birthday: A Study For Strings

Another victim of the goddamned Holocaust.  Czech composer, Pavel Haas, was one of the most successful of Leoš Janáček‘s pupils.  This piece was written in Theresienstadt, a concentration camp located in former Czechoslovakia where he wrote the piece.  This camp was the one that was dressed up for a visit from the International Red Cross to prove that no Jews were suffering.  A film was made of this by a director hired by the camp’s commandant.  It showed a children’s choir singing one of Haas’ works.  After the film was finished, 18,000 inmates were transferred to Auschwitz where they were gassed in 1944.

It is hard to believe that 72 years later, acts of terrorism, hate crimes against gays, and murder of people of color, and massacres by one religious faction of another, still have not abated.  No lessons learned from WWII?

Here’s his wikipedia entry.

Born today, June 19: Alfredo Catalani. “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana.”

I haven’t heard this piece since around 1984, when it was used in a French, nouveau noir, film called “Diva.” That film was the first time I’ll bet many Americans first heard it as well. It comes from the 1892 opera, “La Wally,” by Alfredo Catalani, born today June 19, 1854. I remember it grabbing people’s attention at that time, kind of like happened with the the 3rd movement from Henryk Górecki’s Third Symphony, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. La Wally is the heroine of the opera and the aria, “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,” which means, “So that’s how it is, eh? I’m going to blow this popcorn stand.” Wally falls in love with her father’s rival. Dad is so angry, he makes her marry another guy. Later the son of the rival insults her, whom she tells her husband to murder. The husband tries to murder the other guy unsuccessfully and Wally has a change of heart. She goes to kill herself on a mountain, and the other guy finds her and declares his love. He starts back down the mountain and calls back for her to follow, but his words set off an avalanche, which sweeps him away. Seeing this happen to her lover, La Wally jumps into the avalanche and thus to her death. The opera isn’t performed all that often because of the difficulty of simulating the avalanche on stage. This aria, however, is still popular, which is part of the plot of “Diva.”

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