Ullmann, Viktor

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Ullmann, Viktor

Ullmann, Viktor, Austrian composer, pianist, conductor, and music critic; b. Teschen, Jan. 1,1898; d. in the concentration camp in Auschwitz, on or about Oct. 15, 1944. After initial training in Teschen, he went to Vienna in 1914, where he later was a student of Schoenberg (1918-19). From 1920 to 1927 he was an assistant to Zemlinsky at the New German Theater in Prague. In 1927-28 he served as director of the Ústí nad Labem Opera. He was active in Germany until the Nazi takeover of 1933 compelled him to return to Prague. He was associated with the Czech Radio, wrote music and book reviews, and taught privately. From 1935 to 1937 he attended A. Hába’s classes in quarter tone music at the Cons. With the Nazi dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Ullmann’s life became precarious. In 1942 the Nazis deported him to the Theresienstadt ghetto. In spite of the hardships there, he played an active role in the artistic endeavors of the ghetto. He composed the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantisduring this time, a work depicting a tyrannical monarch who outlaws death only to beg for its return in order to relieve humanity from the horrors of life. The opera reached its dress rehearsal in 1944, but when the Nazi guards realized that the monarch was a satirical characterization of Hitler, Ull-mann was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp and put to death in the gas chamber. While a number of his works have been lost, several of his surviving scores have been revived. In his early music, Ullmann was influenced by Schoenberg. His later works were classical in form with poly tonal textures. His fine songs reveal the influence of Mahler.


dramatic: Opera

Peer Gynt (1928); Der Sturz des Antichrist (1935; Bielefeld, Jan. 7,1995); Der zerbrochene Krug (1941); Der Kaiser von Atlantis oder der Tod dankt ab (1943; Amsterdam, Dec. 16, 1975). ORCH.: Variations and Double Fugue on a Theme of Arnold Schoenberg (1929-34; based on the piano piece, 1925-29); Piano Concerto (1939); Slavonic Rhapsodyfor Alto Saxophone and Orch. (1940); 2 syms.: No. 1, Vom meiner Jugen (1943; partial reconstruction by B. Wulff; Philadelphia, Jan. 26,1995) and No. 2 (1944; partial reconstruction by B. Wulff; Stuttgart, Oct. 18, 1989); Don Quixote tanzt Fandango,overture (1944; partial reconstruction by B. Wulff; Lucerne, Sept. 2,1995). CHAMBER: 3 string quartets (n.d., n.d., 1943); Octet for Piano, Winds, and Strings; Sonata for Quarter Tone Clarinet and Piano; Violin Sonata. Piano: Variations and Double Fugue on a Theme of Arnold Schoenberg (1925-29; also for Orch., 1929-34); 7 sonatas (1936; 1938-39; 1940; 1941; n.d.; n.d.; 1944). VOCAL: Sechs Lieder nach Gedichten von Albert Steffenfor Soprano and Piano (1937); Fünf Liebeslieder von Ricarda Huchfor Soprano and Piano (1938-39); Drei Sonette aus dem Portugiesischenby Elizabeth Barrett Browning for Voice and Piano (1939-0); Geistliche Liederfor High Voice and Piano (1940); Liederbuch des Hafisfor Bass and Piano (1940); Six Sonnets de Louize Labéfor Voice and Piano (1941); Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilkefor Speaker and Orch. (1944; partial reconstruction by H. Brauel; Prague, May 27, 1995).


H.-G. Klein, ed., V. li., Materialien (Hamburg, 1992); idem, ed., “...es wird der Tod zum Dichter:” Die Referate des Kolloquiums zur Oper “Der Kaiser von Atlantis” von V. U. in Berlin am 4./5.11.1995 (Hamburg, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire