Kukuck, Felicitas (1914—)

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Kukuck, Felicitas (1914—)

German composer and teacher who created many works for Protestant church services as well as chamber music. Born on November 2, 1914, in Hamburg, Germany; her mother was a singer; taught at home by her mother; studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, 1935–39.

Nazi racism not only forced many thousands of Germans, Jews, and non-Jews to flee their country, it compelled a smaller number of "racially unpure" individuals to be silent during the years of terror when the Third Reich dominated all aspects of life in a once-free culture. Felicitas Kukuck was one of the Germans of partially Jewish ancestry who lost her freedom but not her life during the Nazi years. She was born in Hamburg in 1914, the daughter of a singer. Her mother taught her at home and encouraged her to improvise on the piano at an early age. Her composition teacher was Paul Hindemith, who urged her to continue to develop her creative skills as a composer. Hindemith, though a "pure Aryan," perceived the evils of Nazism and fled Germany in the late 1930s.

Because of her part-Jewish ancestry, Kukuck was dismissed from her teaching position and struggled to endure both materially and spiritually. A devout Christian, she survived the war and went on to become one of Germany's most respected composers of music for Protestant church services. Also strongly influenced by Hindemith, Kukuck after 1945 concentrated on writing music of spiritual depth that addressed the needs of modern individuals in a complex world. Strongly influenced by the choral traditions of German musical history, she has written a Christmas Mass, a Reformation Cantata, and in 1986 conducted the world premiere of her church opera, The Man Moses.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia