Hans Krása

Hans Krása


• 1899 1944


One of the tragic figures of Terezin, the Czech concentration camp touted by the Nazis as a model of ethical treatment of prisoners and flourishing artistic ventures, Hans Krása is remembered through occasional performances of his music and in several recordings of his eclectic, yet personable works. Ultimately, he was a victim, shipped off to Auschwitz in August 1944, where he died in a gas chamber two days after arrival. Of German extraction, Krása studied privately, learning piano technique from Terèse Wallenstein and compositional process with Alexander von Zemlinsky; formal classwork was apparently not a part of his training. Rather, he moved directly into professional work, serving as an assistant conductor at Prague's Neues Deutsches Theater. During his tenure there, two of his works received public performances, both his String Quartet and Symphony for small orchestra, and received positive reviews. Subsequently, the symphony was heard elsewhere: in Zürich in 1926 and in Boston and New York, where it was performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Sergey Koussevitzky in 1926 and 1927. When Zemlinsky accepted an engagement at Berlin's innovative Kroll Theater in 1927, Krása followed him. However, Krása returned to Prague within mere months. Work on an opera, Verlobung im Traum, began in 1928, but it was not until 1933 that the work had its premiere. Although it won the Czechoslovakian State Prize that same year, the election of the National Socialists in Germany precluded its being heard there, despite its German libretto. Earlier, his cantata Die Erde ist des Herrn had won success in both Czechoslovakia and Germany. During the increasingly tense 1930s, Krása worked diligently with the Czech intelligentsia to foster cultural awareness. With Adolf Hoffmeister, he collaborated on Mládî ve hre (Young Persons in Play), providing the incidental music. The two later worked together on Brundibár (Bumble Bee), a short opera for children. Although German forces occupied Czechoslovakia by the time it was premiered in 1942, Krása had already been deported to Terezin. There, he reconstructed the work for the personnel he could muster for a performance. Krása's music derives from many influences, specially Zemlinsky's. The London/Decca recording of Verlobung im Traum reveals both his skilled writing for voice and astute use of instrumental resources.