Rudolf Karel, a hardly known ‘Theresienstadt composer’

Panocha Klein Haas Karel

If it is true that Gideon Klein composed the Divertimento as early as 1940, this is a very important musical discovery. Until now it was assumed that all works that Klein composed before his internment in Terezín have been lost. Unfortunately, the brief-looking booklet with only a short story about the composers and the performers leaves us in limbo. Is the year correct? The (little) work itself is pleasant and easy to hear.

The wind quintet by Pavel Haas dates from 1929. It was very much influenced by Janácek, who has been his teacher and great example since 1920. The second part of the quintet is movingly beautiful. I will not be surprised if the ‘Preghiera’ will lead a life of its own on a compilation CD.

Below ‘La Preghiera’, performed by the Belfiato Quinten:

The biggest discovery for me, however, is the nonet of Rudolf Karel (1880 – 1945). The least known of the ‘Theresienstadt composers’ certainly does not seem to be the least gifted! The work was created when Karel stayed in the hospital barracks of a Prague prison. He wrote his compositions on the smuggled pieces of toilet paper with staves, which were then immediately smuggled out.

Panocha KarelRudolfByAbeTerezin

Below, Rudolf Karel’s Nonet, performed by Orquesta de Cámara del Auditorio de Zaragoza “Grupo Enigma” – OCAZEnigma:

Gideon Klein (then 24 years old) and Pavel Haas were gassed in Auschwitz. Rudolf Karel died in Theresienstadt. Štepan Lucký is not really part of it. His Divertimento, composed in 1974, is from a different time, in a different style and of a different quality. Why he is included here, is a mystery to me.

The performances are more than exemplary. The pinnacle is Karel’s Nonet, in which the Academia Wind Quintet is strengthened by the members of the famous Panocha Quartet.

You can also listen to Rudolf Karel’s Nonet, plus some compositions by Haas, Klein and Schulhoff on Spotify, in a performance by the Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie conducted by Israel Yinon:


English translation Frans Wentholt

Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Rudolf Karel, Štêpán Lucký
Chamber compositions
Academia Wind Quintet Prague, Panocha Quartet conducted by Vladimír Válek
Supraphon SU 3339-2131

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