The exact date and place of his death still remain unknown. The last that was heard of Paul (Pál) Hermann (1902-1944) was that he got arrested during a big street razzia in Toulouse in April 1944 and was deported from the Drancy transit camp to Auschwitz, and from there on to Lithuania. After that, no trace of Hermann was ever found.
The Jewish Hermann was born in Budapest, where he studied at the Franz Liszt Academy with, amongst others, Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály and Léo Weiner. His close friendships with violinist Zoltán Székely and pianist Géza Frid originated during these years.
After a concert in the Netherlands Hermann met the Dutch Ada Weevers whom he married, and with whom he lived in Berlin until 1933. After Hitler’s rise to power, the family moved to Ouddorp in the Netherlands (interesting fact: Hermann spoke and wrote excellent Dutch). After the tragic death of Hermann’s wife he first moved to Brussels, then to Paris.
Although Hermann was most widely known as a cellist he was a talented composer as well. He made his international breakthrough with Kodály’s Sonata for solo cello. Dutch newspapers would call him the ‘Hungarian Casals’ when he regularly performed at the Concertgebouw in the late 1930’s.
After the war, as so many of his fellow victims, he was forgotten.
Portraits of composers who were persecuted and forbidden during World War II:
Thanks to the Leo Smit Foundation it is now possible to listen to his music again, for which I would like to say a big thank you!
His Grand Duo from 1930, originally composed for and performed by Zoltan Szekely, now gets an outstanding performance by Burkhard Maiss and Bogdan Jianu, What an unbelievably beautiful work this is!
The sad songs Hermann composed in an impressionistic style after his wife’s death are sung very movingly by Irene Maessen.
The String Trio and the Piano Trio date from the early 1920’s when Hermann still was a student at the Liszt-Academy. It comes as no surprise that both works, which fall easy on the ears, have a prominent role for the cello.
This String trio is also to be found on the cd Silenced Voices, beautifully played by Black Oak Ensemble (Cedile Records CDR 90000 189).
Hermann’s very rhythmic Toccata for piano for piano can be heard on the cd with piano works by Jewish composers, excellently played by Warcel Worms
English translation Remko Jas
All photos: © courtesy Leo Smit Foundation