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Commissioned by Carly Gordon

Performed by the Downwind Quintet

Poem in movement one from Hanuš Hachenburg. Paintings in movement four provided by the Jewish Museum in Prague. 


Terezín is inspired by Pavel Haas’ woodwind quintet op.10, and by children’s art recovered from the Nazi Theresienstadt concentration camp. Haas himself was a prisoner at Theresienstadt and like many others, was later taken to Auschwitz where he was murdered. The four movements in Terezín are named after the four movements in Haas’ piece.

Movement one (Prelude) aims to transport the listener to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. To do so, it collaborates with the poem “Terezín” written by Hanuš Hachenburg (a child at the time). The players recite the poem in turns, as the music responds to the words programmatically.

In movement two (Prayer) I used the syllabic structure of the Schehecheyanu (שהחינו) Jewish prayer to create a rhythmic pattern that repeats continuously through the piece. The repetition of the material aims to induce the listener in a trans-state similar to those associated with prayers. It acts as an escape to the grim picture presented in movement one.

Movement three (Dance of Death) aims to represent the pain and desperation of death in the gas chambers. It brings the listener back to the atrocities of the holocaust. The instrumentalists play violent, rhythmic lines, and scream melodies above those.

Movement four (Ashes) pays tribute to the artworks left by the Theresienstadt children and prisoners. Their poems and pictures are suspended in time like ashes are suspended in air. The chords move slowly, evoking a lament, while pictures drawn by the Children in Terezín get projected in the background. They are what remain of the many who died during the darkest period of human history. Their testament reminds us how relevant their stories will always be, and how relevant they are today.

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