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BERMAN, karel

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Karel Berman was born on April 14, 1919 in the small South Bohemian town of Jindrichuv Hradec, and before his twenty-fourth birthday had gained considerable experience as singer, conductor and composer. He arrived in Terezin in March, 1943. Musical life was at this stage well established and Berman quickly became an important participant, primarily as performer. Several important works including Pavel Haass Four Songs to Texts of Chinese Poetry and the role of Death in Viktor Ullmanns opera The Emperor of Atlantis were composed for him.

On September 28, 1944, Berman was placed on a transport to Auschwitz. Being young and in good health, he survived the initial selection process and was sent to a forced labor camp in Kauffering where he contracted typhus and came perilously close to death. After liberation, Berman returned to Prague, completed his studies at the Conservatory of Music and went on to a long career as a principal bass at Prague's National Theater. A noted pedagogue, he was professor of singing at the Prague Academy of Music. One of his students recalled that he had an overwhelming mix of melancholy and inner strength about him.

Berman turned to composition only twice which makes the high level of craft in the two works that he produced, both from Terezin in 1944, all the more notable. One was a cycle of four songs, Poupata (Rosebuds) and the other was a suite for piano entitled Terezin, the first version of what later became 1938-1945 Reminiscences, Suite for Piano. Terezin was completed for my own birthday, April 14, 1944 and consisted of only three movements. In the final version these became movements 3: Occupation (originally entitled Terezin), 5: Auschwitz - Corpse Factory (originally: Terror) and 7: Alone.


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