The Czech composer Pavel Haas was born to a Jewish family in Brno on 21 June 1899. The Haas family encouraged the young Pavel’s increasingly evident talent, and by the age of 14 he had already produced his earliest attempts at formal composition. At the Brno conservatory, Haas studied from 1920-22 with the eminent composer Leoš Janáček, who was a decisive influence on his compositional style. While Czech composers in general, and Janáček in particular, played an important role in shaping Haas’ artistic sensibility, he also drew inspiration from a diverse range of sources including Moravian folksong, Jewish synagogue music, and art music composers such as Stravinsky, Honegger, Milhaud and Poulenc. His mature style is evident particularly in his opera Šarlatán (The Charlatan), which premiered in Brno on 2 April 1938.
As it did for so many Jewish musicians across Europe, the Nazi onslaught brought about dramatic changes to Haas’ life and career. Performances of his works were banned, and he and his wife were forbidden employment. On 2 December 1941, Haas was sent on a transport from Brno to Theresienstadt, where he continued to compose. His first composition in the ‘model ghetto’ was the choral work Al S’fod (Do Not Lament), based on a Hebrew text by David Shimoni, followed by the Study for Strings (1943), and the Four Songs on Chinese Poetry (1944), both of which were performed by prisoners in Theresienstadt itself. The bass Karel Berman performed the Four Songs in Theresienstadt in 1944, and frequently included the work in his post-war programmes.
Haas was deported to Auschwitz on 16 October 1944, and probably died in the gas chambers shortly after arrival.
Eckstein, Pavel. “Pavel Haas.” Komponisten in Theresienstadt. Ed. Initiative Hans Krása. Hamburg: Initiative Hans Krása, 1999. 9-19.
Nemtsov, J. & Schroder-Nauenburg, B., 1998. “Musik im Inferno des Nazi-Terrors: Judische Komponisten im "Dritten Reich". Acta Musicologica, 70(1), 22-44.
Peduzzi, Lubomír. “Pavel Haas.” The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.