Gideon Klein

06/12/1919 Prerau, 27/01/1945 Fürstengrube  

Gideon Klein was a Czech pianist, composer and educator. Born into the family of a Jewish businessman, his talent became evident at an early age. He moved to Prague, where he studied the piano with Růžena Kurzová and, later on, at the conservatory, with Vilém Kurz, her husband. In September 1939, he was forced to abort his studies when the Nazi occupation authorities closed all the universities in Bohemia. Since music by Jewish composers was banned, his works could not be performed. When, in 1940, the Royal Academy of Music invited him to London, he was not allowed to travel. Not being able to appear in public due to his Jewish origin, Klein played the piano at small theatres under the assumed name Karel Vránek. At the time, he also took private composition lessons from Alois Hába. At the end of 1941, Klein was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, where he would co-organise music performances within the “free-time activities”. In the autumn of 1944, he was transported to Auschwitz and then to Fürstengrube, a coal-mining labour camp, where he died under unclear circumstances during its liquidation in January 1945 amid the Red Army’s approach. While in Theresienstadt, Klein composed the Madrigal for five voices to François Villon’s text; the song cycle Die Peststadt (The Plague City) for alto and piano; The First Sin for male choir, based on folk poetry; Arrangements of Folk Songs for mixed choir; Fantasy and Fugue for String Quartet; Piano Sonata; Bachuri, le’ an tissa, a setting of a Hebrew text for three-part female choir; Wiegenlied, a lullaby to a Hebrew text for voice and piano; and the String Trio. In 1994, Klein’s elder sister Eliška, who managed to escape from a Nazi prison to Prague, established the Gideon Klein Foundation.