String Quartet No. 2, Op. 7, "From the Monkey Mountains" (1925) A Wild Night, movement four
Pavel Haas (b. Brno, 1899 - d. Auschwitz, 1944)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Natasha Bazhanov, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Walter Gray, cello; Matthew Kocmieroski, percussion
Recorded November 4, 2018 at Benaroya Hall, Seattle
Pavel Haas was a student of the great Czech composer Leos Janacek. Over two productive decades following his military service in WWI, Haas would work on over fifty compositions, but he gave opus numbers to only eighteen. His varied oeuvre includes symphonic and choral works, lieder, chamber music, scores for cinema and theatre, and an opera. Haas' mature compositional voice combined a Stravinsky-like neo-classicism with jazz, Czech folk themes, and Jewish synagogue music.
Haas saw Prague occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939, and was deported in 1941 to Terezin, where he joined fellow Czech Jewish composers Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein and Hans Krasa. It was Klein who gave Haas music paper and encouraged him to compose as a way of resisting depression that threatened to overwhelm him. Haas went on to write eight pieces while at Terezin. Knowing his likely fate, Haas had saved his non-Jewish wife and their daughter by divorcing. He was sent to his death at Auschwitz in October 1944.
Haas was 26 when he composed his second string quartet. Its four movements evoke scenes from a summer vacation in the "Monkey Mountain," the local nickname for a popular tourist area of the Moravian Highlands. The fiery final movement, "Wild Night," fuses folk melodies with jazz syncopation. Haas added percussion for the work's 1925 premiere to accentuate the movement's dance-like character but dropped it from the published score after the experiment was poorly received by conservative critics.