Upcoming Queens College festival to celebrate the life and work of its first founding professor of composition

Photo via www.karolrathausfilm.com

A longtime advocate for music suppressed by the Nazi regime, Daniel Wnukowski, a Polish-Canadian pianist will make his New York debut this February at a Queens College festival celebrating the work of the school’s first professor of composition — Karol Rathaus, a Galician-Jewish composer.

Rathaus had a successful career in Berlin before fleeing in 1932 due to the deteriorating political situation in Germany. He began teaching at Queens College in 1938, a year after the college was founded.

The upcoming festival is presented by Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music and features Wnukowski in both of its concerts: first performing solo and chamber music by Rathaus, including the U.S. premiere of his recently rediscovered Piano Sonata No. 2, on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan located at 15 W. 16th St. He will then perform the composer’s Piano Concerto with The Orchestra Now under Leon Botstein on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 3:00 p.m. at LeFrak Concert Hall on the campus of Queens College located at 65-30 Kissena Blvd in Flushing.

Prior to these performances, on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 3:00 p.m., Wnukowski will lead a festival master class at the Aaron Copland School of Music on the piano works of Rathaus and other composers of the early- and mid-20th century. The festival also includes a film screening of the 1936 British drama Broken Blossoms, which features a score by Rathaus, and a lecture by four-time Grammy Award-winning record producer and director of Vienna University’s Exi Arte center, Dr. Michael Haas, who is currently co-producing a documentary about the composer titled Discovering Karol Rathaus.

Wnukowski, a devoted advocate of the music of Rathaus, has performed the composer’s works around the world, including in Vienna, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Additionally, he has recorded an all Rathaus solo album of previously unrecorded repertoire, to be released by Toccata Classics in the spring of 2019. He is also participating in the production of the documentary Discovering Karol Rathaus.  

“Karol Rathaus is a composer I’ve become increasingly fascinated with over the past five years. As I hear and perform more and more of his music—which was championed before the war by luminaries like Wilhelm Furtwängler and Walter Gieseking—I’m more and more shocked by how little recognition it receives today,” said Wnukowski. “Composed mostly during the bleak years between the wars, his music is often dark and melancholic. Yet it also teeters on the edge of frenzy and fiendishness, perfectly capturing the spectacular energy and grit of Weimar Berlin.”

The Aaron Copland School of Music presents the festival in cooperation with The American Society of Jewish Music, Bard College, and The Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College.

For more information about the festival visit: https://www.karolrathausfilm.com/karol-rathaus-festival


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