Przyslala  Basia Jaworski

A forgotten composer, and not just because of the Nazis


Karol Rathaus, circa 1952 (from Rathaus’ family archive










A demo/promo/proof-of-concept video for documentary film ‘Discovering Karol Rathaus’:

With his equally fascinating and individual music, Karol Rathaus met with little approval. He felt misunderstood, was actually nowhere at home, and also in the musical landscape surrounding him he sat between all chairs – and styles. His piano works have been now released on CD, for the first time.

Rathaus cd

What do we know about Karol Rathaus (1895-1954)? He was born in 1895 in Ternopol, a city now in Western Ukraine but then part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. He spoke Polish at home and German at school, a language he mastered better than the native speakers. He studied in Vienna, emigrated to Berlin in 1926, to France in 1932 and from there to the United States. No wonder that his first biographer openly wondered whether Karol Rathaus was a Jewish, Polish, Austrian or American composer. He based himself not only on Rathaus’s life but also on the letters he wrote to his friends, in which he said that he found it difficult to adapt to his new countries and often ended up in an identity crisis. His compositions were rarely performed, something he was very bitter about.


Dance from Uriel Acosta  from 1930, played by Orquesta Filarmonica Cuidad de Mexico conducted by Jascha Horenstein (live, Mexico City, 28 March 1951). The orchestra on this recording included Sally van den Berg (oboe) and Louis Salomons (bassoon), who played in the Concertgebouw before the war:

As he wrote in a letter to Jascha Horenstein in 1950: “My problem is that of the ignored independent and individual composer. My name is known, but nobody performs my works. I have no embassies, no consulates that stand behind me – no propaganda machine – in the country where I live very happily, I’m considered a non-native.“

Jascha Horenstein conducts Rathaus. World premiere, recorded on March 13, 1956 in “Farringdon” studio, BBC

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