Actor Roman Knižka and the wind ensemble Opus 45 came together at the Neuengamme Memorial last Sunday for a matinee program under the theme of “resoundingly slapping the Nazis in the face.” The program, funded by the Federal Agency for Civic Education, combined music with literature and was located in the former production halls of the Walter company in the concentration camp memorial.
Framed by chamber music, readings of Paul Celans’s “Todesfuge” (“Death Fugue”) and poetry by French prisoners from the Buchenwald concentration camp were heard amongst many others. The approximately 70 spectators heard music from composers who were victims of Nazi rule, including Paul Hindemith’s Little Chamber Music (op. 24/2), Pavel Haas’ wind quintet (op. 10), and György Ligeti’s six bagatelles.
Between every musical performance, Roman Knižka successfully expressed the poetic works of writers like Paul Celan, Kurt Tucholsky, Bertolt Brecht, Erich Kästner, Mascha Kaléko. He matched the respective texts with small vignettes; for example, while reading Tucholsky’s “Kiss for Faschists,” he threw out leaflets to the crowd.
This project was dedicated to those who remained steadfast against the terror of National Socialism until the very end. Accordingly, thought-provoking texts and musical compositions were selected and presented in an impressive manner to the crowd. In under 80 minutes, Roman Knižka and the quintet Opus 45 not only managed to live up to the artistic achievements of these poets and musicians and devote themselves to the resistance in the Third Reich, but they also managed to inspire the audience with one or two ideas to carry with them home.