Moravian-born composer and pianist based in Prague, and one of the most important artists in the Terezín(Theresienstadt) ghetto.
A remarkable musician, tragically murdered aged 25
Below is a brief biography.
By clicking on 'Browse the Archive', you will discover more about Gideon Klein, and you will be able to watch performances of his music.
Gideon Klein's music featured prominently in all of the 'Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music and Theatre' festivals, organised by Performing the Jewish Archive, in 2016 and 2017. Two of the festivals (UK and the Czech Republic) played host to the world premieres of two works, edited by PtJA researcher David Fligg: Movement for Harp, and melodrama for narrator and piano, Topol (The Poplar Tree).
Klein was born in the Moravian town of Přerov in 1919. Initially having piano lessons there with Karel Mařik, he then moved to Prague when he was 11 years old, living with his sister, the pianist Eliška (Lisa) Kleinová. Whilst at school, he studied piano at the Prague Conservatory with Růžena Kurzová, and later, as a full-time student at the Conservatory, with her husband the eminent pianist Vilém Kurz. Even as a teenager, Klein was closely involved in the musical activities of the city, and as a pianist, he performed in many concerts. At his graduation concert in May 1938, he performed Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto to much critical acclaim.
Under German occupation, Klein performed under the pseudonym of Karel Vránek, and he took part in many clandestine house-concerts. Though there is no evidence that his compositions were ever publicly performed in Prague, he composed steadily, and some of these early works are striking in their originality and engagement with modernist language.
Prior to his deportation to Terezín in December 1941, he entrusted his manuscripts and other personal memorabilia to some non-Jewish friends. Forgotten about after the war, this significant archive found its way back to Klein’s sister, Lisa, in 1990.
In the Terezín ghetto, Klein became part of the so-called Freizeitzgestaltung, the Free-time Committee, organising and taking part in numerous musical activities. As well as composing music for amateur singers in the camp, he wrote, amongst other things, a significant Piano Sonata, and the Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello, a work which has now found its way into the general chamber music repertoire.
In October 1944, Klein was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and then shortly afterwards to the Auschwitz slave-labour sub-camp of Fürstengrube. There he was shot by the SS in January 1945.