The Musical Worlds of Polish Jews, 1920-1960

The Musical Worlds of Polish Jews, 1920-1960: Identity, Politics, and Culture

November 17-18, 2013 | University Club | ASU Tempe campus

This international research conference at Arizona State University focused on the richness of Polish-Jewish music from World War I to the decades after World War II and its relationship to the complex problem of Polish Jewish identity.

The Center for Jewish Studies and the School of Music at Arizona State University in collaboration with The OREL Foundation welcome you to The Musical Worlds of Polish Jews, 1920-1960: Identity, Politics and Culture, an international conference devoted to the musical world of Polish Jews from 1920 to 1960.

For the past three years, the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University has focused on the recovery, study and performance of Jewish music suppressed by the Third Reich. Previously we have featured the music of German-speaking Jewish composers; this conference will focus on Polish-Jewish composers. The goal of the conference is to shed light on the richness of Polish-Jewish music from World War I to the decades after World War II and its relation to the complex problem of identity formation.

At the end of World War I, nearly 3,000,000 Jews from the Russian, German, and Austrian Empires found themselves in the newly re-created state of Poland. In the subsequent two decades, this Jewish community, the largest in Europe, faced the challenge of becoming “Polish Jews.” Out of this challenge was born a rich and vibrant culture that deserves more recognition by music lovers and close analysis by scholars. Even under German occupation, the cultural and musical creativity of Polish Jews did not cease but became an important element of camp and ghetto lives. For years after the war, whether in exile or at home, the art of Polish Jews continued to reflect the complex relationship with Polishness and Polish culture.

download program book (PDF)

November 18 | 7:30 p.m. | Katzin Concert Hall | ASU Tempe campus

This concert featured the works of three Polish Jews whose lives were deeply affected by the Third Reich’s racial ideology: Jerzy Fitelberg, who found a safe haven in New York City; Szymon Laks, who survived Auschwitz, settled in Paris, and gradually moved from composition to literature and translation; and the most acclaimed of the three, Mieczysław Weinberg, who fled his native Warsaw and spent the rest of his life in the Soviet Union.

A discussion with The ARC Ensemble Artistic Director, Simon Wynberg, followed the performance.


  • Sonatina for Two Violins (1947)
    Jerzy Fitelberg [1903-1951]
  • Piano Quintet on Popular Polish Themes (1945)
    Szymon Laks[1901-1983]
    Allegro quasi presto Lento sostenuto Vivace non troppo Allegro moderato ma deciso
  • Intermission
  • Piano Quintet, Op. 18 (1944)
    Mieczysław Weinberg [1919-1996]
    Moderato con moto Allegretto Presto Largo Allegro agitato
This concert was made possible by The OREL Foundation.

This conference was made free and publicly accessible, thanks to the following: 


additional support

Special thanks to The OREL Foundation for arranging the The ARC Ensemble performance of "Poles Apart: Chamber Music from the Garden of Exile".