Szymon Laks's Music of Another World

A Polish-Jewish composer who survived Auschwitz as the camp’s musical conductor wrote in an elegant style out of step with his times. Now the times are coming around.

Szymon Laks.

Szymon Laks.

Observation
Sept. 27 2017
About the author

Simon Wynberg is a chamber musician and artistic director of the ARC Ensemble, a musical group known for its recovery and revival of music lost to political suppression.


After a 2008 performance in Warsaw of a piano quintet by the Polish composer Szymon Laks (1901-1983), a woman approached the pianist to confide that she hadn’t had the pleasure of listening to Laks’s music for 50 years. On the previous occasion, she explained, she’d been in Paris with her late husband Władysław Szpilman—the composer and pianist who is the subject of Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film, The Pianist (2002). The Szpilmans had been friendly with Laks after World War II, but had returned to Poland while Laks remained in Paris, his long-time adoptive home.

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More about: Arts & Culture, East European Jewry, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Music