Hans Krasa was born in Prag on november 30th 1899. His father was a Czech lawyer, his mother brought up her children, Hans, who was entered in the register of births as Johann, and another four children, in her native tongue - German, and stimulated their interest in music. Hans began playing the piano at the Theresa Walerstein's school.
Krasa made his first attempts at composing music also in his childhood, writing in the style of Haydn and Mozart. At the age of 11 he had his orchestral composition publicly performed by a spa orchestra in Salzburg. Three years later his string quartet was played at St. Moritz. These minor compositions however have been lost.
He finished his studies at the secondary school and was engaged in studying music. His teacher was Alexander Zemlinsky, professor newly established Deutsche Akademie fur Music und Darstellende Kunst.
In adolescence Krasa absorbed much of Prague's cultural ambience and life, dominated to a certain extent by the Mahler cult.
Hans Krasa s debut were Four Orchestral Songs, settings of Morgenstern s Songs from the Gallows, a composition which Zemlinsky included in the programme of a Philharmonic Concert in May 1921. Music critics lavished praise on the piece, appreciating especially Krasa's sense for the grotesque in the music.
Two years later Hans Krasa visited Paris, where - within the framework of a concert cycle of international contemporary music, conducted by Walter Straram in the Theatre des Champ-Elysees - part of Krasa's Symphony for Small Orchestra was performed. Equally encouraging was the premiere of his String Quartet, played shortly afterwards at a party in the musical salon La revue musicale.
Three years later this symphony represented Czechoslovakia at a Festival in Zurich and the Czech Philharmonic performed it in a concert in Prague in 1927.
During that year Krasa worked for the Kroll Opera Company in Berlin for a short time but Prague seemed to be his strongest support and attraction. He was a repetiteur in the New German Theatre in Prague, associating himself with the Ger- man intellectuals grouped around the Prager Tagblatt newspa- per and with Czech artists, painters in particular. They all shared a humanistic attitude to art, all rejected chauvinism and all were noted for their positive approach to the nation in whose country they lived and regarded as their homeland.
In the late twenties Krasa created the first great works for voices with orchestra. Two years /1928 - 1930/ he composed opera based on Dostojevski s story Uncle s Dream and entitled Verlobung im Traum (Engagement in a Dream) and in 1931 he finished cantata Die Erde ist des Herren. Premiere of cantata was in 1932 in Neues deutsches Theater, premiere of the opera was at Maifestspiele 1933 in the same theatre. This work was awarded by Czechoslovak state prize.
Krasa promoted his artistic collaboration and contacts with the Czech avant-garde at that time. He was a close friend of the painters Sychra, Pelc, and Hoffmeister, for whose contemporary comedy, called Youth at Play, Krasa composed the stage music /1935/. His Song of Anne was heard often in Prague both in its Czech and German versions, since Friedrich Torberg soon translated the play into German and it was performed at the Kleine Buhne theatre under the title Anna sagt nein.
The Manes Hall in Prague hosted the premiere of Krasa's Chamber Music for Harpsichord and Seven Instruments, played together with new works by Isa Krejci, Jezek and Martinu.
After the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, when Prague had a population of 900,000, including 50,000 Germans, Krasa was a member of the antifascist artists associated with Prague's Jewish orphanage.
Rehearsals of Krasa s Brundibar, an opera for children written to a text by Adolf Hoffmeister, started there in July 1941. Brundibar was probably the Iast composition Krasa finished before the Nazis arrested him. He had no time to set this classical anti-war fable, based on Aristophanes's Lysistrata, to music. On August lOth 1942 Johann Krasa, then a mere number, 21855, was interned in the Theresienstadt ghetto, where - according to Karel Ancerl - "nothing corresponded to a normal human regime. The entire organization was aimed at gratifying hatred and the urge to kill".
Surrounded by such untold suffering, Krasa found the on ly relief in music. He used a piano score to write a new instru- mentation of the opera, which had as many as 55 performances in Theresienstadt.
The success scored by the opera, as well as the composer s own philosophy of life, stimulated him to further work. In the midst of ominpresent death Krasa wrote his string trios Tanz and JaJa and Overture for small Orchestra. It was until in Terezin that his string quartet Theme and Variations was for the first time performed.
Passacaglia and Fugue, Three Songs for Soprano, Clarinet, Viola and Violoncello to verse by Rimbaud in Nezval s translation were being frequently performed in the ghetto too. Up till now nobody can be sure whether all the compositions by Hans Krasa will ever be known.
On the night of October l6th 1944 Hans Krasa, composer of the opera Brundibar, the source of short-lived pleasure for Theresienstadt children, was herded into a railway wagon coursed onto Osvetim and taken away.
Krasa s artistic style proceeds from impressionism and the influenre of Mahle' s music. The composer was greatly affected by the new compositional trends and aesthetic views of the 20th century. Characteristic features of his music are its comic and grotesque dimensions, qualities which permeate Krasa s very first works. In his later career his music displayed uniquely treated neoclassical elements, particularly in the integration "of the old with the new, the serious with the banal, the sober with the sentimental", as the music critic Pala noted after a performance of Krasa's Chamber Music in Prague's Manes Hall.