​Two concerts dedicated to Jewish refugees

Musica Viva’s current season featuring the youthful and celebrated Kelemen Quartet gives special tribute to two European Jewish refugees and music lovers.

​Two concerts dedicated to Jewish refugees

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Tonight ‘s concert in Melbourne (25 February) commemorates Paul Morawetz (1914–2001), successful Austrian-born Melbourne businessman who became involved with Musica Viva at the time of its founding in 1945, and later becoming Vice-President of Musica Viva Victoria.

And Thursday’s Brisbane concert (27 February) is dedicated to Dr Steven Kinston (1908–1996) who founded the Brisbane branch of Musica Viva Australia.

Both arrived in Australia as Jewish refugees, Steven in 1938 and Paul in 1940, bringing with them a passion for music and a European sensibility that the arts should be an intrinsic part of life.

Growing up in a Romania, anti-Semitism and discrimination barred Steven’s entrance to university. So he travelled to Italy, studying at both the University of Florence and simultaneously at the Luigi Cherubini Conservatorium of Music.

He graduated both in medicine, specialising in dentistry, and music, winning a national piano competition along the way.

Realising he needed to find a new life and new country if he and his family were to survive Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler, Steven was granted refugee status by Australia. On immigrating, he established a successful dental practice and successfully auditioned for the ABC.

Their personal success enabled both Steven and Paul to realise their passionate support of the arts—and Musica Viva in particular—and in fact it was Paul’s fundraising efforts that managed to keep the company afloat at an especially difficult time in its history.

Their backgrounds and commitment to chamber music in Australia echoed that of Musica Viva’s founder, Richard Goldner (1908–1991).

Also Romanian born, and Viennese-trained, Richard was a highly talented violist. He studied architecture at university but secretly enrolled at the New Vienna Conservatory, studying under Simon Pullman.

Richard played the viola in the Simon Pullman Ensemble, becoming Pullman’s assistant and closest friend. While Pullman was later to die in the Treblinka extermination camp, Richard and his brother escaped Austria, and arrived as refugees in Australia in 1939.

The enormous respect he held for Simon Pullman inspired Richard to create a 'Pullman-like' ensemble in Sydney. By 1942 he had recruited 17 musicians and divided them into four string quartets (and piano). The quartets were trained individually before uniting as one group—Richard Goldner's Sydney Musica Viva.

Its first concert was at Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1945. Let down by Sydney's unreliable post-war power supply, the concert took place in darkness apart from the headlights of several cars parked in the doorway of the auditorium and some hurricane lamps in the foyers.

From an audience of 1000 at its first concert, the company last year reported a combined audience of over 350,993 featuring 221 musicians across the country.

All three founding members of Musica Viva would no doubt be amazed and gratified to see the progress and reach of the company almost 70 years later.

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