The screening will be followed by a conversation with the composer Ursula Mamlok and the award-winning broadcaster and writer Robert Sherman.


The event is part of our fall focus on the city of Berlin, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It is free and open to the public. If you would like to attend, send an email to Space is limited; please arrive ten minutes prior to the event at Deutsches Haus, 48 Washington Mews, New York, N.Y. ( 212.998.8660).

How can one describe a woman whose whole life has been music? Someone who preferred playing musical notes to playing with dolls? Someone of whom a close friend said “she lives off scores and sheet music”. For Ursula Mamlok, music was not merely the meaning of her life; composing offered her a crucial support at a time when the world was collapsing around her. In 1939, she and her family, with her piano in tow, narrowly managed to escape from Nazi Germany. Eventually, at the age of seventeen, she ended up in New York, without any money and unable to speak any English.

She remained in New York for almost sixty-six years and was influenced by some of the most important exiled European musicians – she found in the American avant-garde a means of self-liberation. Ursula Mamlok enjoyed numerous successes, received many awards, and taught composition for almost forty years at the famous Manhattan School of Music. In 2006, she returned to Berlin, the city of her birth. This decision has since faced the artist with new challenges – both musical and emotional. Anne Berrini’s documentary offers a sensitive examination of the music that has played such a central role in Mamlok’s life.

Ursula Mamlok, born 1923 in Berlin, began her musical studies with Gustav Ernest, professor at the Humboldt University. Persecuted by the Nazis she was forced to leave Berlin in February 1939, and emigrated to Guayaquil/Ecuador with her parents. That same year the Mannes School of Music in New York gave her a full scholarship and she left for New York at the age of 17 in 1940. There her teacher was the conductor George Szell.

Ursula Mamlok married Dwight Mamlok in 1947 and returned to school in 1955 to obtain her Bachelor and Master of Music with Vittorio Giannini at the Manhattan School of Music. A previous scholarship at the music institute of Black Mountain College in 1944 had given her the opportunity to work with Ernst Krenek und Eduard Steuermann, kickstarting her desire to change her style from less complex tonal music to complex non-tonal sounds.

Her later studies with Roger Sessions, Jerzy Fitelberg, Stefan Wolpe, and Ralph Shapey proved to be a major influence in her musical development from 1960 onwards. As a professor of composition Ursula Mamlok taught for over 40 years at the Manhattan School of Music. Since 2006 Ursula Mamlok lives in her birthplace Berlin. Here her career as a composer got a boost. Well known musicians in Germany, such as Musikfabrik Köln, Klenke Quartet, Armida Quartet, Jakob Spahn, Holger Groschopp, Kolja Lessing, Frank Dodge, Spectrum Concerts, and many more are performing her oeuvre throughout Europe. After playing a concert and recording her oboe concerto with Heinz Holliger the two musicians developed a friendship.

She has experienced vast recognition in television, radio and print media. In 2012 her biography Ursula Mamlok – Time in Flux (by Habakuk Traber) was presented to the public. The New Yorker label BRIDGE RECORDS has released four volumes of CDs with the work of Ursula Mamlok. Her works are mainly published by C.F. Peters New York and Boosey & Hawkes Bote & Bock. In November 2013, Ursula Mamlok was decorated with the “Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse” of the Government of Germany.

Robert Sherman, award-winning broadcaster and writer, recently celebrated his 58th anniversary with WQXR. Formerly Program Director and later Senior Consultant, he continues to produce and host The McGraw Hill Financial’s Young Artists Showcase – now in its 35th year on the station – and since their inception, has hosted the Lincoln Center presentations of the annual Avery Fisher Career Grants. His popular and award-winning folk series Woody's Children, which began on WQXR is 1969, is now heard on WFUV. Excepts from the program's 45th anniversary concert aired a few months ago as a PBS television special.

For more than forty years, Bob was a music critic and columnist for The New York Times and for nearly twenty served on the faculty of The Juilliard School. A concert narrator with such esteemed ensembles as Canadian Brass, the United States Military Academy (West Point) Band and the Greenwich Symphony, he sits on the Advisory boards of many cultural organizations, also serving them variously as competition judge, pre-concert lecturer, panel moderator and fundraising emcee. Co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music and two best-selling books with Victor Borge, he also joined with his brother, Alexander Sherman, to compile a pictorial history of their celebrated mother, pianist Nadia Reisenberg.

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Robert Polner
Robert Polner
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