I’ve been asked more than once whether there’s a single work of music that comes closest to capturing the Holocaust’s lessons. My response is that the Holocaust’s unfathomable tragedy can never be reduced to a single message. Its messages are as varied as the countless victims and survivors, and its stories continue to come to light almost 70 years after the end of World War II. In Music of Remembrance’s 17th season, we bring fresh perspectives to stories you might know, and share less familiar stories that our audiences
will probably find new.
Our 2014-15 season of three Benaroya Hall concerts opens in November with a program full of fresh discoveries. When people think about the Nazioccupied Netherlands, Anne Frank usually comes to mind. Too little is known about a generation of Dutch composers, their music and their fates. We’ll introduce you to captivating works – including a tap dance! – by Leo Smit and Dick Kattenburg, both murdered at Nazi hands. (Later, in our spring concert, you’ll hear the music of two Dutch women composers whose lives and music were deeply affected: Rosy Wertheim and Henriette Bosmans.) If you’ve attended MOR in the past, you’ve probably heard works by some of the gifted composers who were part of the remarkable musical life in the Terezín concentration camp. Terezín’s prisoners also created an active cabaret scene, often staged on short notice in the barracks. The songs and skits ranged from the nostalgic to the satirical to the defiant, and at our concert you’ll hear an engaging medley sung by mezzo-soprano Julia Benzinger.
Our program is capped by MOR’s newest collaboration with Spectrum Dance Theater’s brilliant choreographer Donald Byrd: a dance score that adds a rich new dimension to Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklaerte Nacht. People might associate Schoenberg with the radical tonalities of his later music, but Verklaerte Nacht (“Transfigured Night”) is a youthful masterpiece full of lush Romantic harmonies, inspired by a narrative poem of love, forgiveness and redemption.
MOR’s March concert will transport you to a mysterious world of medieval Jewish legend. You’ll hear a suite of incidental music that Joel Engel composed for The Dybbuk when that play anchored the Yiddish theater that flourished across Eastern Europe between the World Wars, and the haunting Dybbuk Dances that David Beigelman created when the play was staged by doomed inhabitants of the Lodz ghetto. You’ll see a complete screening of the classic 1920 silent film The Golem, accompanied by Israeli composer Betty Olivero’s mesmerizing klezmer-infused score led by German guest conductor Guenter Buchwald, one of the world’s most innovative advocates for music for silent cinema. The Dybbuk and The Golem are poignant reminders of a culture and its idioms that the Nazi regime sought to destroy. But these legends are far more than objects of ethnic nostalgia. They are richly layered morality tales with universal resonance: the struggle between the mystical and the material; the ambiguous boundaries between the traditional and the modern; the dilemmas of invoking divine intervention for worldly ends. Through the concert’s music and film, they create an unforgettable experience blurring the lines of memory and fantasy, history and myth.
At our May concert, you’ll be present when Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein meet again – and argue about art and life – in the world premiere of After Life, a new opera that we’ve commissioned from Guggenheim-award winning composer Tom Cipullo, with libretto by the brilliant poet David Mason. Imagining a posthumous conversation between these two artistic giants, this musical drama reflects on the artist’s responsibilities in time of war. This eagerly-awaited premiere features three vocal luminaries: mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook, baritone Morgan Smith and soprano Ava Pine. You’ll also hear music by the oftenirreverent Darius Milhaud, and by Paul Bowles, an American ex-patriot who frequented the Paris salon of Stein and Alice B. Toklas, letting you savor a whiff of the creative fervor that made 1920s Paris so alluring to artists and intellectuals from everywhere.
Gertrude Stein famously used the words: “When This You See Remember Me.” We all want to be remembered. Each of us: for a life lived, for a legacy left behind. Through music, Music of Remembrance remembers victims and survivors, famous people and people little-known whose lives mattered just as much. Our 17th season is filled with memories, dreams, legends, stories that need to be told, and questions that need to be asked. It is one of the most daring and provocative that we have ever created. My hope is that you’ll be moved by what you hear, and elevated by what you experience.
Mina Miller, Artistic Director