Fall Concert

Fall Concert: Snow Falls

Sunday, November 5, 2017 - 7:00pm

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November 5, 2017 | 7 p.m.
Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle
World Premieres by composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Keiko Fujiie:
Snow Falls
Composer: Ryuichi Sakamoto | Commissioned by Music of Remembrance
Ryuichi Sakamoto has had a profound and unique impact for decades in Japan and around the world as a composer, musician and peace activist. Set to the haunting poem “Snow Falls” by Kiyoko Nagase, this arrangement for actress, violin and piano draws on melodies from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s film score for “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son.” Actress Naho Shioya will deliver the poem both in Japanese and in an English translation by Empress Michiko.
Wilderness Mute
Composer: Keiko Fujiie | Commissioned by Music of Remembrance
This 20-minute song cycle for soprano, baritone, violin, clarinet, cello and double bass creates an eloquent musical setting for texts by Japanese poets from Hiroshima and Nagasaki in English translation. Fujiie, a Nagasaki native and one of Japan’s most noted and frequently-performed composer, has been honored twice with the NHK Symphony Orchestra’s coveted Otaka Prize.


The November 5 program also reprises Paul Schoenfield's powerful Sparks of Glory, based on the memoirs of Polish-Israeli journalist Moshe Prager. Baritone/actor Robert Orth brings fiery passion to the work's four true stories of courageous defiance, taken from the words of heroes who themselves did not realize that they were heroes. Orth has captivated MOR audiences as Picasso in the world premiere of Tom Cipullo's After Life (2015), and as Gad Beck in Jake Heggie's Out of Darkness (2016).

The program also features little-known gems created by Émile Goué, William Hilsley and Marius Flothuis - French, British and Dutch composers respectively - in prison and concentration camps.

 This concert is endorsed by:

Fall Concert: Transfigured Night

Benaroya Hall
Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 4:00pm
Additional times: 
Fall Concert Preview Talk - Thursday, November 6, 1:00 p.m., Northeast Branch of the Seattle Public Library

MOR commemorated the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht with the WORLD PREMIERE of Spectrum Dance Theater choreographer DONALD BYRD's new dances for Arnold Schoenberg’s mystical and romantic masterpiece Verklaerte Nacht. You also discovered the music and lives of Dutch composers under Nazi occupation, and marvel at a lively medley of songs from cabaret shows staged by inmates at Terezin.

"One of the nation's most daring dance choreographers" -Seattle Times

"“I create the sense of a beautiful starry night, like Van Gogh’s famous painting,” he explains, “and the choreography is soft and impressionistic. There’s a nod to Tudor in using the music as a manifestation of what’s going on internally, but I’ve added some surprises, some things that will make you sit up a bit.” -Donald Byrd


November Concert Program:

Sextet for Quintet and Piano (1928)
Leo Smit
Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute; Benjamin Hausmann, oboe; Laura DeLuca, clarinet;

Seth Krimsky, bassoon; Jeffrey Fair, French horn; Kimberly Russ, piano

Escapades (1938)
Dick Kattenburg
Elisa Barston and Mikhail Shmidt, violins

Tap Dance (1936)
Spectrum Dance Theater tap dancer; Kimberly Russ and Mina Miller, piano

Songs and Satire from Terezin
Julia Benzinger, mezzo-soprano; Mina Miller, piano

Verklaerte Nacht (1899)
Arnold Schoenberg
Choreography by Donald Byrd, Artistic Director, Spectrum Dance Theater
Commissioned by Music of Remembrance with dancers from Spectrum Dance Theater

Elisa Barston, violin; Mikhail Shmidt, violin;

Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola;Artur Girsky, viola; Walter Gray, cello; Roberta Downey, cello



Sextet for Wind Quintet and Piano (1933)
Leo Smit

(b. Amsterdam, 1900 – d. Sobibor, 1943)

“Personal style, in essence a higher form of originality, should not be striven for but develops gradually as a composer's oeuvre evolves.” - Leo Smit

When people think about writers and artists in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, Anne Frank usually comes to mind. Too little is known about a fascinating generation of Dutch composers, their music and their fates.

Leo Smit was one of the most gifted Dutch composers of the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Amsterdam to a family of prosperous non-Orthodox Portuguese Jews, he studied piano and composition at the Amsterdam Conservatory and graduated in 1923 with highest honors. Smit was drawn to the emerging musical idioms of his day, and his compositions as a student included the orchestral work Silhouettes whose final movement contains a foxtrot. When the Concertgebouw Orchestra played Silhouettes in 1925, critics were unimpressed. They panned the work’s jazziness, dismissing Smit as “ultra-modern” and urged him to compose along more traditional lines.

Attracted to the openness of French musical life, Smit moved to Paris in 1927 and immersed himself in the heady milieu of Ravel, Stravinsky and Poulenc, and Darius Milhaud became an important influence. Even with his strong connections to French music, Smit never abandoned his ties to Holland, where his works gained in popularity and were frequently performed. In 1937 he made the fateful decision to return with his wife to Amsterdam, where he continued to compose and gave private instruction in piano and composition.

With the German invasion and occupation in 1940, Jews in the Netherlands were quickly subjected to Nazi racial laws. By the following year Jewish musicians were excluded from all forms of public musical life, but Smit continued to compose, completing his last known piece – the Sonata for Flute and Piano – in February 1943. By then, Smit and his wife Lientje had been forced from their Amsterdam neighborhood of Eendrachtstraat to the ghetto conditions of the Transvaal district. In April 1943 they were rounded up in the Hollandsche Schouwburg Theater. After a brief detention in the Westerbork transit camp, they were sent to Sobibor in Poland. Dutch Jews, unlike their counterparts in other European countries, were transported to death camps in normal passenger trains to prevent protest actions. On arrival at Sobibor, the prisoners were forced to write cards to relatives informing them of their relocation to a labor camp. In reality, however, they were at an extermination camp. Like nearly all prisoners there, Smit and his wife were murdered within days. Probably prescient of his dire fate, Smit had entrusted his manuscripts to his pupil Frits Zuiderweg, who returned them to Smit’s sister Nora after the war.

Smit composed the exuberant Sextet for Wind Quintet and Piano in 1933, and dedicated it to the Concertgebouw Sextet. The work sparkles with energy and lush extended harmonies, and the second movement contains a hauntingly beautiful oboe line. The outer movements are filled with jaunty rhythms that show Smit’s fascination with jazz and other popular styles, and easily call to mind the eclecticism of the Paris musical world that he loved.

Escapades (1938) and Tap Dance (1936)
Dick Kattenburg

(b. Amsterdam, 1919 - d. Auschwitz, 1944)

Amsterdam-born composer Dick Kattenburg barely had a chance to experience life as an adult before the German occupation shattered the world he knew. Like Anne Frank, only ten years his junior, Kattenburg spent the war years in hiding until his betrayal and arrest. After his first hiding place, with a friend in Utretcht, was betrayed, he scrambled to find other temporary refuges. Kattenburg was arrested in May 1944 and deported to the Westerbork transit camp. From there he was transported to Auschwitz and murdered there shortly after arrival, just shy of his 25th birthday.

Kattenburg studied music theory and violin at the Brussels Conservatory and at The Hague, but was largely self-taught as a composer. We know that he corresponded with composer Leo Smit, since Smit’s response to his technical questions has been preserved.

We might never have known about Kattenburg and his music if not for an amazing chain of serendipity. Kattenburg composed about 30 works, but only the 1937 Flute Sonata was performed in his lifetime. He wrote the sonata for a flutist friend who too was sent to Auschwitz, but she survived and in 2000 offered the manuscript as a birthday present to Dutch flutist Eleonore Pameijer. Pameijer, taken by the music and its history, began to perform the sonata, and four years later Kattenburg’s niece Joyce (the daughter of his sister Daisy, who had survived the war) learned of a concert featuring it. Hoping to discover more about her family, Joyce began to search through her late mother’s possessions. What she found in the attic was a trove of some two dozen previously unknown scores, mostly from between 1936 and 1944.

Those works include the two gems we hear tonight. Kattenburg loved jazz, and his enthusiasm for it is evident in his 1936 Tap Dance for piano four hands with tap dancer or percussion, and the rumba third movement of his 1938 Three Escapades for two violins. We are grateful to Carine Alders of the Leo Smit Foundation for sharing the unpublished manuscript of Kattenburg’s Escapades, and to Aleksandra Markovic of the publisher Donemus in Amsterdam for helping us acquire the music for Tap Dance. We’re also indebted to Donald Byrd for the richly imaginative choreography that adds to the magical humor of this remarkable work. Without Donald, we might have had to make do by simulating the tap sounds on a wood block instead!

Songs and Satire from Terezín

Lyrics & Music: Karel Svenk
(b. Prague, 1907- d. Menselwitz, 1945)

Lyrics & Music: Karel Svenk


Lyrics: Leo Strauss
(b. Vienna, 1897- d. Auschwitz, 1944)
Music: Willy Schwartz

Lyrics: Ilse Weber
(b. Vitkovice, 1903 –d. Auschwitz, 1944)
Music: Sergei Dreznin (b. Moscow, 1955)

Lyrics: Ilse Weber
Music: Sergei Dreznin

Lyrics: Ludwig Hift
(b. Vienna, 1899 – d. Holocaust unknown)
Music: Adolf Strauss (b. Žatec, Czechoslovakia, 1902- d. Auschwitz, 1944)

Lyrics: Manfred Greiffenhagen
(b. Germany, 1896 - d. Dachau, 1945)
Music: Martin Roman (b. Berlin, 1910, d. United States, 1996)

Terezín was the site of a concentration camp that has become notorious for its cynical exploitation in Nazi propaganda seeking to cover up the regime’s genocidal crimes. Located in the hills outside of Prague, it was billed as “Hitler’s gift to the Jews.” This “model ghetto” was designed to deceive the outside world, and in fact the Nazis succeeded in using it to convince an International Red Cross delegation of the Führer’s benevolence. In reality, though, Terezín was a way station to death. Those who didn’t succumb to Terezín’s ghetto-like conditions faced deportation to death camps in the East. Of the approximately 141,000 Jews deported to Terezín between 1941 and 1945, fewer than 17,000 were alive at the war’s end.

While disease, starvation, and brutality accompanied daily life in Terezín, the Nazis permitted and even encouraged performances of both serious and popular music. As time went on, cabarets proliferated because they were easy to assemble: small groups could move from attic to attic if needed, and works could be performed in small spaces as well as larger ones. A “Café” was opened in Terezín in December 1942 by the camp’s Freizeitgestaltung (Administration of Leisure Activities), and inmates were eligible to apply for a ticket to a cabaret evening after two months of slave labor (at 80–100 hours of work per week). For the brief period of two hours, they had the privilege of sitting in the café. There were no coffee, cigarettes, spirits or cakes to be found at the table, but they could listen to music. Ironically, here they could hear jazz and other music that was banned as “degenerate” throughout the Reich.

Prisoners in Terezín organized cabaret shows in German and in Czech. The German language shows drew on the sophisticated talents of cabaret artists who had been part of Germany’s pulsating cabaret scene until it was shuttered by the Third Reich. One of the most popular cabarets was Carousel, performed over 50 times under the direction
of stage and screen star Kurt Gerron. Many of the numbers in Carousel were composed and arranged by Gerron’s fellow prisoner Martin Roman, with whom Gerron had worked in 1920s Weimar Germany. Gerron was murdered in Auschwitz. Roman, who survived, also led a jazz orchestra in Terezín called “The Ghetto Swingers.”

In contrast to the German shows with their accomplished cabaret artists, the Czechlanguage cabarets relied more on the enthusiasm of artists less experienced in that style. A leading figure in the Czech cabarets was Karel Svenk, a versatile director, actor, writer and composer in Prague before the war. One of the earlier deportees to Terezín, Svenk used his shows to express his political ideals. In 1942 he produced the camp’s first cabaret, The Missing Meal Ticket. The show was aimed at strengthening the morale of the prisoners, and its final number, Terezín March, became an anthem on its own. Svenk was sent to Auschwitz in the fall of 1944, and from there to heavy labor at a factory in Menselwitz, near Leipzig, where he died in April 1945.

You’ll hear numbers tonight – ranging from nostalgia to satire to bitter irony to defiance – from both the Czech and German cabarets. But cabaret shows were not the only voices of song in Terezín. You’ll also hear two plaintive songs by Ilse Weber, who created verses and melodies while working as a nurse in the children’s infirmary. She chose to accompany a group of children on their transport to Auschwitz, where she was murdered along with her son Tommy.

We want to thank Nancy Rubinstein for sharing the musical score to Adolf Strauss’ I Know For Certain That I Shall See You Again. We also are grateful to Kobi Luria for his English translations of Karl Svenk’s songs from the Czech, and to Sergei Dreznin for making his collection of German cabaret songs and satire available to us with English translations by Tom Niele. Dreznin has used these songs in his marvelous theater production Chansons und Satiren aus Theresienstadt that premiered in Vienna in 1992.

Verklaerte Nacht, Op. 4 (1899)
Arnold Schoenberg
(b. Vienna, 1874 – d. Los Angeles, 1951)

In 2001, the English critic Norman Lebrecht wrote: “It is a measure of the man’s immensity of achievement that, 50 years after his death, he can still empty any hall on earth. Arnold Schoenberg is box office poison. Put his music on a programme and the patrons will abscond or riot, just as they did at the premiere of the Verklaerte Nacht sextet in February 1902 when Schoenberg's big brother, Heinrich, had to eject the disrupters.” If audience members at that premiere were shocked by what they heard, the work has become a broadly popular composition. In contrast to the radical tonal structures that frighten people away from many works that followed a mere dozen years later, Verklaerte Nacht’s lush post-Romantic language is more likely to remind today’s listeners of Brahms’ and Wagner’s influence
on the young Schoenberg.

Besides reacting to the music, it’s possible that elements of proper Viennese society at the start of the 20th century were also scandalized by the frank eroticism of Richard Dehmel’s poem that inspired Schoenberg and lent its title to this programmatic work. In the poem, a man and woman walk together in a moonlit forest. The woman confesses that she is carrying a child that she conceived before meeting the man, and she speaks explicitly of how she yielded to desires for which she believes she’s now being punished. The man reflects, then vows to the woman that through their transformative love the child will be his.

Schoenberg originally scored Verklaerte Nacht for string sextet, and in 1917 he created a string orchestra arrangement that is often performed today. The music has been the basis for several ballets, and this evening we present it with new choreography that MOR has commissioned from the brilliant Donald Byrd of Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater.

A year before beginning work on Verklaerte Nacht, Schoenberg converted from Judaism and was baptized as an Austrian Lutheran. However, he never renounced his identity as a Jew, and he had a remarkably prescient vision of the catastrophe that would soon engulf Europe. In 1923 – ten years before Hitler became Chancellor – Schoenberg wrote in a letter to Wassily Kandinsky after hearing that the painter and his fellow Bauhaus artists had expressed anti-Semitic thoughts:

“But what is anti-Semitism to lead to if not to acts of violence? Is it so difficult to imagine that? You are perhaps satisfied with depriving Jews of their civil rights. Then certainly Einstein, Mahler, I and many others, will have been got rid of. Butone thing is certain: they will not be able to exterminate those much tougher elements thanks to whose endurance Jewry has maintained itself unaided against the whole of mankind for 20 centuries. For these are evidently so constituted that they can accomplish the task that their God has imposed on them: to survive in exile,
uncorrupted and unbroken, until the hour of salvation comes!”

Within months after Hitler took power in 1933, Schoenberg left his post at the Prussian Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin and moved to Paris, where he reconverted to Judaism. The rabbi’s certificate of Schoenberg’s declaration was witnessed by Albert Einstein’s stepson-in-law and by Marc Chagall. Later that year Schoenberg sailed to New York, and in 1934 settled in California, where he found a teaching position at UCLA. Anguished over the dire situation of European Jews, Schoenberg urgently sought a role in their rescue and became a passionate advocate for Jewish political unity and the creation of a Jewish state. His 1947 A Survivor from Warsaw is a harrowing account of Nazi terrors. Late choral works like Three Times in a Thousand Years and the incomplete Israel Exists Again express appreciation for the miracle of a Jewish homeland.

About Music notes by Mina Miller. Copyright 2014 Music of Remembrance.

MOR performs at Powell-Heller Conference: "Women and the Holocaust"

Monday, October 17, 2016 - 7:00pm

Music of Remembrance Concert
in conjunction with the Powell-Heller Conference:
“Women and the Holocaust”

Free and Open to the Public!

October 17, 2016
7:00 p.m.
Eastvold Auditorium, Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Ave S, Tacoma, WA 98444

8:15 p.m. – Dessert Reception (Ness Chapel Lobby)

A dessert reception will be held following the musical performances.

The musical program complements the conference theme with a program of works that open a window into the emotional lives of women trapped in the web of Holocaust tragedy. The featured work, "Another Sunrise" (2012), by contemporary American composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, paints a powerful portrait of survival through the true story of one woman, Krystyna Zywulska. A resistance fighter, Auschwitz survivor, poet and lyricist, Zywulska wrote daring poems in Auschwitz that became anthems of defiance among her fellow prisoners. Soprano Sarah Davis portrays Zywulska in this one-woman musical drama directed by Erich Parce.

Free and Open to the Public. Please register online to help with our planning: http://bit.ly/2cn0ri2
Note: If you will only be attending the Music of Remembrance concert, select "October 17" in the conference date options (and skip the lunch options section).

Featured Works

Another Sunrise (2012)

Fall Concert: Vedem

Sunday, November 6, 2016 - 7:00pm
6:15 p.m.: Pre-concert interview
Tickets for the November 6 concert will be available online through our website until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, November 5.  Any orders after that must be made through the Benaroya Hall box office by phone (206-215-4747), online at www.seattlesymphony.org/benaroyahall/concerts-tickets or in person. The box office opens at noon on Sunday, November 6.

Every week for almost 2 years, a group of teenage prisoners in the Terezín concentration camp expressed their hopes, dreams and fears in a secret magazine they dared create under the noses of their Nazi captors. Hear their inspiring words set to music in American composer Lori Laitman’s stirring oratorio, featuring Seattle’s magnificent Northwest Boychoir joined by soloists Ross Hauck and Karen Early Evans. Part of a varied program with works by composers with the courage to confront Nazi evil through their music.

Lori Laitman

Vedem (2010)
Libretto by David Mason

A Holocaust Oratorio Commissioned by Music of Remembrance
Featuring the Northwest Boychoir, Joseph Crnko, conductor; Ross Hauck, tenor; Karen Early Evans, soprano


Watch scenes from the 2010 World Premiere of Vedem



Featured Works

Vedem (2010)

Art from Ashes - A Concert To Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 5:00pm

Tickets for this concert are currently only available in person at the Benaroya Hall Ticket Office starting at 3:30 pm.

Free to the public.

If you already reserved tickets, they will be held at Will Call, at the Benaroya Hall Box Office, available to pick up on the day of the concert. Tickets will be held under the last name of the person who placed the order.

The Box Office will be open from 10:00am until the start of the concert on January 27. Please note that any tickets not claimed by 4:45 p.m. (15 minutes before the concert begins) will be released.

Order free tickets by clicking on the "Add to Cart" button above, or by calling 206-365-7770. Seating is general admission. Please note that due to a limited amount of seats, there is a limit of 2 tickets per order.

Music of Remembrance (MOR) presents a free community concert at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated by the Soviet army. On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, Music of Remembrance (MOR) presents a community-wide free concert to honor this important moment in history, and joins forces with organizations around the world to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The musical program features music from the Terezin, Lodz  and Vilna Ghettos, and works by composers whose lives were cut short by Nazi persecution: Gideon Klein, Zikmund Schul, Robert Dauber, Dick Kattenburg and Erwin Schulhoff.   

This concert is presented with generous support from Jack and Adina Almo.


Fall Concert: La Revue de Cuisine

Benaroya Hall
Sunday, November 8, 2015 - 3:00pm


Tickets are available through the MOR website until 12 P.M. on Sunday, November 8. After that time, tickets will only be available to purchase through the Benaroya Hall Box Office by calling 206.215.4747 or visiting: www.benaroyahall.com/concerttickets/calendar/2015-2016/concerts/benaroyahall/mor-la-revue-de-cuisine

Ticket Information: Season subscriptions are now on sale! Click here to learn more.

MOR is a proud member of TeenTix! Click here to learn more about how teenagers (13-19 years old) can get $5 tickets to any of our Seattle area concerts.


Experience the unmatched choreography of Seattle favorite Olivier Wevers and the Whim W'Him Contemporary Dance Company

What happens when the Pot, engaged to the Lid, is tempted away by the seductive Whisk, while the Dishcloth’s treacherous attempts to console the Lid are thwarted by the orderly Broom?  You’ll find out in Bohuslav Martinů’s sprightly jazz ballet La Revue de Cuisine, with daring new dances by the Whim W’Him Contemporary Dance Company. You’ll also discover poetic music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, who suffered persecution by both Nazi and Stalinist regimes.  A set of haunting songs from the Vilna ghetto testify to the resilience of those who bared their souls through music even in the bleakest of times.  

CLICK HERE to read the November 2015 Press Release

"Whim W’Him’s core concept—classical modes reinvigorated by their fusion with contemporary movement and a multidisciplinary approach to all aspects of production—has been proved to be more than viable by Wevers and his collaborators...one sees just how much variety in vision and style is yet to be explored."

- T.S. Flock for the Vanguard Seattle on May 22, 2014

Originally from Brussels, Belgium, Olivier Wevers is the founder and Artistic Director of Seattle’s critically acclaimed contemporary dance company Whim W’Him. In 2012 Wevers was honored with the City of Seattle’s Mayor’s Arts Award and in 2011 he received the Princess Grace Choreographic Fellowship. In both 2011 and 2010 Wevers’ work took home the grand prize award at the Annual Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival in California and he has also been named by Dance Magazine as one of their 25 to watch.


Click here to learn more about Whim W'Him and to view some of Olivier Wevers' choreography!


Concert Program


Mieczyslaw Weinberg

Capriccio, Op. 11 (1943)

Aria, Op. 9 (1942)

Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin

Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello


Joel Engel

Freilachs, Op. 20, no. 2 (1923)

Takumi Taguchi, violin; Mina Miller, piano


Songs of the Vilna Ghetto 

Julia Benzinger, mezzo soprano

Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin

Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello; Jonathan Green, double bass




Franz Schreker

The Wind (1909)

Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Jeffrey Fair, French horn;

 Walter Gray, cello; Kimberly Russ, piano


Dick Kattenburg

Deux Valses a la Ravel

Mina Miller and Kimberly Russ, piano


Bohuslav Martinů

La revue de cuisine: ballet du Jazz (1927), H. 161

World Premiere

Choreography by Olivier Wevers

Artistic Director, Whim W’Him

Commissioned by Music of Remembrance

With dancers from Whim W’Him


Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Seth Krimsky, bassoon; David Gordon, trumpet;

 Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Walter Gray, cello; Kimberly Russ, piano 

Featured Works

Fall Concert: Until When?

Benaroya Hall
Sunday, November 10, 2013 - 7:00pm

One Night Only! World Premiere of Dance Commission
Cornish College dancers unveiled Pat Hon’s choreography to Betty Olivero’s suite from the classic silent film The Golem. Also, Eugene Levitas’ song cycle Until When? sung in the original Hebrew with a dramatic reading in English by ACT Theater’s Kurt Beattie. Plus works from Marc Lavry, Eugene Levitas, and the audacious Erwin Schulhoff. Also featuring a performance by Takumi Taguchi, the winner of the 2013-2014 David Tonkonogui Memorial Award.

Meet the Artists
6:15PM: Choreographer Pat Hon & Clarinetist Laura DeLuca
Interviewed by Nancy Uscher, President, Cornish College of the Arts

Fall Concert Program

Nigun (1923)
Ernest Bloch
Takumi Taguchi, violin (2013-2014 David Tonkonogui Memorial Award Winner)

Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1927)
Erwin Schulhoff
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Mark Salman, piano

Until When? (2011)
Eugene Levitas
Poetry by Hungarian Holocaust survivor Yaakov Barzilai
English Translation read by actor Kurt Beattie
Kurt Beattie, actor
Karen Early Evans, soprano; Walter Gray, cello; Mina Miller, piano


Suite Concertante for Flute, Viola and Harp, Op. 348 (1966)
Marc Lavry
Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Valerie Muzzolini, harp

Zeks Yiddishe Lider un Tantz from The Golem (1997)
Betty Olivero
Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello
*In collaboration with the Dance Department at Cornish College of the Arts.


Nigun (1924)
Ernest Bloch
(b. Geneva, Switzerland, 1880 – d. Portland, OR, 1959)

For much of the 20th century, Ernest Bloch was the preeminent voice of a “Jewish sound” in concert music. Bloch was born into a home where the chants of Talmud study sank deeply into his musical memory. Later, his teachers included Émile Jacques-Dalcroze and Eugène Ysaÿe. In Geneva, he was a bookkeeper in his father’s business, while composing, conducting, and lecturing at the Geneva Conservatory. Describing his music, Bloch stated: “It is the Jewish soul that interests me, the complex, glowing, agitated soul which I feel vibrating throughout the Bible…this is in me, and is the better part of me.”

Mina Miller, piano; Takumi Taguchi, violin

Bloch made a significant contribution to American musical life as director of the Cleveland Institute of Music (1920–25) and the San Francisco Conservatory (1925–30). He lived for most of the 1930s in Switzerland, but immigrated to the United States in 1940 in reaction to the rampant anti-Semitism throughout Europe and the Third Reich’s policies banning the performance, publication and employment of Jewish composers. He was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley from 1942–52.

Bloch’s Nigun is the second movement of his Baal Shem (Three Pieces of Chassidic Life), a work that depicts spiritual and religious elements of orthodox Jewish life. A nigun ("humming tune" in Hebrew) is a religious song, without words, that can serve as a path to higher consciousness and transformation of being. Especially important in the Hassidic movement, it is an improvisation that reflects deep emotional and religious feeling.

Sonata for Violin and Piano, No. 2 (1927)
Erwin Schulhoff
(b. Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1894 – d. Wülzburg concentration camp, 1942)

Erwin Schulhoff was an audaciously original voice whose fascinating career was brought to an abrupt end in a Nazi concentration camp. An innovative composer, he saw the performance of his music banned as “degenerate” during the early days of the Reich; as a Jew and a socialist, he was slated for destruction by Nazi hands. Even after the war, Schulhoff’s legacy faced non-musical obstacles. In Western Europe, his music was stigmatized because of his communist affiliations; in Eastern Europe, performance of his music was limited by his German-Jewish heritage. Yet during the period between the two world wars, Schulhoff was a vital creative force in European artistic life, active both as pianist and composer. The extraordinary variety of his music reflects the period’s volatile social and political atmosphere.

Born in Prague, Schulhoff was recognized as a child prodigy by Dvorák. He studied piano and composition at the conservatories of Prague, Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne, and in 1913 took lessons with Debussy. He emerged from a relatively traditional musical education as a free thinker who embraced new currents in both popular and art music. A formidable pianist, Schulhoff championed the music of his time—Scriabin, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern—as well as the avant-garde quarter-tone piano music of his Czech compatriot Alois Haba.

Schulhoff was conscripted into the Austrian army in 1914. He returned four years later disillusioned and angry, and became a committed socialist. In Berlin, he soon became acquainted with the Dadaists, whose absurdist art movement and anti-bourgeois stance resonated with Schulhoff’s unconventional ideas and revolutionary spirit. Through his friendship with painter George Grosz, also a collector of contemporary American jazz recordings, Schulhoff became acquainted with that idiom. He worked as a jazz pianist in the “Hot Jazz” clubs of Europe in the 1920s, and was one of the first composers (pre-dating even Gershwin) to incorporate jazz elements.

With the rise of Nazism, Schulhoff’s career in Germany ended, despite his artistic triumphs in Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden. He returned to Prague, where he jeopardized his status by becoming a Communist. In 1939 he became a Soviet citizen, and sought to emigrate there following the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia that year. Before his visa arrived, he was arrested in Prague as a Jew, a “degenerate artist,” and a Soviet citizen—an undesirable on all fronts.

Returning to Prague in 1923, Schulhoff launched a new creative period inspired by a synthesis of avant-gardism with European mainstream tradition. Composed in November 1927, his second sonata for violin and piano is a brilliant and intense work. It reflects Schulhoff’s distinctive wit, and his passions for jazz and dance. The sonata’s second movement is deeply expressive and emotionally rich. While a virtuosic work for both instruments, the sonata’s idiomatic writing for the violin is striking. It was premiered by Richard Zika, leader of the Czechoslovak Quartet, who was also the first performer of a solo violin sonata that Schulhoff composed earlier in the same year.

Until When? (2009)
Eugene Levitas
(b. Kiev, 1972)
Eugene Levitas offers the following remarks about Until When?

Until When? was commissioned by soprano Sharon Rostorf-Zamir for her CD "Forever to Remember" with songs to poems by Yaakov Barzilai. I wasn't yet familiar with Barzilai, but in reading his books I was struck by the beauty of the intensely painful poetry he devoted his life to writing about the Holocaust. Many of Barzilai’s poems have already been set to music by other composers, and I sought to create something fresh and different. I discovered a short verse, four-lines long, and was amazed by the clarity of what can be expressed so powerfully with only a few words. It inspired me to create the cycle, based on five short poems, which you’ll hear tonight. I find Barzilai’s poetry deeply meaningful, and hope that this music will communicate their intense emotion to you.

Walter Gray, cello; Mina Miller, piano; Karen Early Evans, soprano; Kurt Beattie, actor

Composer Eugene Levitas belongs to a new generation of young Israeli composers. He is fluent in the diverse musical styles of classical, contemporary, jazz, electronic and pop-rock music. Levitas' concert music has been performed by many leading orchestras and artists including the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Israel Symphony Orchestra, and conductor-violist Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists.

Poet Yaakov Barzilai survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where his father and grandfather perished. He has been living in Israel since 1949, active writing, lecturing, and presenting his poems. Over 100 of his poems have been set to music and performed worldwide by various solo and instrumental ensembles. The five poems which comprise this song cycle were published in Barzilai’s poetry collection: Letters Weeping in Fire (2004). Barzilai was invited to read one of his poems at the Knesset, marking Israel’s 2010 Yom HaShoah commemoration ceremony. Each year more than 30,000 Israeli students take his poetry on site visits to Auschwitz, where they are recited.

Suite Concertante for Flute, Viola and Harp, Op. 348 (1966)
Marc Lavry
(b. Riga, Latvia, 1903 – d. Haifa, Israel, 1967)

I immigrated to Israel in 1935 and immediately felt that I found my spiritual homeland…I felt that the country inspired me as a composer….” —Marc Lavry

Before Hitler’s ascent to power, Marc Lavry was widely respected as a composer and conductor in Germany. After studying composition at the Leipzig Conservatory, and conducting with leading figures such as Hermann Scherchen and Bruno Walter, Lavry held a conducting post at the Saarbrücken Opera House. In 1929 he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic.

Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute, Valerie Muzzolini, harp, Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola

Two months into the Nazi regime, Lavry returned to his native Riga, but then chose to leave after Latvia’s own fascist coup. He and his wife immigrated to Palestine in 1935, and Lavry quickly established himself as a composer, conductor, pianist, arranger and orchestrator.

Lavry is considered one of the founders of the Israeli Mediterranean School of composition. Along with other European émigré composers such as Paul Ben Haim and Odeon Partos, he was inspired by his new surroundings. They came to feel that composing music in a purely European style betrayed their newly-found desire to compose Israeli music. Lavry’s compositions drew on indigenous folk material, modal patterns, and the musical rhythms of his adopted country. He sought a musical style that was transparent, emotionally communicative, and dominated by melody. He wrote over 400 musical works, ranging from grand opera and symphonic works to chamber music and popular songs.

Lavry composed the Suite Concertante for Flute, Viola and Harp in 1966. Two of the work’s three movements are based on the composer’s original songs: the opening movement, “Shir Roim” (A Shepherd’s Song), is pastoral and innocent; the concluding movement, “Machol” (Dance), is strongly rhythmic and humorous. The work’s middle movement, Prayer, depicts the conflict between the past and present by juxtaposing the minor mode of traditional Jewish prayer melody with major tonalities expressive of an optimism inherent in new Israeli music. The late composer’s son, Dan Lavry, lives with his family on Bainbridge Island, and we were honored that they were here for the concert.

Zeks Yiddishe Lider un Tantz from The Golem (1997)
Music by Betty Olivero (b. Tel Aviv, Israel, 1954)
Choreography by Pat Hon, Cornish College of the Arts

World Premiere of Destination Unknown
Commissioned by Music of Remembrance

Destination Unknown is Cornish choreographer Pat Hon’s new dance work set to a musical suite that Israeli composer Betty Olivero adapted in 1997 from her complete score to accompany Paul Wegner’s classic silent film The Golem: How He Came into the World.

Instrumentalists: Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello

In ancient Jewish folklore, a Golem is a living being created entirely from inanimate matter. Probably the most famous Golem narrative involves Rabbi Judah Loew of 16th-century Prague, who was said to have created a Golem to protect Prague’s Jews from the emperor’s threats of expulsion or destruction. The rabbi fashioned the Golem out of clay and brought him to life by reciting special incantations. The Golem protected the Jewish community from harm, but he also grew increasingly violent and spread fear among the Gentiles. In the face of the Golem’s strength, the emperor implored Rabbi Loew to destroy the Golem in exchange for ending the persecution of the Jews. Historically, the legend has served as a complex metaphor for the struggle to survive during times of persecution.

Wegener’s 1920 film is considered a landmark in early expressionist cinema, and the addition of Olivero’s musical score brought it renewed attention. In 1997, Olivero created an abridged version that would allow concert performances of the music without a screening of the film. That adaptation, Der Golem - Zeks Yiddishe Lieder un Tantz, preserves the main musical themes and motifs that accompany the various characters and scenes in the film from the old Golem legend: the creation of the Golem by Rabbi Loew; the love scenes between the rabbi's daughter and a young courtier; the destruction of the emperor's palace; the apocalyptic fire that consumes the town squares, with the crowd praying and shouting for forgiveness and deliverance in synagogue. Ecstatic klezmer musical sections accompany the village scenes. The film’s two most dramatic moments – when the rabbi succeeds in breathing the spirit of life into the Golem, and when the Golem’s stern face melts to warmth and longing when an innocent young girl offers him a flower – are accompanied by the traditional Hebrew melody Place Me Under Thy Wing.

Cornish College of the Arts dancers: Narissa Herndon, Brent Kehoe, Mariah Martens, Trevor Miles, Sage Miller, Samuel Opsal, Micaela Taylor

Music of Remembrance first performed the concert suite in 2000, and it became an instant favorite of MOR audiences. In 2008 MOR also performed the complete score to accompany a screening of the film. The suite’s six dances and songs leave listeners wanting to dance in the aisles – but, amazingly, the work had never been presented with actual live dance. For years, MOR had envisioned commissioning a dance work that would bring this new dimension to the stage. Cornish College choreographer Pat Hon took on the challenge of translating the subtly-nuanced music and the mystical story into evocative movement. The result, Destination Unknown, is a work that combines memory with fantasy, history with myth. The endeavor also gave MOR a wonderful opportunity to partner with Cornish, and we hope that this will be the first of many meaningful collaborations.

About Music notes by Mina Miller. Copyright 2013 Music of Remembrance.

The Emperor of Atlantis

Benaroya Hall
Friday, November 16, 2012 - 8:00pm
Additional times: 
Sunday, November 18, 2012 - 6:00PM

MOR’s Fifteenth Season Opens with the Daring Opera The Emperor of Atlantis!

Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot to conduct this courageous masterpiece.

Victor Benedetti   Megan Chenovick   Kimberly Giordano   Ross Hauck

  Victor Benedetti   | Megan Chenovick  | Kimberly Giordano |    Ross Hauck

                Erich Parce   Marcus Shelton   Jonathan Silvia

                      Erich Parce      |   Marcus Shelton   |   Jonathan Silvia

This fall, our concert highlight is Viktor Ullmann’s opera The Emperor of Atlantis, composed in the Terezín concentration camp in 1943. Camp authorities halted its final rehearsals once they saw its provocative allusions to Hitler and his war machine. MOR’s bold new production is conducted by the Seattle Symphony’s Ludovic Morlot and directed by Erich Parce, with a stellar vocal cast and a chamber ensemble of Seattle Symphony players. You’ll also hear works by two composers who left Europe in the 1930s to escape the Nazi threat. Swiss-born Ernest Bloch settled in the United States, and Latvian-born Marc Lavry emigrated to Palestine. Both were deeply influenced by their roots in Jewish musical traditions that, Bloch said, give voice to a “complex, glowing, agitated soul.” As a composer and conductor, Lavry went on to become one of the most important figures in Israel’s musical life, and he had a central influence on the development of distinctively Israeli musical styles.


Prayer (1924) -- (From Jewish Life)
Ernest Bloch
(b. Geneve, Switzerland, 1880 - d. Portland, OR, 1959)

For much of the 20th century, Ernest Bloch was the preeminent voice of a "Jewish" sound in concert music. Bloch was born into a home where the chants of Talmud study sank deeply into his musical memory. Later, his teachers include Emile Jacques-Dalcroze and Eugene Ysaye. In Geneva, he was a bookeeper in his father's business, while composing, conducting, and lecturing at the Geneva conservatory. Describing his music, Bloch stated: "It is the Jewish soul that interests me, the complex, glowing, agitated soul which I feel vibrating throughout the Bible...this is in me, and is the better part of me."

Bloch made a significant contribution to American musical life as director of the Cleveland Institute of Musci (1920-25) and the San Francisco Conservatory (1925-30). He lived for most of the 1930s in Switzerland, but emigrated to the United States in 1940 in reaction to the rampant anti-Semitism throughout Europe and the Third Reich's policies banning the performance, publication, and employment of Jewish composers. He was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley from 1942-52.

He composed From Jewish Life as a duo for cello and piano in 1924. The transcription we hear tonight was arranged by Alfredo Antonini for double bassist Gary Karr, who has graciously granted us permission to perform it.

Three Jewish Dances, Op. 192 (1945)
Marc Lavry
(b. Riga, Latvia, 1903 - d. Haifa, Israel, 1967)

"I immigrated to Israel in 1935 and immediately felt that I found my spiritual homeland...I felt that the country inspired me as a composer..." --Marc Lavry

Before Hitler's ascent to power, Marc Lavry was widely respected as a composer and conductor in Germany. After studying composition at the Leipzig Conservatory and conducting with leading figures such as Hermann Scherchen and Bruno Walter, Lavry held a conducting post at the Saarbrucken Opera House. In 1929 he became the conductor of the Berliner Sinfonieorchester.

Two months into the Nazi regime, Lavry returned to his native Riga, but then chose to leave after Latvia's own Fascist coup. He and his wife immigrated to Palestine in 1935, and Lavry quickly established himself as a composer, conductor, pianist, arranger, and orchestrator.

Lavry is considered one of the founders of the Israeli Mediterranean School of composition. Along with other European emigre composers such as Paul Ben Haim and Odeon Partos, he was inspired by his new surroundings. They came to feel that composing music in a purely European style betrayed their newly-found desire to compose Israeli music. Lavry's compositions drew on indigenous folk material, modal patterns, and the musical rhythyms of his adopted country. He sought a musical style that was transparent, emotionally communicative, and dominated by melody. He wrote over 400 musical works, ranging from grand opera and symphonic works to chamber music and popular songs.

Three Jewish Dances exists in several versions--for solo piano, violin and piano, and violin and orchestra. The set includes two wedding dances and a hora, a traditional Israeli dance characterized by short symmetrical phrases, simple harmonies, and duple meter. In 1945, Lavry also composed Dan ha'shomer (Dan the Guard), generally considered the first opera to be composed and produced in Israel. With a libretto by Max Brod, it tells the story of members of a kibbutz who are surrounded by the enemy and also face their own inner conflicts. Throughout the music, Lavry juxtaposes Eastern European musical motifs against Middle Eastern ones as a way of distinguishing between the older generation of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the next generation of pioneers and kibbutz workers. The opera received 33 performances in eight cities and towns in Palestine, and made a significant impact. In fact, the composer and his wife decided to name their first two children after the opera's lead characters: Dan and Efrat.

The Emperor of Atlantis (Terezín, 1943)
Viktor Ullmann
(b. Teschen, Silesia, 1898 - d. Auschwitz, 1944)
Libretto by Peter Kien
(b. Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia, 1919 - d. Auschwitz, 1944)

Make us prize all human worth;
to other lives awaken.
Let this commandment be our truth:
The great and sovreign name of Death
must not be lightly taken!

-Peter Kien, translation by Aaron Kramer

The Emperor of Atlantis is a most unlikely opera: a stinging mockery of war, and passionate affirmation of life, created in the Nazi concentration camp where it couldn't be performed. Its composer, Viktor Ullmann, was raised a Catholic and later converted to Protestantism before returning to Catholicism. His Jewish parentage, however, consigned him under Nazi racial laws to a fate that sent him from Prague first to Terezín and then to his death at Auschwitz.

Ullmann was born in a part of Silesia that now is part of the Czech Republic, and spent most of his youth in Vienna, where he was strongly influenced by his musical studies with Arnold Schoenberg. Returning to Prague in 1919, Ullmann became a protege of Alexander Zemlinksy at the New German Theater, where he conducted with increasing frequency in the 1920s. He also began composing, creating an oeuvre that eventually included solo piano and chamber music, orchestral pieces, songs and choral works, and opera. Until the German occupation, Ullmann played a prominent role in Prague's musical life as a composer, conductor, and critic.

When Czechoslovakia came under Nazi control, the performance of Ullmann's works was banned, and a public musical life became impossible for him. He tried unsuccessfully to emigrate, but was able to arrange places for two of his children on a Kindertransport to Sweden and then England. Ullmann was deported to Terezín on September 8, 1942. During his two years of incarceration there, he was at the center of the camp’s intellectual and artistic life. In Terezín he composed over twenty musical works, and perhaps others that have been lost. This extraordinary output includes a string quartet, piano sonatas, song cycles, choral works, incidental music for a play, and an opera libretto. Rediscovering his family origins, he composed a number of works based on traditional Jewish themes, including a set of haunting Yiddish and Hebrew songs that MOR has performed in concerts with the Northwest Boychoir.

Der Kaiser von Atlantis (The Emperor of Atlantis) is the product of Ullmann’s collaboration in Terezín with the young poet Peter Kien. Its original subtitle, oder Die Todverweigerung (Or, the refusal of Death) has also been presented as oder Der Tod dankt ab (Or, Death’s abdication). Its 20 short sections span a range of musical styles, with seven singing characters and an eclectic instrumental ensemble that includes instruments such as banjo and harmonium.

Ullmann and Kien clearly meant The Emperor of Atlantis as a statement about the setting and cir-cumstances in which it was created. The score’s mocking quote of the Nazi anthem Deutschland über Alles, disfigured by its presentation in a minor key, removes any doubt from the intended irony of the title character’s name: Kaiser Überall. Yet it would be a mistake to view the work simply as a crude gesture of satirical protest. Andrew Porter, in The New Yorker, has summarized the story:

"The plot is no cut-and-dried allegory but an elusive death-welcoming parable about a mad, murderous ruler, possibly redeemed at last, who says farewell to the world in a mock-Faustian vision of a natural paradise no longer spoiled by men; had his dream come true all men would be dead. The Emperor of Atlantis, ruler over much of the world, proclaims universal war and declares that his old ally Death will lead the campaign. Death, offended by the Emperor's presumption, breaks his sabre; henceforth men will not die. Confusion results: a Soldier and a Girl-Soldier from opposite sides sing a love duet instead of fighting; the sick and suffering find no release. Death offers to return to men on one condition—that the Emperor be the first to die. He accepts and sings his farewell."

Ullmann revised the score several times in Terezín, and had hoped to produce it there with a cast of his fellow prisoners. Rehearsals were underway, but camp officials prohibited any performances when they discovered the work and its provocative depiction of Hitler and the Third Reich. On October 16, 1944, Ullmann and Kien were sent to Auschwitz on the same transport, where they both perished soon after arriving.

The world knows The Emperor of Atlantis because Ullmann entrusted his manuscripts to another prisoner, the camp librarian Emil Utiz. Utiz survived and passed the manuscripts along to another survivor, Ullmann’s friend Hans Adler. Eventually a marked-up working version of The Emperor of Atlantis came to the attention of British conductor Kerry Woodward, who prepared a performance edition. Woodward conducted the world premiere in Amsterdam with The Netherlands Opera on December 16, 1975. Since then the opera has been performed with increasing frequency around the world.

The Emperor of Atlantis is a compelling work of musical theater, but also much more. It stands as eloquent testimony to Ullmann’s artistic and intellectual courage. Even amid the horrors of a concentration camp, Ullmann never lost his deep sense of human dignity. He wrote: “It must be emphasized that Terezín served to enhance, not to impede, my musical activities, that by no means did we sit weeping on the banks of the waters of Babylon, and that our endeavor with respect to the Arts was commensurate with our will to live.”

We are grateful to Maestro Ludovic Morlot for helping to make this production possible.

About the Music notes by Mina Miller. Copyright Music of Remembrance.

Fall Concert: What a Life!

Benaroya Hall
Monday, November 7, 2011 - 7:30pm

The November 7, 2011 concert’s centerpiece was What a Life!, the Austrian-born composer Hans Gál’s musical parody about life in a British detention camp. Gál’s satiric revue What a Life! was written and performed for the entertainment of Gál’s fellow prisoners in the Isle of Man detention camp during the summer of 1940. The program also includes Gál’s Huyton Suite, Coventry: A Meditation for String Quartet by Vilem Tausky, and Marcel Tyberg’s lushly romantic piano trio, composed in 1936.

Watch excerpts from What a Life!:



Coventry: Meditation for String Quartet (1941)
Vilem Tausky
(b. Prerov, Czechoslovakia, 1910 – d. London, England, 2004)

Vilem Tausky was born into a musical family. His mother was a singer who had worked with Gustav Mahler; his uncle was the operetta composer Leo Fall. Tausky could list Franz Lehár, Oscar Straus, and Antonín Dvořák’s widow Anna among his childhood acquaintances. As a student of the elderly composer Leoš Janáček at the Brno Conservatory, Tausky went to work at the Brno Opera as a répétiteur, accompanying singers on the piano and coaching them during rehearsals. After stepping in for a sick conductor and leading a performance of Turandot at just 19, he found regular work conducting.

Tausky fled to Paris—where he was scheduled to conduct Janáček’s Jenufa—after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. He was engaged by the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, but volunteered for the Free Czech Army instead. After the fall of France, Tausky escaped by boat to Great Britain and joined the Czech Army in Exile. (After the war, he was awarded the Czech Military Cross and Czech Order of Merit.) In the post-war years, he led opera companies (Carl Rosa, Welsh National), and the BBC’s variety and concert orchestras, and helped introduce English audiences to Czech music. For over two decades he taught conducting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

While stationed in Warwickshire as a member of the Czech Army in Exile, Tausky was called into Coventry the day after the November 1940 air raid to help search the ruins for survivors. The courage of the British people in the blitz inspired him to write the haunting Coventry: Meditation for String Quartet. This elegy, a musical meditation on the horrors of war, is based on the St. Wenceslas chorale, an iconic Czech musical symbol. The work was first performed in 1942 by the Menges Quartet at a Dame Myra Hess lunchtime concert at the National Gallery in London.

Huyton Suite, Op. 92 (1940) and What a Life! (1940)
Hans Gál
(b. Brunn am Gebirge, Austria, 1890 – d. Edinburgh, Scotland, 1987)

In sober moments it is clear to me that I am mad. Here I am, writing music, completely superfluous, ridiculous, fantastic music…while the world is on the point of coming to an end. Was ever a war more lost than this one now? – Hans Gál, diary entry: 12 June 1940 (Huyton Transit Camp, near Liverpool, England)

Fearing a German invasion, the British wartime government began the internment of thousands of foreign nationals from Nazi-controlled Europe as “enemy aliens”. The roundups included many Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi terror, who were thrown together indiscriminately with actual Nazi sympathizers. A substantial number of internees were deported to Canada and Australia, and some died when their ships were torpedoed.

The 50-year-old Hans Gál, Jewish composer and scholar, was among those held as a prisoner by British authorities without any suspicion that he posed a security threat or had committed a crime. Gál was released after four and a half months’ detention, and despite his experience he chose to live in Britain for the rest of his life. He attained an important position at Edinburgh University, where he was also awarded an honorary doctorate. Gál became a vital force in Edinburgh’s musical life; leading the Edinburgh Music Festival was just one part of his legacy.

Gál was born on a summer holiday at a village outside Vienna. He didn’t begin his musical studies until his early teens. At fourteen he heard Wagner’s Meistersinger overture and “went through a violent fit of Wagnerism, as if it had been measles,” he wrote later.

Gál studied music history and theory at the New Vienna Conservatory, where he began composing. In 1915, his musical life was interrupted when he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army. He was appointed Director of the Mainz Conservatory in 1929, but his charmed musical life came to an abrupt halt with the Nazi takeover four years later. He was immediately dismissed from his post. (At a 1933 concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Wagner’s death, Gál had been seated near Hitler. He studied Hitler’s face and concluded that nobody could take him seriously.) Gál survived, miserably, in Austria until 1938, when he fled to England with his family—and toward his summer of internment.

The cheerful Huyton Suite stands in contrast to the harsh circumstances of its creation in the Huyton Transit Camp, near Liverpool, where Gál’s internment began. He scored the work for flute and two violins because he had access to only those instruments; in his diary Gál wrote of how he needed to conserve scraps of manuscript paper. The flute plays a “roll call,” reflecting the prisoners’ daily routine. Rehearsals in the camp were interrupted first when two musicians were deported suddenly to Canada, and a second time when some were transferred to the Isle of Man.

Gál created the satiric revue What a Life! for the entertainment of his fellow prisoners in the Isle of Man detention camp. The revue mocks the cruel absurdity of the camp’s very existence, and describes the stresses and strain of imprisonment with no fixed release date. After a jovial entrance march, more serious numbers mingle with the irony-laced “Barbed Wire Song” (“Why are human beings behind a wire?” the lyrics inquire) and the “Song of the Double Bed.” The verses of “Ballad of the German Refugee,” recounting the struggles of people uprooted and displaced yet again, were written by internee Otto Erich Deutsch, the great Schubert scholar.

What a Life! was first performed on September 2, 1940 in the Central Promenade Camp on the Isle of Man, with the musical numbers interspersed with a theatrical script by another internee, the noted film director Georg Höllering. Like everything else, the production was subject to the censorship of camp authorities. Two amateur actors, middle-aged Jews, were chosen to portray refugees from Berlin who meet each other again as internees in the camp. A second performance planned for the next day was postponed, and the delay gave Gál and Höllering an opportunity to restructure the revue and rewrite several of the numbers. In the meantime, many of the original cast members were sent elsewhere or released. Eventually the second performance was rescheduled for September 26th; in a bizarre twist of timing, Gál’s release for medical reasons was approved for that same date. Committed to the performance, and in solidarity with his comrades, Gál pleaded for permission to remain an “enemy alien” and stay in the camp for one more day. His request was granted, and the proceeds of the performance went to benefit air-raid victims on the mainland.

Gál’s musical score to What a Life! was found among his belongings after his death. Unfortunately, though, Höllering’s script has not been recovered. Tonight we perform musical selections from What a Life! with dramatic narratives that we have selected from Gál’s eloquent internment camp diary. We express our sincere thanks to David Sabritt for compiling the diary entries, interweaving themes of Gál’s sense of betrayal, his loss of freedom, his fears about the fate of his son Franz, and the absurdity of it all.

Music of Remembrance is grateful to the Gál family – the composer’s daughter Eva Fox-Gál, her husband Dr. Anthony Fox and her son Simon – for providing us with music, text and translations of this amazing work. And a special thank you to Bret Werb, musicologist of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, for first bringing this work to our attention and sharing its extraordinary performance history. What a Life! is at the same time an engaging parody and a window on a too-little-known injustice that should give us all cause for reflection.

Piano Trio (1936)
Marcel Tyberg
(b. Vienna, Austria, 1893 – d. Auschwitz, 1944)

Composer, conductor and pianist Marcel Tyberg was the son of a noted violinist father and pianist mother, but many details of his early life are not known to us. Born in Vienna, Tyberg moved with his family to Abbazia, a resort town on the Adriatic coast. The town passed from Austrian to Italian control in 1920, and today is part of Croatia.

Tyberg wrote his First Piano Sonata in 1920 and First Symphony in 1924. At Abbazia, he composed a series of works, including the Trio we hear tonight. To support himself and his mother he was a church organist, music teacher, composer of dance music (rumbas, tangos, slow waltzes), and performer with the Abbazia Symphony Orchestra.

Tyberg’s fate was sealed on September 7, 1943, when the collaborationist Croatian government received German orders to enforce Nazi racial laws. (Eleven days later Tyberg completed his final work, the Third Symphony.) Some time that summer, his mother had registered with local officials the fact that her great–grandfather was a Jew, making Marcel—who had written at least two masses, and composed his Te Deum to consecrate the renovated Abbazia church—one–sixteenth Jewish. He was taken in a night raid by the Gestapo and vanished. Records indicate that that he died at Auschwitz on December 31, 1944.

Anticipating his capture, Tyberg entrusted all of his compositions and writings to his friend Milan Mihich. After the war, Mihich fled Yugoslav communist partisans to Milan, bringing Tyberg’s manuscripts with him. When Mihich died in 1948, responsibility passed to his son Enrico, then a medical student and also Tyberg’s former harmony student. Dr. Enrico Mihich’s distinguished career as a medical scientist brought him to the Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y., where he still keeps Marcel Tyberg’s music secure in his home. For decades, Dr. Mihich worked tirelessly in search of funding to create performance-ready scores from the fading, handwritten documents. With the help of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra’s JoAnn Falletta beginning in 2005, Tyberg’s music can now be heard by a new generation. A special thanks to Zachary Redler for providing MOR with performing scores of the piano trio.

About Music notes by Mina Miller. Copyright 2011 Music of Remembrance

Fall Concert: The Dybbuk

Benaroya Hall
Monday, November 8, 2010 - 7:30pm
Additional times: 
6:45 p.m. Meet the Choreographer, John Sharify interviews Donald Byrd

Our fall concert explored the complexity of Russian Jewish identity in the first half of the 20th century. Joel Engel composed The Dybbuk Suite as incidental music for S. Ansky’s iconic Yiddish play. The play is a dramatically rich tale of a young woman who, on her wedding day, is possessed by the soul of the man who died of unrequited love for her. We revisited this story with Donald Byrd’s brilliant choreography for dancers from Spectrum Dance Theater. We also heard acclaimed pianist Craig Sheppard in a piano trio by Mikhail Gnessin, dedicated “to the memory of our lost children”—written in 1943 as news of the Holocaust reached the Soviet Union. Dmitri Shostakovich created his intimately evocative song cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry in 1948 but it was premiered only in 1955, due largely to Stalin’s disfavor for Shostakovich and to Soviet anti-Semitism in general.

Excerpt from The Dybbuk


For a brief period early in the 20th century, Czarist Russia was the center for Jewish art music composed in a style that became known as the St. Petersburg School. Composers such as Aleksander Krein, Mikhail Gnessin, and Joel Engel applied techniques of Western classical music to cantorial and klezmer traditions to create a national Jewish style in art music. They sought their source material in the secular tunes and religious melodies of the Pale of Settlement.

The St. Petersburg School drew on materials rooted culturally and sociologically in the history of Jewish persecution over the centuries. Beginning in the 14th century, an exodus of Jews from Western and Central Europe gradually migrated eastward, fleeing various degrees of expulsion, persecution, inquisition and hardship. Jews were welcomed, if only halfheartedly, by Polish noblemen and Russian czars. From 1791 until 1917, Jews living in Eastern Europe were confined by the czars of Russia to an area known as the Pale (meaning “borders of settlement”). This group of 25 provinces, stretching from the Black to the Baltic Sea, corresponds today to parts of Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania.

At the beginning of the 19th century, about one million Jews were residents of the Pale; by the beginning of the 20th century the population had increased to over five million. 95 percent of Russia’s Jews were confined to this area, separated from other groups of the Russian population. Most Jews were expelled from Moscow and St. Petersburg, and forced into the Pale. Later they were also expelled from rural areas within the Pale and forced to live only in shtetls. Within areas difficult to traverse, and isolated in villages, Jewish residents preserved both their religious and cultural traditions, including their musical folklore. The literary tales of the great Yiddish writers like I. L. Peretz, S. Ansky, and Sholem Aleichem open a window on this milieu, including its colorful klezmer musicians.

The origin of the St. Petersburg school of Jewish art music has been traced to a meeting in 1897 between composer Joel Engel (1868-1927) and the Russian music critic Vladimir Stasov. The critic challenged Engel and his colleagues to seek musical inspiration in their Jewish heritage. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, whose own work took inspiration from Russian folk tradition, also encouraged his Jewish students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory to collect and study Jewish folk melodies. Several other non-Jewish Russian composers—for example, Balakirev, Glazunov, Glinka, and Mussorgsky—also became aware of the distinctive character of Jewish secular and sacred music.

A Russian Jewish musical style was institutionalized in 1908 with the founding of the Society for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburg. In 1912, branches of the Society opened in Moscow and Kharkov. The Society organized concerts of Jewish music in numerous towns, and by 1913 had over 1,000 members and branches in seven cities, providing intellectual, artistic and practical support for Russian Jewish music. The activities of the Society’s main branch in St. Petersburg stopped in 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Other branches continued their activities for a few more years; the Moscow branch changed its name to the Society for Jewish Music in 1923, and continued to function until 1928.

Hebrew Sketches, No. 2, Op. 13 (1910)
Aleksander Krein (b. Nizhni Novgorod, Russia, 1883 – d. Staraya Russa, Russia, 1951)

Aleksander Krein played a major role in the emerging school of Jewish national music as a composer and active member of the Society for Jewish Folk Music (Moscow Branch 1913-19) and the Society for Jewish Music (1923-29).

In 1917, he became director of the music department of a new ministry of arts and education, and throughout the 1920s, like his contemporary Joel Engel, Krein wrote music for the stage. Just as Engel’s name is associated with The Dybbuk’s triumph at the Hebrew-language Habima theater, Krein is remembered for the success of The Night in the Old Market at the Moscow State Jewish Theater (GOSET). When the political tide turned against Jewish music, Krein could no longer perform his overtly Jewish cantata Kaddish (1921) or the Hebrew Sketches (1910) we hear tonight. This work represents one of his first efforts at combining an impressionistic harmonic language with Jewish prayer chant and folk music.

Piano Trio, Op. 63 (1943)
Mikhail Gnessin (b. Rostov-on-Don, Russia, 1883 – d. Moscow, Russia, 1957)
Dedicated to the Memory of Our Lost Children

Mikhail Gnessin was a leading Jewish musical voice in the first wave of Soviet modernist composers. In 1908, he co-founded the Society for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburg. Later he traveled through Western Europe learning folk tunes, and to Palestine researching ancient Hebrew music. After 1914 Gnessin devoted the major part of his work to Jewish subjects, and when this became dangerous during the Stalin regime he focused on the different ethnic cultures within the USSR. He became Professor of Composition in the Conservatories of both Moscow and St. Petersburg, and also taught at the Gnessin Academy. The academy, founded by his sisters in 1895, remains one of Russia’s most prominent institutions of musical education.

Gnessin composed the piano trio in 1943, as the first news of the Holocaust reached the Soviet Union. The work’s dedication “to the memory of our lost children” has been interpreted as a reference, though somewhat oblique, to Jewish suffering.

The Dybbuk Suite (1922)
Joel Engel (b. Berdyansk, Crimea, 1868 – d. Tel Aviv, 1927)

Donald Byrd, Spectrum Dance Theater

Joel Engel led the Moscow chapter of the Society for Jewish Folk Music for over a decade until 1919, publishing folk song collections and some 150 compositions by himself and other Russian-Jewish composers. In 1912, he joined the folklorist and Yiddish writer S. Ansky on an ethnographic expedition to collect Jewish music and other folk culture in the shtetls of the Pale of Settlement. The results of this expedition included hundreds of musical transcriptions and early field recordings that became the inspiration and source material for Jewish composers to the present day.

There they learned a tale about a “dybbuk,” the soul of a dead person possessing a living one. Captivated, Ansky went on to write the play The Dybbuk, and Engel wrote the incidental music, including traditional songs he had heard in the shtetls such as the Chassidic song Mipnei Ma (“Why?”) about the ascent and descent of the human soul. The Dybbuk had its premiere in 1922 in Moscow’s Habima Theater, and went on to become the most famous Jewish play in the world. Engel’s music, in its day performed across continents, has largely been lost to succeeding generations.

From Jewish Folk Poetry, Op. 79 (1948)
Dmitri Shostakovich (b. St. Petersburg, Russia, 1906 – d. Moscow, 1975)

Dmitri Shostakovich was not Jewish, but was raised by politically liberal parents who took care that no seeds of anti-Semitism were planted in his upbringing. Born in 1906, he would grow up during the flowering of the Society of Jewish Folk Music. In his memoirs he wrote: “Jewish folk music has made a most powerful impression on me. I never tire of delighting in it; it is multifaceted—it can appear to be happy while it is tragic. It’s almost always laughter through tears…. This quality of Jewish folk music is close to my ideas of what music should be….”

After Stalin had launched his terrible campaign against Jewish intellectuals and artists, Shostakovich incorporated Jewish themes into his music at considerable risk to his standing and even his personal safety. Besides the cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry, his Piano Trio No. 2 (banned after its premiere performance), his Symphony No. 13 (inspired by Yevtushenko’s poem Babi Yar about the Nazi massacre of Kiev’s Jews), and his Second Cello Concerto, are full of Jewish folk melodies.

From Jewish Folk Poetry is one of Shostakovich’s most beautiful and intimately evocative song cycles. He was inspired by the Russian translation of a collection of Jewish Folk Songs compiled by Yekhezkel Dobrushin. The first eight songs, completed in August 1948 and performed at a private birthday celebration at the composer’s home that September, have been described as “tragic,” reflecting the pain and suffering of the pre-Revolutionary past. They employ Jewish folk melodies, and contain elements of folklore and folk expressions. Political controls tightened soon after, and this might help explain why the work’s final three songs emphasize the good Soviet life and employ a musical language closer to official workers’ song than to art song. From Jewish Folk Poetry received it premiere in 1955, postponed largely because of Stalin’s disfavor for Shostakovich and Soviet anti-Semitism in general.

About Music notes by Mina Miller. Copyright 2010 Music of Remembrance

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