On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated by the Soviet army. Seventy years later, on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, Music of Remembrance (MOR) presented a community-wide free concert to honor this important moment in history. The musical program featured works by composers whose lives were cut short by Nazi persecution: Hans Krása, Gideon Klein, Viktor Ullmann, Ilse Weber, Carlo Taube, Robert Dauber, David Beigelman and Dick Kattenburg. Although they perished, their music remains as witness to their extraordinary courage. With this concert, Music of Remembrance joined organizations around the world in commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The free concert was an opportunity for the entire Seattle community to come together in honor of this milestone anniversary, and to experience a small part of the musical legacy left by those who continued to create inspired music even while in the hands of their Nazi captors. The concert took place on Tuesday, January 27th at 5:00p.m. at the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall.
Elisa Barston, violin Laura DeLuca, clarinet Mara Finkelstein, cello
Jonathan Green, double bass Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola Mina Miller, piano
Benjamin Shmidt, cello Mikhail Shmidt, violin Takumi Taguchi, violin
Julia Benzinger, mezzo soprano
Megan Chenovick, soprano Erich Parce, baritone
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray - Introductory Remarks
Violin: Takumi Taguchi, age 13
Piano: Mina Miller
About the Composers
David Beigelman – a violinist, conductor and composer – was imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto. Under the ghetto’s conditions of unimaginable oppression and suffering, he composed the Dybbuk Dances for solo violin. They were likely played as incidental music to performances in the ghetto of the iconic Yiddish play.
Ernest Bloch emigrated from his native Switzerland to the United States in order to escape the rising tide of Nazi repression in Europe. He died in Oregon in 1959 after a distinguished career as a composer and educator.
Robert Dauber experienced the war years as a prisoner in the Terezín concentration camp before deportation to Dachau, where he perished. A talented pianist and cellist, he played the cello in Terezin’s orchestra, including performances of Brundibár. The Serenata for violin is his only surviving composition.
Jake Heggie is one of today’s most important composers. His operas like Dead Man Walking, The End of the Affair and Moby-Dick have been acclaimed at major houses around the world. Heggie is drawn to subjects that allow him to address questions of human rights through musical drama. His three Music of Remembrance commissions (For a Look or a Touch, Another Sunrise and Farewell, Auschwitz) are compelling explorations of the Holocaust’s emotional impact on the people whose lives it touched.
Dick Kattenburg barely had a chance to experience life as an adult before the German occupation of Amsterdam shattered the world he knew. Kattenburg spent the war years in hiding until his betrayal and arrest. He was deported to the Westerbork transit camp and then Auschwitz, where he was murdered on arrival. Kattenburg, who died 24, never heard most of his music performed.
Gideon Klein was a 21-year old star student in Musicology at Charles University in Prague, and in piano and composition at the Prague Conservatory of Music at the time of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. Klein, a Jew, was expelled from his studies and denied permission to travel. He was deported to Terezín in December 1941, and eventually to Auschwitz on the same transport as composers Hans Krasa and Viktor Ullmann. From there, he was sent to the Fürstengrube camp, where he perished.
Hans Krása is probably best known as the composer of Brundibár, the inspiring children’s opera that was performed 55 times by casts of children in Terezin. Before the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Krasa was an important member of the artistic community of Czechs and Germans who gave rise to Prague’s distinctive cultural life. Krása was deported to Terezin on August 10, 1942 and imprisoned there for 26 months before sent to his death in Auschwitz.
Carlo Taube was a concert pianist before his imprisonment in Terezín. His only surviving composition, Ein judische Kind (A Jewish Child), sets a text by his wife Erika. In 1944 the Taubes and their child were murdered in Auschwitz.
Viktor Ullmann was raised a Catholic, converted to Protestantism and later returned to Catholicism. Still, he was classified Jewish under Nazi racial laws. Ullmann was deported to Terezín in September 1942. During his two years there, he was at the center of the camp’s intellectual and artistic life. He was on the same transport to Auschwitz as Hans Krása and Gideon Klein. Like Krása, he was murdered on arrival there.
Ilse Weber was a poet and a writer of children’s books, and she also produced programs for the radio in Prague. In Terezín, she worked in the children’s infirmary, and comforted many children with her words and music. Anticipating her family’s likely fate, Ilse had arranged for her elder son Hanus to leave Czechoslovakia before the occupation on a Kindertransport. Ilse and her younger son Tommy were murdered in Auschwitz.
Music of Remembrance depends on the support of individuals and organizations to produce free concerts. We are especially grateful to the generous individuals and organizations who helped make this special concert possible:
Eli & Rebecca Almo
Jack & Adina Almo
Jonathan & Naomi Newman
Mark Wesley & Eileen Glasser Wesley
Beit Tikvah Messianic Congregation
First United Methodist Church of Seattle
Temple Beth Am
Temple B'Nai Torah
Temple De Hirsch Sinai
Congregation Beth Israel
Congregation Beth Shalom
Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation
Temple Beth El
Temple Beth Or
Classical KING FM
Encore Media Group
Seattle Gay News
Join us for a special gala celebration following the world premiere performance of MOR’s 2017 commissions by composer Mary Kouyoumdjian and choreographer Olivier Wevers. Your attendance and generous support help sustain our mission of preserving a priceless legacy through music.
Can't attend our 2017 Gala Dinner? There are many ways to support MOR! Please consider placing an ad in our 2017 tribute book, becoming a gala sponsor, contributing to the silent auction, or making a tax-deductible donation.
For more information, please call 206-365-7770 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Monday, January 23, 2017, Music of Remembrance (MOR) presents a community-wide free concert to honor this important moment in history, and commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The musical program features music from the Terezín and Vilna Ghettos, and works by composers whose lives were cut short by Nazi persecution: Hans Krása, Gideon Klein, Ilse Weber, Laszlo Weiner, and Dick Kattenburg. Featuring stellar instrumentalists drawn largely from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and some of the region’s finest vocal talents. MOR is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 by Artistic Director Mina Miller to remember the Holocaust through music.
This concert is presented with generous support from Jack and Adina Almo.
Before the Ark (1987)
MOR 2013 David Tonkonogui Memorial Award Recipient
Dance (Terezín, 1943)
Allegro con fuoco
Leonid Keylin, violin; Mara Finkelstein, cello
Songs and Satire from Terezín
A Suitcase Speaks
Ilse Weber (b. Vitkovice, 1903 – d. Auschwitz, 1944)
Little Cafe in Terezín
Music: Viennese popular melody
Music: Martin Roman(b. 1910, Berlin – 1996, NJ)
Lyrics: Manfred Grieffenhagen (b. 1895 – d. Dachau, 1945)
Julia Benzinger, mezzo soprano; Erich Parce, baritone; Mina Miller, piano
Duo for Violin and Viola (1939)
Lazslo Weiner(b. Szombathely, Hungary – d. Lukov labor camp, 1944)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola
“Lullaby” from In Sleep The World Is Yours* (2013)
Lori Laitman(b. Long Beach, New York, 1955)
Poetry by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger(b. Czernowitz, Romania, 1924 – d. Michailowka labor camp, Ukraine, 1942)
Sarah Davis, soprano; Laura Deluca, clarinet; Mina Miller, piano
Romanian Melody (1941)
Dick Kattenburg(b. Amsterdam, 1919 – d. Auschwitz, 1944)
Leonid Keylin, violin; Mara Finkelstein, cello; Mina Miller, piano
From the Vilna Ghetto
S’dremlen feygl (Birds Sit Drowsing)
Text: Lea Rudnitska (b. Kalwarija, Lithuania, 1916 – d. Majdanek, 1943)
Shtiler, Shtiler (Quiet, Quiet)
Music: Aleksander Volkoviski (b. Vilnius, 1931)
Text: Shmerke Kaczerginski(b. Vilna, 1908 – d. 1954)
Julia Benzinger, mezzo soprano; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Takumi Taguchi, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello; Jonathan Green, double bass
Farewell, Auschwitz, from Out of Darkness* (2016)
Jake Heggie(b. West Palm Beacfh, FL, 1961)
Poetry written in Auschwitz by Krystyna Zywulska
Sarah Davis, soprano; Julia Benzinger, mezzo soprano; Erich Parce, baritone; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Mara Finkelstein, cello; Jonathan Green, double bass; Mina Miller, piano
*Works commissioned by Music of Remembrance
About Music of Remembrance
Founded in 1998 by pianist Mina Miller, Music of Remembrance (MOR) fills a unique role throughout the world by remembering the Holocaust through music with concert performances, educational programs, recordings and commissions of new works. Along with its large and varied repertoire of Holocaust-era music, MOR commissions and premieres new Holocaust-inspired works by some of today’s leading composers, building bridges across generations and sharing stories that underline the Holocaust’s urgent relevance for us today.
The Music of Remembrance mission is not religious nor is its scope limited to Jewish music or experience. Our programs have also focused on the Holocaust’s impact on homosexuals, women, children, Roma, political prisoners and courageous free-thinkers.
MOR has reached audiences around the world through its seven CDs on Naxos, the world’s leading classical music label, and its two documentary films produced by award-winning filmmaker John Sharify.
Tickets: $45 - $60
Tickets are available online through Brown Paper Tickets by using the order form below, or by calling the MOR office at 206-365-7770.
In 2015, MOR introduced itself to San Francisco with a program combining music from the time of the Holocaust with two of our recent major commissions. That concert paved the path for last year’s breakthrough production of Out of Darkness, and we’re excited to announce a return to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in May 2017.
The varied program will bring our next large commission: a new work about the experience of Europe’s Roma during the Holocaust by Armenian-American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian. Kouyoumdjian’s work, to open myself, to scream, shares the story of Romani artist Ceija Stojka, who survived three concentration camps to become a noted painter and writer. The multi-media piece combines electronic music with live chamber music and incorporates compelling visual imagery from the Syrian-Armenian media designer Kevork Mourad.
The program also features San Francisco Opera favorite Catherine Cook in a performance of songs from the Vilna Ghetto. Vilna’s Jews held out in proud struggle to defend a unique heritage, and within the ghetto’s walls poetry and music took on special importance. These songs in Yiddish take us on an inspiring journey that spans heartbreak, hope, defiance and even humor. Cook will also perform contemporary American composer Lori Laitman’s moving song cycle The Seed of Dream, based on poetry by Vilna Ghetto survivor and resistance fighter Abraham Sutzkever.
MOR’s instrumental ensemble, featuring musicians from the Seattle Symphony, will also perform Israeli composer Betty Olivero’s klezmer-infused music created for the 1920 silent film The Golem.
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Two New Music and Dance Commissions!
The Holocaust touched people of countless faces, places and identities. At our spring concert we present MOR’s next large music commission: a daring new work about the experience of Europe's Roma people during the Holocaust. Composer Mary Kouyoumdjian’s work, to open myself, to scream, shares the story of Romani artist Ceija Stojka, who survived three concentration camps to become a noted painter and writer. The performance includes compelling visual imagery created by Syrian-Armenian artist Kevork Mourad.
Tickets are available online through Brown Paper Tickets. Tickets available online until 4:00 p.m. on the day of each concert - after that tickets will only be available at the door (payable with check or credit card).
Concert ticket prices: $60-$75
Don't miss the closing night cast party!
The closing night cast party will directly follow the May 26 performance. Cast party tickets are $100 per person. The party will take place at the San Francisco Conservatory's Osher Salon. A portion of your ticket represents a tax deductible contribution to MOR.
Please note that there are no physical tickets for the party - your name will be added to a RSVP list at the door. Cast party tickets are available to purchase online until 4:00 pm on May 26. After that, tickets can be purchased at the door.
Music of Remembrance brings the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s path-breaking new opera Out of Darkness to the Bay Area for performances on May 25 and 26, 2016 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall.
Audiences in the Bay Area, and around the world, know Heggie’s operatic breakthroughs like Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick. For Out of Darkness, Heggie has teamed again with the brilliant librettist Gene Scheer. The two-act opera is a powerful portrait of survival that probes the Holocaust’s vast scope through emotionally rich depictions of those caught in its grasp. The first act, titled “Krystyna,” tells the true story of Krystyna Zywulska, whose daring poems became anthems of defiance among her fellow prisoners in Auschwitz. Act Two, “Gad,” explores the fate of homosexuals during the Holocaust through the experience of Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, two idealistic young lovers in 1930s Berlin whose lives and love were torn apart under Nazi rule.
Heggie and Scheer tell these stories with uncompromising emotional honesty, and with deep compassion that never descends to pathos or sentimentality. Their richly textured music conveys an understanding of those touched by the Holocaust, in all their complicated humanity. Heggie describes what moved him to address this compelling topic: “I’m particularly inspired by stories of social justice and the inequities of life, and how we are all connected as human beings despite those inequities.”
Out of Darkness will feature a stellar cast. Soprano Caitlin Lynch, applauded by the New York Times as “luminous,” appears as the mature Krystyna, joined by soprano Ava Pine, who portrays Krystyna in flashbacks to her youth. Catherine Cook, who has performed more than 50 roles with San Francisco Opera, sings the role of Zosha, Krystyna’s friend and fellow prisoner in Auschwitz. Veteran baritone Robert Orth, for whom Heggie created roles in Dead Man Walking and Moby Dick, portrays Gad. Baritone Michael Mayes, who sings the role of Manfred, is recognized for his powerful voice and arresting stage presence. The imaginative production is directed by Erich Parce and conducted by Joseph Mechavich.
Out of Darkness was commissioned by Music of Remembrance, a non-profit organization founded in 1998 by artistic director Mina Miller to remember the Holocaust through music. In addition to rediscovering and performing music from that time, MOR has commissioned and premiered over 20 new Holocaust-inspired works by some of today’s leading composers, telling new stories that need to be heard and challenging audiences to question their own thinking.
"Mr. Heggie may well be the richest, most accessible, most captivating opera composer since Benjamin Britten...He reduces major universal issues to credible personal stories, to which a listener can connect."
- The Wall Street Journal (2015)
Artists from left to right: Catherine Cook, mezzo soprano; Caitlyn Lynch, soprano; Michael Mayes, baritone; Robert Orth, baritone; Ava Pine, soprano
Questions? Contact MOR at 206-365-7770 or email@example.com
Thank you to our Community Partner The GLBT Historical Society!
After 5 p.m. on May 21, tickets will only be available through the Benaroya Box office at: (206) 215-4800. The box office will be open starting at noon on Sunday, May 22.
The Benaroya Hall Box Office is located on the street level at the corner of Third Avenue and Union Street, at the north end of The Boeing Company Gallery in Benaroya Hall.
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 concerts!
Meet the Composer & Librettist
Join us for a pre-concert interview with composer Jake Heggie and Librettist Gene Scheer!
3:15 p.m., Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall
Composer Jake Heggie Librettist Gene Scheer
On May 22, 2016 you’ll experience an event that the entire musical world is awaiting: the world premiere of Out of Darkness, the new MOR commission from composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer. The compelling two-act opera is a powerful portrait of survival that conveys the vastness of the Holocaust’s scope through emotionally rich depictions of those caught in its grasp.
Based on true stories of two survivors haunted by the ghosts of their past, Out of Darkness offers compelling musical witness to survival in the face of unimaginable adversity. The opera relates the amazing true story of Krystyna Zywulska, whose daring poems became anthems of defiance among her fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, and explores the fate of homosexuals during the Holocaust through the experience of Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, two idealistic young lovers in 1930s Berlin whose lives and loves were torn apart under Nazi rule.
"Mr. Heggie may well be the richest, most accessible, most captivating opera composer since Benjamin Britten...He reduces major universal issues to credible personal stories, to which a listener can connect."
- The Wall Street Journal (2015)
Artists from left to right: Catherine Cook, mezzo soprano; Caitlyn Lynch, soprano; Michael Mayes, baritone; Robert Orth, baritone; Ava Pine, soprano
Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein meet again – and argue about art and life – in After Life, a new MOR-commissioned opera by Tom Cipullo.
Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein were towering artistic figures of the 20th century and among its most influential. Stein was one of Picasso’s early advocates. He painted a portrait of her that has become widely known, and she wrote a memoir about him. They maintained an unusual friendship and exchanged correspondence from 1906 until 1944. While both were iconoclastic creators, Stein and Picasso held starkly divergent political views and responded in strikingly different ways - in their lives and their art – to the Second World War and the Nazi occupation of Europe.
Music of Remembrance commissioned composer Tom Cipullo’s chamber opera, After Life, as part of the organization’s continuing commitment to remembering the Holocaust through new music that challenges audiences to re-examine conventional perspectives. In the opera, Picasso and Stein meet again in a posthumous debate filled with both passion and humor. They argue over the moral responsibilities of artists to address the evil they see in the world. They confront each others’ weaknesses, and their own, in succumbing to vanity and ego.
American composer Tom Cipullo has been drawn before to artistic themes that pose difficult moral questions. His highly-regarded 2006 opera, Glory Denied, tells the story of America’s longest-held Vietnam prisoner of war Jim Thompson. Allan Kozinn wrote in the New York Times: "How is this for a story with operatic potential? A prisoner of war held for nearly a decade returns home to find that his wife has moved on, his nation has changed beyond recognition, and he is unable to find his bearings in the society he fought to defend. It is Monteverdi's ‘Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria’ in reverse: the story of the returning warrior, but in this thoroughly modern version, everything has gone wrong, and redemption is out of reach.” Anne Midgette, in the New York Times, described the work’s lyrical richness: "It is tonal, melting into aching lushness…propelled by driving Bernstein-like syncopations where different versions of the same truth converge."
For After Life, Cipullo collaborated with librettist David Mason. Mason, also a gifted and widely-published poet, described his vision for the Picasso-Stein encounter: “I realized that these two estranged friends, two major artists of the twentieth century and, arguably, two outsized egomaniacs, would provide me a great opportunity to explore the culpability of artists in Vichy and occupied France. What is the position of art in a time of war? How does art respond to political and military disaster? And what can artists possibly do in the face of such massive evils as Nazism and the Holocaust?”
The world premiere featured guest artists mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook (San Francisco Opera), soprano Ava Pine (Fort Worth Opera) and baritone Robert Orth, who has been hailed by Opera News as “fixture of contemporary opera."
Click here to view information about After Life in our season brochure!
Darius Milhaud's Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 157b (1936)
Rosy Wertheim's Le Tsigane Dans La Lune
Henriette Bosmans' Nuit Calme (1926)
Paul Bowles' Music for a Farce (1938)
WORLD PREMIERE of Tom Cipullo's After Life (2015)
Libretto by David Mason
Directed by Erich Parce
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 157b (1936)
(b. Marseilles, 1892 – d. Geneva, 1974)
Darius Milhaud belonged to “Les Six,” the name coined in 1920 by French critic Henri Collet for six composers who worked in Paris’ Montparnasse quarter. According to Milhaud, Collet chose the six names “. . . absolutely arbitrarily, those of [Georges] Auric, [Louis] Durey, [Arthur] Honegger, [Francis] Poulenc, [Germaine] Tailleferre and me simply because we knew one another other and we were pals and appeared on the same musical programmes, no matter if our temperaments and personalities weren't at all the same. Auric and Poulenc followed ideas of Cocteau, Honegger followed German Romanticism, and myself, Mediterranean lyricism!” If the six didn’t share a common musical style, they helped define the heady avant-garde artistic milieu of Paris in the 1920s. With Jean Cocteau and other writers and artists, they frequented a cabaret-bar called “La Gaya.” When the establishment moved to larger quarters on rue Boissy d'Anglas in the 8th arrondissement, it was renamed for Milhaud’s surrealistic ballet “Le boeuf sur le toit” (The Bull on the Roof). The opening party included Pablo Picasso, Maurice Chevalier and Serge Diaghalev.
Milhaud was prolific as a composer, with over 400 works that included operas, symphonies, concertos, chamber works, ballet music and film scores. From his earliest years, he was drawn to folk and popular styles. During two years as secretary to Paul Claudel, the poet and playwright who was then the French ambassador to Brazil, Milhaud became fascinated by Brazilian tunes and rhythms that inspired “Le boeuf sur le toit.” Not long after, Milhaud traveled to New York and was deeply influenced by the jazz he heard in the streets of Harlem. The following year, he composed the jazz-infused ballet “La création du monde” (The Creation of the World).
Milhaud freely expressed his disdain for stiff and solemn attitudes toward music, and he was criticized in turn for what some saw as his frivolity. Milhaud offered no apologies: “I have no aesthetic rules, philosophies or theories. I love to write music. I do it with pleasure, otherwise I just do not write it.” Years later, Aaron Copland would declare: “Others write music to express themselves; Milhaud, like no other composer I know, writes music to celebrate life itself.”
Milhaud’s 1936 Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano is drawn from the composer’s incidental music for Jean Anouilh’s play “Le voyageur sans baggage” (The Traveler without Luggage). The play is an ironic critique of identity and class, and Milhaud’s sprightly music captures the play’s existential absurdity. The clouds of World War II were forming, though, when Milhaud wrote this music. Born to a Jewish family in Marseilles, he was forced to leave France in 1940. In the United States he secured a teaching position at Mills College in Oakland, California, where Dave Brubeck was one of his leading students. After France’s liberation, Milhaud returned to teach at the Paris Conservatoire, but still taught and conducted in America often until failing health forced him to retire in the early 1970s.
Le Tsigane Dans La Lune (1916)
(b. Amsterdam, 1888 – Laren, Netherlands, 1949)
Nuit Calme (1926)
(b. Amsterdam, 1895 – Amsterdam, 1952)
The names of Rosy Wertheim and Henriette Bosmans are little known outside the Netherlands, but the two women composers played an important part in the country’s music life between the world wars. Wertheim was born in Amsterdam to affluent Jewish parents who sent her to a French boarding school in Neuilly, outside Paris, where she took piano lessons and displayed formidable musical talent. Growing up she was drawn to a career in social work, but her piano teacher convinced her to pursue a life in music. Still, Wertheim never lost her passion for social causes or her concern for working people. In Amsterdam in the 1920s, she conducted the Jewish women’s chorus of the Religious Socialist Society, taught piano to poor children, supported needy families out of her own pocket, and led a children’s chorus in a low-income neighborhood.
In 1929 Wertheim moved to Paris, where her home was frequented by Dutch artists and musicians, and by some of the day’s most important French composers: Milhaud, Messaien, Jolivet and Ibert. She left in 1935 for Vienna, and in 1936 and 1937 spent time in the United States. While abroad she had a number of her compositions performed, and also worked as a foreign correspondent for Dutch newspapers. Wertheim returned to Amsterdam in 1937 to a difficult situation that soon became much worse. After the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940, Wertheim gave covert concerts in her basement, often including works by Jewish composers whose music had been banned. In 1942 she went into hiding in order to escape deportation. Wertheim survived the war, but died of an illness in 1947.
Wertheim composed over ninety works, among them a highly successful piano concerto, a divertimento for chamber orchestra, numerous chamber pieces for small ensembles, and songs. Her early compositions, especially, were influenced by French Impressionism. The 1916 “Le tsigane dans la lune” (The Gypsy on the Moon) that we hear tonight is based on a poem by the late 19th-Century symbolist poet Henri Cazalis.
Henriette Bosmans grew up surrounded by an elite circle of Amsterdam’s musical world. Her father, who died when she was an infant, had been principal cellist in the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and her mother taught piano at the Amsterdam Conservatory. Visitors to her childhood home included the likes of Joseph Joachim, for whom Brahms wrote his violin concerto. Studying piano with her mother, Bosmans became a young star and performed with the Concertgebouw under Willem Mengelberg and Pierre Monteux while still in her teens.
Bosmans’ early efforts at composition are reminiscent of German Romanticism, but her musical language became strikingly more modern after she began studying with the Dutch composer Willem Pijper in the late 1920s. Like Wertheim, she was forced to abandon public musical life during the Nazi occupation, and her music was banned. Still, she played as a pianist at secret house concerts. Bosmans died of cancer in 1952. Bosmans’ lushly langorous “Nuit Calme” (Calm Night) is the second in a set of three “Reflections” (along with “Cortège” and “En Espagne”) for cello with piano accompaniment. The instrument’s prominence in Bosman’s early works probably grew from her relationship with the cellist Frieda Belinfante, with whom she lived and shared a bohemian life at that time. In 1921, Bosmans wrote a piano trio, and two years later Belinfante performed the premiere of Bosmans’ second cello concerto.
Music for a Farce (1938)
(b. New York, 1910 – d. Tangier, Morocco, 1999)
No account of the exuberantly fertile expatriate community of artists and musicians in Paris between the world wars would be complete without the name of American-born composer and writer Paul Bowles. Bowles first traveled to Europe when he was 19, after one of his poems had been accepted in the Parisian literary review “transitions” that was a forum for such important modernists as James Joyce and Paul Élouard. Back in New York, he began studying composition with Aaron Copland. When Copland announced his plan to return to Europe, Bowles eagerly followed and also studied in Paris with Roger Sessions and Virgil Thompson. Bowles quickly immersed himself in Paris’ intoxicating avant-garde scene, including the rue de Fleurus salon of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. Stein’s advice about his poetry and music was often painful, but she was an important formative influence. It was at Stein’s urging that Bowles first traveled (with Copland) to Morocco, where he later spent the final decades of his life.
Bowles wrote operas, ballet music, and chamber and orchestral works. He also composed extensively for theater and film, including music for plays by Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellmann, Oscar Wilde, Albert Camus, Sophocles, Euripides and Shakespeare. In 1938 Bowles was living in Èze-Village, on the Côte d’Azur, when he was approached to write music for the film sequences in a New York production by Orson Welles of a farce called “Too Much Johnson.” Needing the money, and intrigued by a collaboration with Welles, Bowles sailed to New York and moved into a $15-a-week room in the Hotel Chelsea to work on the project. Bowles completed his score within a month and brought it to Welles, only to learn that Welles had cancelled “Too Much Johnson” and decided to produce a tragedy instead. For his trouble, Bowles was offered $100. To salvage the music, Bowles made a few cuts and called the “new” piece “Music for a Farce.” Its premiere several months later at a League of Composers concert in New York received rave reviews.
Bowles died of heart failure in Tangier in 1999, after a bold peripatetic life engaged with the forces and people around the world that shaped his times. Because Bowles mirrors the popular imagination of flamboyant expatriate life in Europe, people have often wondered about his connection to the Sally Bowles character in the “Cabaret” musical play and film. Sally’s character was fictional, but Christopher Isherwood was thinking of Paul Bowles when he chose her name for the stories that became the basis for “Cabaret.” Others know of Bowles though the Bernardo Bertolucci film “The Sheltering Sky,” set in Morocco and based the novel that Bowles wrote there.
After Life (2015)
Music by Tom Cipullo; Libretto by David Mason
World Premiere Commissioned by Music of Remembrance
Made possible by a generous gift from Sherry & James Raisbeck
We’re accustomed to thinking of great artists – in music, literature, painting and other forms – as those whose works endure because they resonate beyond the time, place and circumstances of their creation. Still, those artists are products of their own times, and their works reflections of how they understood and responded to the world around them.
In many ways, the lives of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein shared a similar arc, and their histories are intertwined. Stein, the American, and Picasso, the Spaniard, both gravitated to Paris at the start of the 20th Century. Both were brash modernists who exerted an outsized influence on their contemporaries. Stein was an early champion of Picasso’s work. He painted a well-known portrait of her, and she later wrote a poetic depiction of him. The two maintained a complicated friendship for decades, despite strong disagreements over politics. With the spread of Fascism and then Nazism in Europe, Picasso and Stein reacted in very different ways. In one of the most powerful anti-war paintings ever, Picasso’s “Guernica” depicted the savagery of that village’s bombing by German airplanes in support of Franco’s Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Stein, on the other hand, publicly endorsed Franco, and she was an admirer and translator of Philippe Pétain, the leader of France’s collaborationist Vichy government. Stein held many views that today would be considered conservative, even reactionary and perhaps elitist; Picasso joined the Communist Party in 1944 and remained an ardent member.
In 2011, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art mounted the exhibit “The Steins Collect,” a fascinating examination of that family’s relationship to Picasso, Matisse and other painters of the Parisian avant-garde. Only steps away, the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum showed “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,” exploring her private life, her artistic relationships, her public mystique, her politics, and her life in France during the war. Viewing the two exhibits side-by-side suggested an intriguing question that led to MOR’s commissioning of After Life: How would Stein and Picasso have continued their conversation? (Stein died in 1946, only a year after the end of the war; Picasso lived until 1973.) Would either of them look back and reconsider their artistic or political ideas? How would they react to the ways in which the world had come to see them and their work? Would either of them look back to recognize their own ego and vanity? (And would they contend that arrogance was integral to their genius?) Would they argue that artists are bound to respond directly through their works to the evil they see? Or is the very act of creating a form of resistance in itself? In their new opera, composer Tom Cipullo and librettist David Mason have created a masterful musical drama that challenges us to consider these questions through the ghosts of two giants as they reveal both their brilliance and their human flaws.
About Music notes by David Sabritt. Copyright 2015 Music of Remembrance.
Composer Tom Cipullo offers the following remarks:
A question conjured us. A question hangs in the dark…
So Gertrude Stein remarks in David Mason’s libretto, and so the music goes on to insist. After Life is an opera more concerned with raising questions than answering them. The topics are weighty and ambitious; the role of art in a troubled world, the duty of artists in confronting inhumanity. I confess my own thinking on these issues evolved as I worked on the score. When recent events brought forth the images of black-garbed madmen executing innocents on the desert floor of the Levant, I initially thought that art was useless in such circumstances. Later, I began to reconsider, forming the opinion that the real value of art comes after such horrific moments, helping us, as individuals and as a culture, make sense of the incomprehensible. Only recently, I realized that it is art that makes the moments themselves bearable at all, and I prayed that James Foley and Steven Sotloff had the memory of a poem or painting in their minds during their captivity and in the days before their tragic deaths. But still, how ironic that the art we revere can be such an ennobling force for so many, and at other times an inspiration to those who have abandoned their own humanity. As Picasso exclaims in one of the most dramatic outbursts of the opera, “The Germans were lovers of art!”
The composing of After Life presented a number of challenges. David has called his elegant libretto a tragicomedy, and the delicate balance of these two sides was prominent in my mind as I worked. I allowed myself a bit of fun in incorporating quotes from Menotti’s The Medium when Gertrude Stein attempts to conjure Alice Toklas. In creating music for the fascinating, larger-than-life characters, I tried to capture Stein’s outsize ego and Picasso’s virility. Surprisingly, the character of the young orphan girl presented the greatest range of emotions. In her barely fifteen minutes on stage, she demonstrates calm, patience, sorrow, rage, resignation, wisdom, and grace.
The composer would like to express his deep appreciation to Music of Remembrance and Mina Miller for commissioning After Life, and to James and Sherry Raisbeck for the generous support that made the work possible. Thanks also to David Mason for crafting a libretto that is both eloquent and inspiring. After Life is dedicated to my colleague and dear friend, the brilliant composer Lori Laitman, and also to the memory of Lori’s mother, Mrs. Josephine Propp Laitman.
A note from librettist David Mason:
Music of Remembrance is always seeking new ways of remembering, new stories to tell, and when it was suggested to me that the wartime experience of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein might provide good material, I began my research. Almost immediately I realized that these two estranged friends, two major artists of the twentieth century and, arguably, two outsized egomaniacs, would provide me a great opportunity to explore the culpability of artists in Vichy and occupied France. What is the position of art in a time of war? How does art respond to political and military disaster? And what can artists possibly do in the face of such massive evils as Nazism and the Holocaust?
Both Picasso and Stein remain controversial in terms of how they survived the war. Stein was a Jew, though not practicing, and she seems to have been naive about the oncoming invasion, denying its reality and impact until it was too late for her to do much about it. Critics of Stein have wondered about her decision and her friendships with several collaborationists. How was it that she, as a Jew, was spared? Was she aware of other Jews in her area who were taken away—including children from a nearby orphanage? Though Picasso was not a Jew, he had Jewish friends in Paris, where he spent much of the war. Some have accused him of collaborationist tactics in order to preserve himself; others have claimed he was active with the resistance, or at least in sympathy with it. He certainly felt very strongly that his art was a form of resistance, and endured frequent Gestapo inspections of his studio and his paintings kept in a bank vault. This is a story about artists in relation to history—the darkest history imaginable.
My first brainstorm was in the title, "After Life." The script would be set in an amorphous after life, long after both artists were dead. But artists are always after life—they want to seize it, to possess it, and that is at the root of their art. They also come after life in another sense, modeling their work on experience of various kinds. I realized that Stein would be conjuring Picasso, her estranged friend, because he had died more recently than she and might know more about how they were both perceived in posterity. She conjures him because she has something urgent she must ask him—what has become of them, now that they are dead?
The libretto begins with absurdist comedy as these two artists confront each other in this other realm. Stein felt she had in a sense invented Picasso, and Picasso resented her for it. The introduction of a third character, an orphan girl who as a teenager had met Stein and Toklas, turns the libretto toward tragedy. The girl, taken to a concentration camp from her French orphanage, knows her anonymous death is recorded and remembered by no one. She knows the reality of death in a way neither of these artists, bent as they are on immortality, has quite comprehended. It is she who must teach them what death is, so they can finish dying as human beings.
This spring MOR explored Jewish legends, featuring music to The Dybbuk and a complete screening of the classic 1920 silent film The Golem, accompanied by a live performance of Israeli composer Betty Olivero's exhilarating klezmer-infused score. This iconic film mirrors complex perceptions of Jews and Jewish identify at a pivotal time in early 20th century Germany. Guest conductor Guenter Buchwald joined us from Freiburg, Germany to bring his rare mastery of the silent film repertoire to Seattle audiences. Those who attended our screening of The Golem in 2008 will remember Laura DeLuca's dazzling clarinet solos. On this special evening, we also welcomed the return of the talented 13-year-old violinist Takumi Taguchi in a soulful melody by Joseph Achron.
"Olivero's music...generated striking moments - a haunting solo clarinet wailing during a synagogue as the city burned." - Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times
"Betty Olivero: One of the most admired composers in Israel in the early twenty-first century..." - Jewish Women's Encyclopedia
"Everything performed by MOR needs to be heard again." - The Seattle Times
Hebrew Melody (1911)
Violin: Takumi Taguchi, age 13
Piano: Mina Miller
Music of Remembrance concert, March 30, 2015
Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall - Benaroya Hall, Seattle
Mina Miller, Artistic Director
Click here to view The Golem in our 17th season brochure!
March Concert Program:
Hebrew Melody (1943)
Takumi Taguchi, violin; Mina Miller, piano
Dybbuk Dances (1941)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Laura DeLuca, clarinet
The Dybbuk Suite (1922)
Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello; Jordan Anderson, double bass; Matthew Kocmieroski, percussion
The Golem (1997)
Complete score to accompany the 1920 silent film screening
Guenter Buchwald, Guest Conductor
Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Leonid Keylin, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello
About the Music
Hebrew Melody (1911)
Joseph Achron (b. Lodzdzieje, Lithuania, 1886 – d. Los Angeles, 1943)
The Dybbuk Suite, Op. 35 (1922)
Joel Engel (b. Berdyansk, Crimea, 1868 – d. Tel Aviv, 1927)
Dybbuk Dances (Lodz Ghetto, 1941)
David Beigelman ((b. Ostrovtse, Poland, 1887 - d. Auschwitz, 1945)
For a brief period at the start of the 20th Century, Czarist Russia was the center for Jewish art music composed in a style that became known as the St. Petersburg School, a movement that applied techniques of Western classical music to klezmer and cantorial traditions, seeking source material in the secular tunes and religious melodies of the Pale of Settlement. The movement 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. After the Russian Revolution, the Society was confronted by Soviet anti-religious ideology. Following several attempts to refashion itself, the Society was disbanded in the mid-1920s.
Both Joseph Achron and Joel Engel played important roles in the Society. Although Achron was a relative latecomer to the Society, his experience in it was a strongly formative one that set a path for much of his future career. With the Society in decline, Achron moved in 1922 to Berlin , where he and fellow composer and Society member Mikhail Gnessin briefly managed the Jewish music publishing company Jibneh. After a brief stay in Palestine, Achron immigrated to America in 1925, first settling in New York. In 1934 he relocated to Hollywood, where he composed for films and continued to tour as a concert violinist. His third violin concerto was commissioned by Jascha Heifetz, a fellow émigré in the film capital. His friend Arnold Schoenberg eulogized Achron as “one of the most underrated modern composers.”
The 1911 Hebrew Melody was one of Achron’s first compositions after he joined the Society. It is based on a theme he remembered hearing in a Warsaw synagogue in his youth. The piece was first performed in St. Petersburg in 1912 at a ball-concert given by an adjutant to the czar, where Achron played it as an encore. It remains his best-known work, and has been played and recorded by a list of violinists that includes Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Mischa Elman, Henryk Szeryng, and Itzhak Perlman.
Joel Engel was a founding member of the Society and he had a key role in organizing its first concert in 1908. In 1912 he joined the Jewish writer and ethnographer S. Ansky in an expedition searching the Pale of Settlement for the folk songs of Jewish communities. It was in the shtetls that Ansky discovered and grew fascinated by the legend of the dybbuk – an often-malign spirit of a deceased person that inhabits and takes control of somebody still living. Ansky was inspired to write the play “The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds,” in which a young woman is possessed on the day of her wedding by the soul of a brilliant Talmudic scholar who died of unrequited love for her. Engel composed his Dybbuk Suite in 1922 as incidental music for the play, which went on to become a cornerstone of Yiddish theater in Europe and America.
Two decades after the play’s premiere, the violinist, conductor and composer David Beigelman was one of the many thousands imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto. Before the war, Lodz, in central Poland, had Europe’s second largest Jewish community, smaller only than Warsaw’s. Its vibrant Yiddish theater life included frequent shows by leading companies, and The Dybbuk was familiar to audiences from performances by the Vilna troupe (which premiered The Dybbuk in 1920), and Habima, the Hebrew theater group which started in the Soviet Union and made the play its signature piece. Under the ghetto’s conditions of unimaginable oppression and suffering, this work of theater represented a reminder of what had once been normality, and of the continuity of Yiddish tradition. In the Lodz Ghetto, this work was performed by a solo violin as incidental music to the play. We have taken the liberty of including a solo clarinet, and the two instruments share these moving and evocative melodies.
The Golem (1997)
(b. Tel Aviv, Israel 1954)
Paul Wegener created his silent film The Golem: How He Came Into The World at time of tumultuous change in the landscape of European Jewish life. By 1920—the year the German Workers Party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party—the conflicting currents of Jewish assimilation and separation were converging with an increasingly virulent anti-Semitism. The director’s own biography illustrates that tension: Wegener, once a pacifist, was later honored by Josef Goebbels for his production of Nazi propaganda films. Wegener co-wrote and co-directed The Golem, and also portrayed the Golem character. The film was shot by Karl Freund, the lighting legend behind Metropolis and Dracula. (After emigrating to the U.S., Freund became head cameraman for I Love Lucy.)
Wegener produced three Golem films, but only the third – The Golem: How He Came Into The World – has been preserved. Rabbi Loew, responding to the Emperor’s decree expelling the Jews from 16th-century Prague, creates the Golem and brings him to life. The Golem saves the ghetto, but he soon slips from the rabbi’s control. The story is rich in symbolism and allegory. Some Jewish thinkers have seen the legend as a depiction of difficult moral choices faced by those confronting the threat of destruction, and a complex allegory of the dangers courted when invoking divine intervention for earthly ends. For German film audiences, The Golem contained provocative imagery of Jews and Jewishness, and the film’s impact was social as well as artistic. Olivero’s score brilliantly reinforces the cinematic effects of this classic German expressionist film, combining folk styles and contemporary techniques. Some of the music has its genesis in klezmer tunes, and another melody quotes from “Place Me Under Thy Wing.” The music, seamlessly integrated with the film, blurs the lines of memory and fantasy, history and myth.
About Music notes by Mina Miller. Copyright 2015 Music of Remembrance.
Clarinetist Laura DeLuca joined the Klezmatics’ Alicia Svigals in a performance of Svigal’s new score to enliven this special screening of the classic 1918 silent film The Yellow Ticket, starring Pola Negri. This concert also featured the World Premiere of Lori Laitman’s song cycle, In Sleep The World Is Yours, setting the haunting verses of Selma Meerbaum Eisinger, a gifted young poet who perished at age 18 in a Nazi labor camp.
Meet the Composers
6:15 PM: Lori Laitman & Alicia Svigals
Interviewed by Enrique Cerna, KCTS9, Executive Producer
Serenade No. 2 for 2 Violins and Viola (1932)
Elisa Barston, violin; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola
*World Premiere of English version
Erich Parce, baritone; Walter Gray, cello
In Sleep The World Is Yours (2014)
*World Premiere commmissioned by Music of Remembrance
Megan Chenovick, soprano; Ben Hausmann, oboe; Mina Miller, piano
The Yellow Ticket
*Featuring the World Premiere of an expanded score for Laura DeLuca, clarinet
Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Alicia Svigals, violin; Marilyn Lerner, piano
Laura DeLuca, clarinet, screenshot from The Yellow Ticket, Marilyn Lerner, piano
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Serenade No. 2 for 2 Violins and Viola (1932)
(b. Policka, Bohemia, 1890 - d. Listeal, Switzerland, 1959)
The artist is always searching for the meaning of life, his own and that of mankind. A system of uncertainty has entered our daily life. The pressures of mechanization and uniformity to which it is subject call for protest, and the artist has only one means of expressing this: through music. - Bohuslav Martinu
The life and career of Bohuslav Martinu offer a prism on the artistic turbulence and world-transforming events of the first half of the 20th Century. Born in the small Bohemian town of Policka, near the border with Moravia, he began studying violin at age six. He quickly became known as an unusual young talent, and the townspeople raised enough money to send him to begin studies at the Prague Conservatory at age 15. His free spirit, and his will to explore and learn on his own, were ill-matched with the disciplined life expected of a conservatory student, and he returned home after five years. When Czechoslovakia became an independent republic after the First World War, Martinu wrote a celebratory cantata that premiered in 1919 to broad acclaim. The following year he joined the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist, and while in Prague began composition studies with the eminent Czech violinist and composer Josef Suk.
Frustrated by the conservative styles in Prague, he left for Paris in 1923 and sought out Albert Roussel, who helped him concentrate on developing an individual voice. Martinu was influenced by many of the trends of the time, including jazz, neoclassicism and surrealism. The Serenade was composed in Paris in 1932, a prolific year for the composer. Its three movements juxtapose homages, respectively, to Mozart’s classicism, Dvorak’s lyrical brightness and Stravinsky’s neo-Classicism.
With the German invasion of France in 1940, Martinu was forced to flee because of his involvement with the Czech resistance. With his wife he escaped through the south of France, then Spain and Portugal, and reached the United States in 1941. Adjustment to life in America was difficult, but he composed his six symphonies between 1942 and 1946. Martinu remained deeply engaged with events in Europe, and in 1943 he composed the orchestral work Memorial to Lidice in remembrance of the Czech town destroyed by the Nazis in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.
(b. Long Beach, New York, 1955)
Text by Paul Celan (b. Czernowitz, Romania, 1920 - d. Paris, France, 1970)
World Premiere of the English Version
Paul Celan, one of the major post-World War II German language poets, was born Paul Antschel into a Jewish family in Czernowitz, Romania (now Chernivitsi, Ukraine), which he later hauntingly described as a place “where human beings and books used to live.” His cousin Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger was also a poet. During the Second World War Celan survived three years in a ghetto and then an internment camp, but never succeeded in shedding the Holocaust’s painful memories. His poem Todesfuge (Death Fugue), first published in 1947, was one of the earliest literary depictions of concentration camp existence. A tormented soul, Celan ended his life in Paris in 1970 at the age of 49.
Celan’s cousin Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, four years younger, grew up in the same town. In October 1941 she was forced into confined and miserable ghetto conditions, and deported the following year, with her parents and Celan’s, to a Nazi slave labor camp where she succumbed to typhus. In the days before her deportation, Selma collected her poems in an album she titled Harvest of Blossoms, which she dedicated to her young love. The miraculous survival of this poetry album is the result of Selma’s childhood friends and the heroic efforts of her cousins, Helene and Irene Silverblatt, living in the United States, who introduced the 2008 publication in English of Selma’s poetry. Selma’s verses offer a precious glimpse of her world, a world of “love and heartbreak, desire and loss, injustice and marred hope.” We will never know the unrealized potential of this eloquent poet who died at age 18.
Paul Celan became a famous literary figure, while Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger is only now emerging from undeserved obscurity. Still, their lives were interwined. Celan granted permission to publish his Todesfuge in a 1968 German anthology only if one of one of Selma’s poems appeared next to his of Todesfuge. It was a unique privilege to present musical settings of their poems together that evening. Composer Lori Laitman has a rare gift for setting words to music that captures the depth of human experience with emotional and artistic honesty. Selma’s surviving relatives Helene and Irene Silverblatt made this possible by their permission and encouragement to share Selma’s words through music, and we were honored to have them with us that evening.
Lori Laitman offers the following remarks:
Todesfuge (Death Fugue), initially drafted in Romanian in 1944, was published in German in 1948. The poem is one of Celan’s most famous works and was one of the first to address the horrors of the Holocaust. The strikingly grim images create an atmosphere of extreme and haunting power:
“SCHWARZE Milch der Frühe”// “BLACK milk of daybreak”
“der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland”// “this Death is a master from Deutschland”
“er ruft streicht dunkler die Geigen dann steigt ihr als Rauch in die Luft/dann habt ihr ein Grab in den Wolken da liegt man nicht eng”// “he shouts scrape your strings darker you’ll rise up as smoke to the sky/you’ll then have a grave in the clouds where you won’t lie too cramped”
The poem’s unusual structure borrows from the concept of a musical fugue, with phrases that repeat and recombine. I mirror this musically, with miniature leitmotivs that repeat and recombine—a challenge in that the repetition of musical content often requires different considerations than the repetition of words.
I composed two settings: one in the original German and one using the English translation by John Felstiner. Slight musical changes were necessary to accommodate differences of usage and inflection. The songs can be sung separately or together.
The rhythmically driving cello accompaniment and the repetitions of the “black milk” vocal theme emphasize a feeling of dread and attempt to capture the inescapable relentlessness of the horror. Additional “word painting” runs throughout: two examples are the vocal melisma on “swing” and the intense repeated notes at the top of the cello range, depicting the “grave in the clouds.” Harmonies reflect on the emotions behind the words. As the song comes to a close, the voice whispers “der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland” while the cello repeats this theme, ending with an echo of the sorrowful “Shulamith” motif.
My settings of Todesfuge were commissioned by Austrian baritone Wolfgang Holzmaier in 2010. He performed the world premiere of the German version on Feb. 21, 2012 at The Austrian Cultural Forum in New York City.
In Sleep The World Is Yours (2013)
Poetry by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger
(b. Czernowitz, Romania, 1924 - d. Michailowka labor camp, Ukraine, 1942)
World Premiere, commissioned by Music of Remembrance
Made possibly by Music of Remembrance's Commissioning Circle
Lori Laitman offers the following remarks:
Selma was born to a German-speaking Romanian Jewish family in 1924. A talented writer, she began creating poetry at age 15. Her works consist of fifty-two poems and five translations. In 1942 at age 18, Selma died of typhus in a labor camp in the Ukraine. Thanks to the dedication and love of her friends, and later her relatives, her poetry survived, and resulted in the 2008 publication Harvest of Blossoms. What I found inspiring about Selma’s poetry was that she was able to speak the truth in simple but clear poetic language. Behind the apparent simplicity of her words, however, was a depth of feeling and thought that, for me as a composer, was very exciting — because when setting a poem to music, I look for words that an audience can grasp aurally —but also for an underlying complexity that provides me with opportunities for creating dramatic music to illuminate the text. In this respect, Selma’s poems were perfect.
I chose three poems from Selma’s book: Lullaby, Yes and Tragedy, allowing me to create a cycle with a dramatic musical arc. The combination of soprano, oboe and piano perfectly suited the mood of the poems.
Lullaby spotlights Selma’s imagination, her capacity for love and hope, as well as her sense of foreboding and the realization that dreams might provide the only comfort in the increasingly dark days.
Yes is a good example of simple surface language combined with a complicated subtext. The song progresses from a turbulent opening to a peaceful close, as Selma understands how memory will always keep loved ones close.
Tragedy ends the work, and Selma’s heartbreaking words reveal her reality: “to give all of yourself and realize/you’ll fade like smoke and leave no trace.” Yet, Selma kept writing. She knew how important the mind and imagination were when facing the unimaginable.
And how lucky for us that she did leave a trace. While one wonders how she would have grown, her beautiful poetry gives us a glimpse of a supremely intelligent, spirited and gifted young girl.
The Yellow Ticket
(b. New York City, New York, 1963)
World Premiere of expanded musical score
Commissioned by Music of Remembrance
The Yellow Ticket music composition project by Alicia Svigals was first commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s New Jewish Culture Network, and was made possible by the Arthur Tracy “The Street Singer” Endowment Fund. The expanded musical version for clarinet, violin and piano (2014), was commissioned by Music of Remembrance and had its world premiere at Music of Remembrance’s Holocaust Remembrance Concert on May 12, 2014, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA.
Directed by Victor Janson and Eugen Illès, The Yellow Ticket (1918) was one of Pola Negri’s first films for the German film studio UFA, and Paramount later released it in the U.S. in 1922. Negri, born in Poland in 1897, was the first exotic European actress imported to Hollywood during the silent film era and its highest paid actress, renowned for her flamboyant style and independent spirit. Although Negri is best known for her subsequent “vamp” and femme fatale roles both for German and American film, The Yellow Ticket offered an opportunity to play an atypical role of a sensitive, ambitious scholar.
The Yellow Ticket is set prior to the October Revolution, when sex work was legal in Tsarist Russia. Despite the government’s liberal policies on prostitution, anti-Semitic laws required Jewish women from the Pale of Settlement to possess prostitution papers in order to reside in cities outside the Pale of Settlement. The film, which explores social issues such as human trafficking, ethnic and religious discrimination and poverty, is based on Abraham Schomer’s 1911 Yiddish melodrama Afn Yam un “Ellis Island” (At Sea and Ellis Island) that was subsequently produced on Broadway in 1914 in an unauthorized English-language version written by Michael Morton. Several cinematic adaptations of the story preceded and followed the UFA production. An additional literary source is Aleksandr Amfiteatrow’s 1908 novel The Yellow Pass.
Filmed partly on location in German-occupied Warsaw during the last year of World War I, the melodrama has several historical merits. Exteriors include rare documentary footage of Nalewki, Warsaw’s bustling Jewish district, before the neighborhood and the majority of its residents were destroyed by Nazi Germany. In addition, the film is a curious example of propaganda used to portray the Russian regime as inhumane and heartless.
In Memoirs of a Star (1970), Negri argues that The Yellow Ticket was remarkably progressive during a cinematic period of ethnic stereotyping: “Its sympathetic portrait of Jews might displease some of the population, but a vast majority would be very moved by it. It might even help to spread a little tolerance and understanding, and this would be no small accomplishment during those long enervating years of war.” - Andrew Ingall, Foundation for Jewish Culture
Alica Svigals offers the following remarks:
When I was commissioned to compose a new score for legendary silent movie star Pola Negri's 1918 film The Yellow Ticket, I found myself confronted with several intriguing challenges. This wonderful and strange work is a story about Jews, but made by and mostly for non-Jews. I wished to be the missing Jewish artistic collaborator who might bridge that gap by providing authentic sounds drawn straight from the Jewish soul. More than that, I wanted to bridge that gap between our time and theirs, which might deprive us of an emotional response to the story—a response which its original audience would surely have had.
The social mores depicted are a little mysterious now, and the pressures that drive the characters are not as self-evident as they would have been when the film was made. The narrative conventions of film, which are a second language to us, had not yet been formulated, and our cinematic technology renders the action a little faster than it should actually be. So I felt my task was to help the viewer overcome these obstacles: to use the soundtrack to clarify the story’s structure and through the music to arouse in the viewer the profound emotions depicted in the film.
I went about composing by watching each scene over and over until I was familiar with each gesture of the actors and every movement of the camera; in some scenes I could almost detect a steady tempo, and I used this as a basis for the melodies. Out and about in the streets of New York, I could still see the film in the corner of my mind’s eye and sounds to go with it would pop into my head.
The score is influenced by klezmer and non-Jewish East European folk forms, Béla Bartók and Ernest Bloch, European café music, the cantorial tradition, and my own particular fiddling style.
About Music notes by Mina Miller. Copyright 2014 Music of Remembrance.