2014 - 2015 Concert Season

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Venue: 
Benaroya Hall
Time: 
Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 5:00pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Featured Artists

Instrumentalists

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    

Vocalists

Julia Benzinger, mezzo soprano

Megan Chenovick, soprano   Erich Parce, baritone

 

 

Robert Dauber
Serenata (1942)
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:

Patrons

Eli & Rebecca Almo

Jack & Adina Almo

Jonathan & Naomi Newman

Samis Foundation

Mark Wesley & Eileen Glasser Wesley

Freddie Yudin

 

Community Sponsors

Beit Tikvah Messianic Congregation

First United Methodist Church of Seattle

Temple Beth Am

Temple B'Nai Torah

Temple De Hirsch Sinai

 

 

Community Friends

Congregation Beth Israel

Congregation Beth Shalom

Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation

Kol Haneshamah

Temple Beth El

Temple Beth Or

 

Media Sponsors

Classical KING FM

Encore Media Group

JT News

Seattle Gay News

 

 

 

 

Featured Works

Farewell, Auschwitz (2013)
 
Serenata (1942)
 
Prayer (1924)
 

Fall Concert: Transfigured Night

Venue: 
Benaroya Hall
Time: 
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
WORLD PREMIERE
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

 

ABOUT THE MUSIC

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
 

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

TEREZíN MARCH
Lyrics & Music: Karel Svenk

 

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

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

LETTER TO MY CHILD
Lyrics: Ilse Weber
Music: Sergei Dreznin

I KNOW FOR CERTAIN THAT I SHALL SEE YOU AGAIN
Lyrics: Ludwig Hift
(b. Vienna, 1899 – d. Holocaust unknown)
Music: Adolf Strauss (b. Žatec, Czechoslovakia, 1902- d. Auschwitz, 1944)
 

CAROUSEL
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.

Sparks of Glory: Until When

Time: 
Saturday, March 7, 2015 - 2:00pm

Free to the public.

On February 12, SAM showcased one of the most exquisite collections of Native American art in private hands: Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection. The exhibit’s artifacts and tribal art challenged us to confront questions of how cultures maintain their identities and traditions, especially when faced by existential threat. These challenges also suffused MOR’s concert on March 7th, 2015. The Nazi assault destroyed the vibrant and distinctive communal life that had long characterized Jewish Europe. Our musical program featured works by two American and two Israeli composers whose work touch on the emotional struggle of loss and destruction, and the renewal of self and community. Israeli composer Eugene Levitas' song cycle Until When? sets five compelling verses by the Hungarian poet and Holocaust survivor Yaakov Barzilai. Barzilai survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where his father and grandfather were murdered, and he has dedicated his life to communicating the lessons of the Holocaust through poetry. Marc Lavry’s Suite Concertante exemplifies the distinctive Israeli style that the composer helped establish after escaping to Palestine from Nazi-controlled Europe. American composer Lori Laitman’s song cycle Todesfuge, is a setting of the famous writer Paul Celan’s hauntingly vivid poem recalling the horrors he saw. David Stock’s A Vanished World, commissioned by Music of Remembrance, offers a nostalgic reminiscence of shtetl life in pre-war Eastern Europe.

 

Concert Program:

 

Marc Lavry

Suite Concertante for Flute, Viola & Harp, Op. 348
Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola & Valerie Muzzolini, harp

 

Eugene Levitas

Until When?
Karen Early Evans, soprano; Walter Gray, cello; Mina Miller, piano; Erich Parce, narrator

 

Lori Laitman

Todesfuge
Erich Parce, baritone; Walter Gray, cello

 

David Stock

A Vanished World (commissioned by Music of Remembrance)
Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola & Valerie Muzzolini, harp

 

Click here to view the Until When concert flyer.

 
At our Sparks of Glory outreach series, MOR greets loyal friends and meets new audience members as we perform beyond the concert hall, in communities around Seattle. At these 90-minute concerts-with-commentary, Mina Miller―MOR artistic director, pianist, and international speaker on musicians’ resistance during the Holocaust―shares her insights on each piece and her passion for preserving this precious cultural legacy through performance and education. Thanks to our donors and the NEA, MOR's musical witness outreach series, Sparks of Glory, has been presented free to the public since our 2005-06 season.

San Francisco Debut: After Life

Venue: 
Temple Emanu-El
Time: 
Monday, May 18, 2015 - 7:30pm

Vibrant program featured California premiere of Heggie’s Farewell, Auschwitz, in addition to Holocaust- era works by Dauber and Beigelman

Music of Remembrance (MOR) made its San Francisco debut with After Life, a bold new MOR-commissioned opera by Tom Cipullo, on Monday, May 18, 2015 at Temple Emanu-El’s Music at Meyer concert series. With a libretto by Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason, Cipullo’s daring musical drama reunites Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein, who posthumously meet again to argue about art and life in an impassioned debate over the artist’s responsibilities in times of war. The provocative new work boasted an all-star cast. Brilliant mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook (San Francisco Opera) soars in the role of Stein. Baritone Robert Orth, who has been hailed by Opera News as “fixture of contemporary opera," shines as Picasso. They were joined by soprano Ava Pine (Fort Worth Opera), heralded by Fort Worth Weekly as “a vision of energy, enthusiasm and skill,” and accompanied by MOR’s stellar instrumental ensemble drawn primarily from the ranks of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. The same vocal trio was featured in the California premiere of Jake Heggie’s Farewell, Auschwitz, an inspiring tribute to the incredible true story of Krystyna Zywulska. Zywulska escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto and joined the Polish resistance, only to be captured and sent as a political prisoner to Auschwitz, where she created poems that circulated secretly among her fellow inmates and became anthems of resistance. In Farewell, Auschwitz, commissioned by MOR in 2013, Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer have adapted five of Zywulska’s actual verses, capturing their rich juxtaposition of compassion, mockery and defiance. Audiences were treated to a performance of the beguiling Serenata for Violin & Piano (1942) that the young Robert Dauber composed while imprisoned in the Terezín concentration camp, and David Beigelman’s mesmerizing Dybbuk Dances (1941), originally performed in the Lodz ghetto where Beigelman was forced by the Nazis. This concert represents MOR’s debut San Francisco performance.

 

 

Concert Program:

Robert Dauber's Serenata for Violin & Piano (1942)

Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Mina Miller, piano

 

David Beigelman's Dybbuk Dances (1941)

Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Jonathan Green, double bass

 

Jake Heggie's Farewell, Auschwitz (2013)

Poetry written by Krystyna Zywulska in Auschwitz

English adaptation by Gene Scheer

Commissioned by Music of Remembrance

Ava Pine, soprano; Catherine Cook, mezzo soprano; Robert Orth, baritone;

Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Walter Gray, cello;

Jonathan Green, double bass; Craig Sheppard, piano

 

 SAN FRANCISCO PREMIERE of Tom Cipullo's After Life (2015)

Libretto by David Mason

Directed by Erich Parce

Commissioned by Music of Remembrance

Catherine Cook, mezzo soprano; Robert Orth, baritone; Ava Pine, soprano;

Zart Dombourian-Eby, flute; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin;

Walter Gray, cello; Craig Sheppard, piano

Featured Works

After Life (2015)
 
Farewell, Auschwitz (2013)
 

Sparks of Glory: In Sleep The World Is Yours

Time: 
Saturday, October 11, 2014 - 2:00pm

Free to the public.

2014 marked the centennary of the outbreak of the First World War, a conflict that ended the world as many knew it and ushered in a frenzied creative turmoil in all of the arts.  SAM’s collection included pioneering works that reflect the radical artistic innovation that emerged in WW I’s wake. In this concert-with-commentary, MOR Artistic Director Mina Miller drew on these art works to illustrate how the period’s new musical directions responded to the same upheaval. Composer Erwin Schulhoff was profoundly disillusioned by the war, and his early musical style was influenced by the Dadaist movement. The iconoclastic Schulhoff was silenced in a Nazi labor camp, but his Second String Quartet  (1925) exemplifies the audacity that made him an important musical figure between the two world wars. The Hungarian composer László Weiner died at 28 in a Nazi labor camp, but his beautiful Duo for violin and viola (1939) is a haunting reminder of a potential the world will never know. Soprano Megan Chenovick sung American composer Lori Laitman’s In Sleep The World Is Yours. This 2013 song cycle, commissioned by MOR, sets the poignant poetry of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, a promising young talent who died in a Nazi slave labor camp at the age of eighteen. We’ll never know what music these artists might have created in a longer life and in a normal world, but their moral courage can inspire us all, and challenge us to understand the extraordinary depth of human capacity. All works performed by some of Seattle’s stellar instrumentalists, many drawn from the Seattle Symphony. 

Concert Program:

Erwin Shulhoff
String Quartet No. 2 (1925)
Mikhail Shmidt and Leonid Keylin, violins; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Mara Finkelstein, cello

Laszlo Weiner
Duo for Violin and Viola (1939)
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola

Lori Laitman
In Sleep the World Is Yours (2014)
Poetry by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger
(b. Czernowitz, Romania, 1924 - d. Michailowka labor camp, Ukraine, 1942)
Commissioned by Music of Remembrance
Made possible by Music of Remembrance's Commissioning Circle
Megan Chenovick, soprano; Ben Hausmann, oboe; Mina Miller, piano

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.

Spring Concert: After Life

Venue: 
Benaroya Hall
Time: 
Monday, May 11, 2015 - 7:30pm
Additional times: 
6:45 p.m. Meet the Composer and Librettist: Tom Cipullo and David Mason

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!

Concert Program:

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)
Darius Milhaud
(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)
Rosy Wertheim
(b. Amsterdam, 1888 – Laren, Netherlands, 1949)
 

Nuit Calme (1926)
Henriette Bosmans
(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)
Paul Bowles
(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.

Featured Works

After Life (2015)
 

The Golem

Venue: 
Benaroya Hall
Time: 
Monday, March 30, 2015 - 7:30pm

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

 

Joseph Achron
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)
Joseph Achron
Takumi Taguchi, violin; Mina Miller, piano

Dybbuk Dances (1941)
David Beigelman
Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Laura DeLuca, clarinet

The Dybbuk Suite (1922)
Joel Engel
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)
Betty Olivero
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

Original film "Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam"  (1920) directed by  and ; written by and

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)

Betty Olivero

(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.

Featured Works

The Golem (1987)
 
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