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Deeply affecting

Remembering the Holocaust,

Innova    578

Art from Ashes, Volume One. Music of Remembrance, Mina Miller, director © 2002 American Composers Forum

Remember, both of you, that which Amalek did to us; remember everything do not forget for the rest of your lives and pass on as a holy testament to the coming generations that the Germans killed, slaughtered and murdered us ... -- Testament of Elkhanan Elkes, leader of the Kovno Jewish Council.

The world is only just beginning to count the cost and to pay homage to those who perished in the Holocaust. This American Composers Forum disc makes an important contribution to the debt we owe these thousands of people. It provides a heart-rending aural picture of some of the music that was performed so bravely and defiantly in the concentration camps, and honours the musicians who died at the hands of Hitler's hostile regime.

The music receives excellent performances here by the various members of Music of Remembrance and their director Mina Miller, and this is backed up by fascinating and detailed booklet information. My only slight gripe is with the recorded sound -- the performers sound a little too distant for my taste -- probably just a matter of microphone placement.

In Camp Songs, composer and pianist Paul Schoenfield (born 1947), under commission from Music of Remembrance, has set poems by Aleksander Kulisiewicz, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp survivor who became famous for his collection of the art, music and poetry of camp survivors, now housed in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Schoenfield was attracted to the biting sarcasm in Kulisiewicz's words [listen -- track 1, 1:40-2:36] which appear in full in the CD booklet, both in the original Polish and in Barbara Milewski's English translation :

I'd like to burn some chicks or hags,
I'd like some kiddies too.
I wish I had a hundred chimneys,
Like they have in Birkenau!

Much of the craziness of the time comes across in the music, even without understanding the words.

There's little in the music of a short Serenata [listen -- track 6, 1:07-2:14] by young Czechoslovakian Jewish composer Robert Dauber (c1922-1945) to indicate that it was written in Terezín, the Nazi propaganda fortress, in 1942. This and some postcards home to his parents are all that remain of a little-known composer and cellist who played in the orchestra at Terezín and died of typhus in Dachau. Violinist Leonid Keylin and pianist Mina Miller gave the work its US première in 1999, and here they give full justice to the first recording of a beautiful miniature which to me sounds reminiscent of Korngold.

By contrast, Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) is a name that we do know today. A high flier on the new music scene and prolific between the two wars, both as composer and pianist, Schulhoff's socialist politics brought trouble from the German authorities, who banned his music. Arrested in 1941 whilst trying to flee Prague for the Soviet Union, he died of tuberculosis in the Wülzburg camp.

Five Pieces for String Quartet was premièred at the International Society for New Music Festival (Salzburg, 1924), and Schulhoff's angular music, firmly in the 'modern' style of the time, forms a suite, with each piece based on a different dance.

Herman Berlinski (1910-2001), born in Leipzig to Polish immigrants, studied at the Leipzig Conservatoire and wrote political cabaret songs (all later destroyed) for the Weimar Republic. His story is of an attempt to rediscover his Jewishness, which he rejected in early life, and of a three month journey from Warsaw to Paris, after leaving Germany in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. His long life ended in Washington DC, after serving the city's Hebrew community for many years as a minister of music.

Berlinksy sketched his Flute Sonata in Paris, but had to leave it there with much of his other work, which was all lost. He was able to reconstruct the sonata in the USA in 1942. It represents his independence from Nadia Boulanger -- the two disliked each other and he rejected her teaching. Also, in the words of the composer, it was an attempt to sublimate an historical Jewish Eastern European prayer mode (Ahava Rabba) ... into a vehicle for a purely artistic music-instrumental work.

David Stock (born 1939 in Pittsburgh) was the subject of Ron Bierman's recent review in this magazine, and the CD concludes with A Vanished World [listen -- track 15, 9:12-10:05] for flute, viola and harp -- another Music of Remembrance commission which Stock refers to as a kind of aural snapshot of the pre-war world of East European Jewry, living on the edge of the abyss. This is reflective, descriptive, deeply affecting music, and the screams live on in the memory.

Copyright © 22 February 2003 Keith Bramich, Worcestershire, UK


Art from Ashes - volume 1

578 NEW RELEASE 71'37" 2002 American Composers Forum

Music of Rememberance: Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mara Finkelstein, cello; Jonathan Green, double bass; Leonid Keylin, violin; Mina Miller, artistic director, violin; Julie Mirel, mezzo-soprano, Valerie Muzzolini, harp, Erich Parce, baritone; Paul Schoenfield, piano; Jody Schwartz, flute; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; David Tonkonogui, cello

Paul Schoenfield: Camp Songs (2001); Robert Dauber: Serenata (1942); Erwin Schulhoff: Five Pieces for String Quartet (1923); Herman Berlinski: Sonata for Flute and Piano (1941 rev 1981); David Stock: A Vanished World (1999)










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