Remembering the Holocaust,
by KEITH BRAMICH
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
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
BUY THIS DISC FROM AMAZON
MUSIC OF REMEMBRANCE
THE TEREZÍN CHAMBER MUSIC FOUNDATION
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM LONDON'S HOLOCAUST EXHIBITION
YAD VASHEM - HOLOCAUST MARTYRS AND HEROES
RON BIERMAN'S DAVID STOCK REVIEW
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)
Record Box is Music & Vision's
regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews