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'I wandered through Theresienstadt'

MALCOLM MILLER was at a Terezin concert
on the eve of Holocaust Day 2006


'I wandered through Theresienstadt' was a moving musical commemoration of Holocaust Day 2006. The music and musicians of Terezin were honoured in an eloquent concert presented by Jewish Music Central and the Jewish Music Institute at the Great Portland Street Synagogue, Central London, on 26 January 2006, the eve of national Holocaust Day. Amongst the highlights were songs and pieces by Terezin composers Klein, Haas and James Simon, written in the fortress city where the Nazis imprisoned and deported tens of thousands of Jews. Yet this was a concert of hope, as JMI Director Geraldine Auerbach underlined in her introduction. For the memorial prayer, the screening of a TV film about two musician survivors meeting after forty years, and the music, all conveyed the message that 'we shall survive'. Cantor Stephen Leas echoed this in his swinging rendition of Abraham Ellstein's Ikh Zing ('I sing') at the conclusion: a hit song composed in the 1920s for Molly Picon in the film Mamele, which summed up the spirit of optimism and survival.

An expressive Lament by James Simon, a lesser known Terezin composer, launched the evening, played with intensity by Israeli cellist Sagi Hartov partnered by the Israeli pianist Marc Verter. Its modal meditative motifs captured the grief and the sorrow of the oppression, aptly characterising the suffering of the 'inmates' of Terezin. Paradoxically, cultural life in Terezin flourished, and a narrative by a survivor, Zdenke Ehrlich, authoress of the autobiographical My Lucky Star, paid tribute to Alice Sommer, who at 102 is the oldest survivor of Terezin, and was the pianist in the première of Krasa's Brundibar, in which her son Raphael, then two, played a character; he was later to become a leading concert cellist.

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Copyright © 18 April 2006 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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