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The second half of the lecture-recital began with an exploration of the important theological question, 'Where was God at Auschwitz?', a question raised recently by Pope Benedict XVI in his visit to the death camp. In his discussion Senator gave a critique of contemporary philosophies which consider the Holocaust as a necessary evil for various Messianic processes, and elicited a discussion about godly acts of humanity in ungodly and inhuman circumstances. It was aptly followed by music by survivors. Simon Laks (1901-1983) settled in Paris and wrote memories of his time in Auschwitz when he was one of the camp orchestra conductors. Miss Gobel's Yiddish diction was admirable in the Five Yiddish songs, their traditional folk melodies set in modernistic garb in Laks's beguiling arrangements, especially the quizzical 'Die Alte Kashe', a song also arranged by Ravel.

Equally evocative was the more recent German song Möchte Gerne by the American-Jewish composer Gershon Kingsley, which combined evocative traditional modes intertwined within a contemporary idiom. Miriam Brickman then played the expressive folk-inspired 'Rabbi's Dance' and spirited 'Wedding Song' from the piano suite Scenes from Jewish Life by Jacob Weinberg (1879-1956), one of the Russian Jewish composers who, like Achron and Saminsky, emigrated first to Palestine in the 1920s and then settled in New York in the 1930s.

Teresa Gobel concluded the evening with a group of popular cabaret songs by Wladislaw Szpilman, the famous pianist-composer who regained fame as a result of Polanski's film, The Pianist. Their suave Cole Porter and Gershwin idiom was inflected with a distinctive nostalgia. The duo's apt encore was the moving Hebrew song Eli Eli, a poignant poem of spiritual yearning by Hanna Senesh (1921-1944), who died whilst on an Allied mission in Hungary. The melody by David Zehavi was performed in the eloquent arrangement by the contemporary Israeli composer Menachem Wiesenberg, a moving conclusion to an uplifting and thought-provoking evening.

Copyright © 8 July 2006 Malcolm Miller, London UK




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