<<< << -- 4 -- Malcolm Miller TELLING POWER
The second half of the concert was devoted to the music-theatre piece Through Roses by Marc Neikrug (born 1946), who conducted the nine piece string, wind, percussion and piano ensemble with charismatic conviction. Composed in the late 1970s and early 80s, it is a very engaging dramatic work in which a monologue by a Holocaust camp survivor, a violinist, is effectively interwoven with a varied score that is eloquently effective and stylistically wide ranging. There is an ingenious use of a contemporary type of ritornello form, with certain clustery ensemble passages recurring as a binding of the sequences. The very opening is a modernist fantasy spiced with eloquent percussion, tappings, Chinese chimes, and other eerie effects.
The solo part by actor Saul Rubinek was nuanced and brilliantly characterized as he delivered his monologue in a variety of 'voices', a free association flow of reminiscences from three periods in his life: the traumatic camp experience, his earlier violin lessons as a youth with his teacher telling him to practice, and the hopes of his more recent career in New York. The associative monologue was matched with some quotation sequences, for instance a collage of Bach Chaconnes overlapped in two ensemble violins, or Mozart and Beethoven snippets superimposed.
The horror of his self testimony, the arrival at Auschwitz, the absurdity of his role as violinist for the Camp Commandant (whose wife had laid out a beautiful garden with roses) rose to a climax of almost unbearable intensity at the conclusion. Here he recounts seeing his beloved (whom he thought was in Paris) being taken to the gas chambers, beaten in front of the place where he was still alive playing. 'Still alive', he repeats: the vision is never confirmed, and the whole had an eloquent use of half-remembered, half-suppressed memories that mingled with the 'normal' life experiences of his youth and recent years. This was an intriguing work that explored memory and trauma, and used the music theatre medium effectively; not a grand statement, but an intimate chamber work through which an individual emotional world came alive with telling power.
Copyright © 10 June 2008
Malcolm Miller, London UK