Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kristallnacht Memorial Concert - Music as memorial

I am very grateful to the students and staff of the New Zealand School of Music for participating in the concert I organized to commemorate Kristallnacht, which occurred 76 years ago, on November 9, 1938. The concert started with Bloch's Nigun, beautifully played by James Jin. Bloch was a  Jewish assimilated composer, with his roots going back many generations in Alsace and Switzerland. He encountered Chassidic Jewish worship in passing in Geneva, but more impressively in New York when he moved there. This was music of the Galician Jews, intense, infused with ecstasy, the music of a world destroyed by the Nazis. Daniela-Rosa Cepeda sang three of Georg Tintner's songs, youthful works which reflect the era they were written in, the Second Viennese School, with intervals very difficult to pitch, which Daniela-Rosa managed outstandingly well. Tintner had to flee Vienna in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. Pasquale Orchard sang two much mellower gentle songs by Richard Fuchs, who was also a victim of Kristallnacht, and like Tinter, found refuge in New Zealand. Lawrence Scherr's Elegy and Vision for solo cello, played by Inbal Megiddo, is a moving personal piece, written in memory of Scherr's dead brother, Edwin, named after his aunt who died in Auschwitz. The climax of the programme was Ellwood Derr's I Never Saw another Butterfly for soprano, saxophone and piano. It is a setting of poems written by children in Theresienstadt. With the dramatic use of voice, sung by Katherine McIndoe, clever effects on the saxophone, played by Reuben Chin and powerful piano accompaniment by Heather Easting this piece evoked tears. The audience was so moved, a great credit to the performers, that at the end of the piece people were stunned and for a few seconds they could not even applaud. Music means something different to each of us, as does the memory of Kristallnacht. For Paul Seideman who was in the audience, a child survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz the concert recalled loss, survival and a destroyed life, for Jim Baltax it was his parents' first meeting on Kristallnacht in Vienna and their subsequent escape. Donald Maurice remembered playing Boris Pigovat's Holocaust Requiem in Germany where the orchestral musicians were uncomfortable with the subject of the piece because it raised questions they would rather have not faced. All the credit for this amazing memorable concert belongs to the musicians, my modest part was to just making the concert happen, but I am proud of my role in this.