Latest posts by Sara T (see all)
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- Why I Marched: Women’s March on Washington, 21 January 2017 - February 10, 2017
- Music on the Brink of Destruction at Wigmore Hall: A Review - February 9, 2017
On 4 January, 2017, Wigmore Hall hosted a concert entitled ‘Music on the Brink of Destruction,’ which showcased a powerful selection of music composed and performed around the time of the Holocaust in Europe. The programme included the works of Dovid Ayznshtat, Zikmund Shul, Hirsh Glik, Mikhail Gnesin, and Gideon Klein, among other talented men and women whose lives were ravaged by the horrifying and tragic events of the period. The concert also served to raise money for the newly launched ORT Marks Fellowships Programme, which will support the research and education of the unique music developed and shaped by the holocaust.
This was my first venture to Wigmore Hall. Located in the heart of London just off of Oxford Street I found it to be charming and warm, both in structure and character. I came across this event online by chance, and found myself purchasing the very last available ticket on the day of the performance. Though I went alone, I recognised a familiar face in the audience through a Jewish connection, and it became apparent that much of the audience was part of the wider London Jewish community, celebrating the music which sprung from a devastating period in Jewish history. It is often from these dark places that the most beautiful light shines through, and despite the grim historical context, the evening’s incredibly talented young musicians communicated this brilliantly to a very receptive audience.
Concert highlights included ‘Cantata: Chad Gadya’, composed by Dovid Ayznshtat (1880-1942) and performed by the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds. Chad Gadya, a traditional Passover melody, was brought to life with the rich harmonies and dynamic movement between the parts. The young singers also brought to life Dovid Beyglman’s (1887-1944) ‘Nit kayn rozhinkes, nit kayn mandlen’ (no raisins, no almonds), a beautiful mournful lullaby, expresses the melancholy acceptance of a bleak life in the ghetto. Its powerful lyrics, penned by the poet Isaiah Shpigl, directly contrast the contented optimism of Abraham Goldfadn’s famous lullaby ‘Rozhinkes mit madlen’ (raisins and almonds), which promises the sleeping child the gift of delicious raisins and almonds when he awakens. In the ghetto, the mournful piece tells us, there are no raisins, and no almonds. Everything good is out of reach, and one must accept his fate. A beautiful and tragic piece.
Another prominent piece was Sam Carl (baritone) and Leo Nicholson (piano)’s powerful rendition of Four Songs on Chinese Poetry No. 4: Probdělá Noc (A Sleepless Night), composed by Pavel Haas (1899-1944) and originally performed by prisoners in Theresienstadt. The disjointed piano part dove and swirled behind the strong baritone, culminating in an almost manically cheerful and sudden ‘la la la’, with what feels like forced or parodied happiness.
The sway of the music makes the listener feel a sense of instability or restlessness. The words of the piece paints a dreamy portrait of the sky, and the push and pull of the wind as it brushes through nature, symbolising a connection to life and the longing for love. The burst of intensity at the end, skillfully performed by Carl and Nicholson, pull the audience into the joyful daydream, a memory of love held dear. This memorable piece was unique and captivating in its disjointed journey of emotion.
Zikmund Schul’s (1916-1944) Two Chassidic Dances Op.15, brought the concert to an end with its masterful performance by Benjamin Nabarro (violin) and Gemma Rosefield (cello). The cello and violin play out a sultry and emotional duet that divides and intersects in various places, like two people trying desperately to communicate their feelings at the same time. Rosefield stood out with her emotive flair and bright pink shoes, among the black stage attire and serious musical content. It was an intimate delve into the heart of Schul’s modern string duet.
Overall, Music on the Brink of Destruction was an educational and inspiring concert. It shone a light on the moving, inspirational music from the Holocaust, and encouraged education on music during this very important period in history.
Music on the Brink of Destruction at Wigmore Hall – Artists:
Gemma Rosefield (cello), Benjamin Nabarro (violin), Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola), Tim Horton (piano), The Clothworkers Consort of Leeds, Sam Carl (bass-baritone), Emily Kyte (mezzo), James Way (tenor), Leo Nicholson (piano), Věra Müllerová (piano)
This concert was broadcast on Holocaust Memorial Day by BBC Radio 3, 22 January 2017.
For more information on Music on the Brink of Destruction at Wigmore Hall: