Israeli composer Ori Vidislavski 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Ra’anana Symphonette has been giving well-received performances to packed
houses for more than two decades now, both in Israel and abroad. But the
ensemble’s current foray to Canada is something quite special – and not just
because of the musical content.
RELATED:Hooking up with John Lee via FacebookExclusive video: Jewish hip hop artist 'Y Love'
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Symphonette
will play at a number of venues in Ottawa as part of Canada’s annual Holocaust
Week events. “It is a great honor and very moving to be taking part in the
Holocaust Week there,” says Orit Fogel, director of the Ra’anana Symphonette.
“We were invited by the Israeli Embassy in Canada and by the Jewish Federation
of Ottawa. We will play for a number of non-Jewish schools, and our
second concert will be at an event arranged by the government of
The latter performance will take place immediately following a
discussion on contemporary anti-Semitism at the Canadian Parliament, which will
also be attended by several Knesset members, including Information and Diaspora
Minister Yuli Edelstein.
“All the MKs and Canadian Members of Parliament
will come straight to the concert after the parliamentary debate,” explains
Fogel. “This is an official event sanctioned by the Canadian government. That
shows how much importance Canada attaches to the Holocaust and to
All the works the Symphonette will perform in Canada will
be related to the Holocaust, with most of the works connected to Alma Rosé, an
Austrian violinist of Jewish descent who died in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.
Even among the many amazing testimonies that came out of the Holocaust, Rosé’s
story is remarkable. She was a niece of composer Gustav Mahler and was a
celebrated musician throughout Europe before World War II and founded the
women’s orchestra Die Wiener Walzermädeln (The Waltzing Girls of
“Traffic would stop when she crossed the road,” says Fogel. “She
was a true celebrity.”
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
DESPITE BEING born Christian – Mahler and his
family converted to Catholicism 10 years before Rosé’s birth – she was still a
target for the Nazis. She managed to escape to Britain in 1938 with her father,
himself a violin virtuoso, but she went to Holland during the war to make a
living by performing there. She spent most of her time in hiding, coming out to
play solo in cafes. But in 1942 she was caught and eventually sent to Auschwitz
and put in the infamous cell block 10, where Josef Mengele and other doctors
conducted experiments on Jewish inmates. However, Rosé was eventually recognized
there and was instructed to put together a women’s classical ensemble, the
Madchenorchester von Auschwitz, primarily to play for the Jews as they were sent
off to work each day.
“She was an amazing character,” says Fogel.
“Although she didn’t survive herself – some say she was poisoned – all the other
women did. She was responsible for saving the lives of 50 women. She was born
into privileged surroundings, but she was able to understand the plight of
others less fortunate than herself, and I think this came out at Birkenau,
Rosé also made artistic compromises at the concentration camp and
was willing to do anything she could to keep her fellow musicians alive. “There
were all sorts of unusual instruments in her orchestra,” says Fogel, “like
accordions, and not all the players were at a high performance level; but Rosé
didn’t mind, even though she had set, and demanded, very high standards during
her professional career.”
During the Ra’anana Symphonette’s visit to
Canada, it will perform works played by Rosé’s ensemble in the concentration
camp and by her pre-World War II orchestra, based on Rosé’s original
“I find it astounding that the Madchenorchester von
Auschwitz ensemble could play such beautiful and such merry works, like ‘The
Blue Danube,’ in such terrible circumstances at the camp,” says Fogel. “It was a
triumph of the spirit.”
The Symphonette’s program will open with Bach’s
Double Violin Concerto, which Rosé and her father recorded together in 1926.
There will also be a visual presentation of photographs of Rosé and narration
about her life. The musical program also includes a work by Israeli composer Ori
Vidislavski called The Last Waltz. Vidislavski, who is the son of a Holocaust
survivor, has spent many years composing for the theater, including pieces that
evoke the Holocaust. The Last Waltz is based on some of his work for the
“The Last Waltz is like a continuation of Alma’s work. It starts
out happy and ends with sadness – like Alma’s life. I feel a personal commitment
toward her. I feel she is one of the outstanding figures in Jewish history,”
declares Fogel, adding that she is particularly proud to be leading the
Symphonette on this project.
“Most of the members of our orchestra came
here from the Soviet Union about 20 years ago, and here they are now
representing Israel in Canada,” she says.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>