Concert Reviews: Music from Theresienstadt

Music from Theresienstadt Yad Vashem Auditorium July 28 To commemorate Jewish composers who were interned in the Theresienstadt ghetto and died during the Holocaust, the Yad Vashem Auditorium presented a selection of their works last week in musical performances provided by students. These composers evidently brimmed with talent and inventiveness before their deaths - their tragic fate does not need to be taken into account to admire the works which were played. Among the outstanding pieces was one by Gideon Klein, who was sent to his death at 26 years of age. His "Duo for Violin and Cello," written in Theresienstadt in 1943, started with a surprisingly vital and energetic allegro con fuoco, striking bitter but unsentimental notes later on. His "Piano Sonata," also written in 1943, proceeded in a highly personal, angry and intensely excitable style. Erwin Schulhoff obviously forced himself to keep a detached attitude to his wartime compositions. His "Ironies for Piano" displayed an acidly satirical sense of humor. The music of Czech-born Hans Krasa represents its composer's childhood environment. His "Dance for String Trio" is inspired by the Slavic folk tradition, giving it a sound close to klezmer. Melancholy, meanwhile, is the mood in Viktor Ullmann's "String Quartet No. 3," among the concert's more restrained pieces. Uncommonly talented as these composers were, their potential achievements can only be left to conjecture. For the 17 young musicians who played the pieces, this was obviously a labor of love. They performed with discernible commitment and identification with the music, and on a remarkably professional level. The editing of the program notes, by contrast, was irritatingly amateurish. One naturally would have liked some basic information about these relatively unknown works, such as their dates of composition, whether they were written after their composers' internment, and the place of each composer's birth and death. All these were missing, a feature of the concert that unintentionally displayed disrespect for the composers and audience alike. Organ Recital: Yohanan Boehm Remembered Church of the Redeemer August 5 To commemorate Yohanan Boehm, the Israeli composer and Jerusalem Post music critic who died 20 years ago, Oskar Gottlieb Blarr began this organ recital with his own "Fanfare for Yohanan" (1983). He then presented Boehm's "Lullaby for Miryam," originally written for voice and piano, in an organ version adapted by Blarr himself. The arrangement faithfully conveyed Boehm's sensitive lyricism as well as his tempestuous, intensely emotional personality. The German Blarr's own works were represented by his "Blackbird on the Roof," which evokes the bird's chirping with a stylized use of the organ's high registers. In his sonata "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem," Blarr follows the German Protestant tradition of setting psalm texts (No. 22 in this case) to music in a highly personal, suggestive style. His arrangements of pieces by Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn allowed Blarr to highlight sharp contrasts in the music by using the organ's opposing registers. The frequent use of these contrasts had a dulling effect, however, because overwhelmingly strong fortes followed by exquisitely soft piano section became predictable once the listener had grasped the principle. As an organist, Blarr displayed a formidable command of the instrument, inundating the church's space with sound.