Yom HaShoah; the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust (and maybe the survivirs are victims in their own way too) started at sunset last night. Earlier in the day Sara Schabas, Laura D’Angelo and Geoffrey Conquer presented a concert of Holocaust related music in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.
The first half of the program was made up of songs written in Theresienstadt. The first, Ein Jüdische Kind by Carlo Taube, is an elegy with elements of Jewish folk melody; fairly simple but effective. Three songs by Viktor Ullmann setting texts by Hölderlein. These are meatier fare and reminded me of songs by Berg and Schoenberg. There’s the same lushness punctuated with disturbing dissonance which is expected in theory and yet surprising when it happens. All four songs were performed with skill and sensitivity by Sara and Geoffrey with Laura contributed a hauntingly beautiful violin in the Taube.
The second half of the concert was the real meat. It’s the long monologue Another Sunrise by Jake Heggie to words by Gene Scheer in which Auschwitz survivor Krystyna Zywulska fails to record her memories for a professor researching the camps (Sara performed a fully staged version of this in February as part of an Auschwitz themed Heggie double bill). It’s a seriously disturbing piece. It’s understated to some extent musically which lets the text do the work though the piano part is complex enough. Sara is a seriously committed advocate for this piece and she brings out every ounce of the horror, and there’s plenty, skillfully but without over egging it. Once again I found it almost too painful to listen to. Truly a piece and a performance fit for the occasion.
Photo credits: Karen E. Reeves