Review by Marlene Harding in magazine still called The Music Connoisseur (v.3 #4 pp.10-11) of
A CONCERT HONORING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF WORLD WAR II. Featuring Leonard LEHRMAN: A Requiem for Hiroshima (1989). Other works by Adele Berk, Deborah N. Gordon*, Patricia W. King, Leo Kraft, Lehrman, Joel Mandelbaum*, Elie Siegmeister, Mira [J.] Spektor. Various artists presented by the Long Island Composers Alliance (LICA) at Community Presbyterian Church, Malverne, NY, Sept. 3, 1995. [*Meet the Composer recipients]
LICA, led by Dr. Leonard Lehrman, gave us an aesthetically uneven but thematically focused concert in this quiet hamlet. [Original draft called Malverne "a little village that time forgot."] The tiny church with its pastor, James H. Hulsey, hosted the event. Mighty memories were relived through the music of four men and four women composers. The highlight, Lehrman's Requiem for Hiroshima (text by Lee Baxandall, 1959) proved in need of a program unto itself, so ambitious is it. Nonetheless, the other selections created a kaleidoscopic portrait of grief endured and artistically transformed so that it fit well within the tiny jewel-like setting of the church.
LICA's Mandelbaum spoke and contributed Maman's second aria from the opera The Village (libretto by Susan Fox). Soprano Helene Williams, a longtime associate of Lehrman, sang with compelling, powerful, piercing vocal flamboyance depicting an anguish which bordered on the overwrought.
The venerable Leo Kraft, in absentia, offered "My Autumn Walk," based on [William Cullen] Bryant.... This heart-rending long poem poignantly contrasts the serenities of nature with the barbarism of war. The vocal lines are sharply eloquent and sustained along with its well-tailored part for piano. The virtue of the piece, which in less skillful hands than those of tenor Ronald Edwards would be mushy blather, is its musical understatement.
In sharp contrast, Ms. Gordon's "Transport to Poland" (text by Auschwitz victim Ilse Weber) is achingly brief and suggestive. The exquisitely simple verses were sung with great feeling and strength by mezzo-soprano Mara Goodman, whose rich warmth of tone was most welcome.
On a more epic scale is "Where Are the Children?" from Spektor's opera The Lady of the Castle (1982). The vocal parts, performed by Ms. Williams and Mr. Edwards, with Lehrman at the piano, are balanced and weighty. There is a classic, heroic dignity to this duet which, with well crafted solemnity, seems to strive to meet the test of time.
More colloquial in language is Siegmeister's 1967 The Face of War, settings of powerfully direct poems of Langston Hughes, sung rousingly by T-shirted baritone Ivan Thomas. The two moments of serenity, the "peace" and the "dove" segments, were made all the more vivid by their contrasts with the blunt thrust of the rest of the work.
As a prologue to his requiem, Lehrman presented "A Brown Wolf," from his cycle A Light in the Darkness, drawn from [actually not; inspired by] Brecht's [Resistible Rise of] Arturo Ui. The blood-soaked images of the poem by Harry Oschitzki, serve to "keep the memory green." Though melodically thin, perhaps aptly so, it is tightly forceful, a quality we found missing in the afternoon's major work. In the Requiem Lehrman's reach may simply have exceeded his grasp. The writing for organ, in particular, was mighty to the point of excess. True, the chorus created a storm of protest which left nothing to the imagination. And while there was much anger there was also little in the way of subtle articulation.
We can report that Ms. Williams sang with powerful conviction. Soloists Goodman, Edwards and Thomas were joined by the capable singing of soprano Iris Harris, alto Erma Ashley, tenor Lee Winston and bass Charles Samuel Brown. Organist Vladimi Polezhayev distinguished himself with fine playing. Yet it seems that the church is just too small to do justice to these good performances.
The concert ended on an ecstatic note of hope, Ms. Berk's setting of Isaiah's "They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares." It was just the right touch, shades of Godspell, sort of.
The comments by Dr. Lehrman and Herbert Deutsch, Hofstra's music chairman, were a welcome addition to the afternoon's serious purpose and what amounted to a moral victory for LICA and friends.