Articles written for AUFBAU by Leonard J. Lehrman
Jewish composers commemorate the end of World War II AUFBAU 61:17 Aug. 18, 1995 p. 14
[original title: Holocaust & Hiroshima Commemoration by LICA and JAFA, September 3]
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU

Three German Jewish poets will be represented on the September 3, 1995 concert by The Long Island Composers Alliance and The Jewish Academy of Fine Arts at the Malverne Community Presbyterian Church in Malverne, Long Island. The event commemorates the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and is co-sponsored by Meet The Composer (together with NYSCA and the Edward John Noble Foundation), the Nassau County Office of Cultural Development, and generous donors to the Professor Edgar H. Lehrman Memorial Foundation for Ethics, Religion, Science and the Arts. Nine vocal compositions by eight Long Island composers - all of them Jewish - will be featured, on themes ranging from the Holocaust to Hiroshima.

The eldest of the three poets, Ilse Weber, perished at Auschwitz in 1944, together with the child to whom she wrote a touching lullaby, the words to which were found in Dachau and later set to music by Deborah Nodel Gordon, whose children's operetta Moral or Less is well known in Jewish communities internationally. "Transport to Poland" will be sung by mezzo-soprano Mara Goodman, accompanied by the composer.

The next eldest poet is a contemporary Berliner and operetta tenor who writes under the name "Andy Orieli," though his real name is Harry Oschitzki. In 1986 he was elected to succeed this writer as Praesident of the Juedischer Musiktheaterverein Berlin, e.V. Six of his poems have been set to music in German - and in English t ranslations by the composer - under the title "Licht im Dunkel" or "A Light in the Darkness." They were premiered in West Berlin's Urania and Amerikahaus in 1985, and include both a memorial to Mauthausen ("Vermaechtnis und stete Mahnung") and a finale inspired by Brecht's Hitler portrait, Arturo Ui, entitled "Ein brauner Wolf." The latter will be performed by tenor Ronald Edwards, accompanied by the composer (this writer); Edwards previously sang the work's US premiere at LICA's Raoul Wallenberg 80th Birthday Concert in 1992.

The youngest poet represented is Miriam Walther of Berlin who, together with this writer, created a German version of the Berlin-born American composer Mira Spektor's ballad opera, The Lady of the Castle (Die Herrin des Schlosses) for its European premiere in the summer of 1985. The work is based on Lea Goldberg's play of the same name, translated from the Hebrew into English by T. Carmi. Martina Helmig heralded the piece as a "discovery" in the Berliner Morgenpost, while Heinz Elsberg in the Allgemeine Juedische Wochenzeitung praised its "striking music" and "extraordinary effect." Hellmut Kotschenreuther concurred in the Tagesspiegel that it "deserves to be heard... widely." The opera as a whole concerns the hiding of Jewish children during the Holocaust; the Berlin production was co-sponsored by the Anne Frank Fonds, and resulted in composer Mira Spektor's first visit to the city of her birth since fleeing the Nazis with her family at the age of 4. The duet "Wo sind die Kinder" will be sung in German by Ronald Edwards and soprano Helene Williams.

Helene Williams will also be the soloist September 3 in an aria from another Holocaust opera, Queens College Music Professor Joel Mandelbaum's The Village, based on a well-researched and deeply-felt poetic libretto by Queens College English Professor Susan Fox, who drew on her husband's experiences as a Jewish survivor in Nazi-occupied France. The work had a sold-out run of 4 performances March 25-April 2 at Queens College, each of which brought the audience to its feet. Mandelbaum's fourth opera, and his second of full length (the first being The Dybbuk of twenty years ago), it was also excerpted at LICA's First Long Island Jewish Composers Festival as part of the twelfth annual International Jewish Arts Festival of Long Island. Thanks to N.Y. State budget cuts, IJAFLI did not attain its bar mitzvah year in 1995 but was postponed and then cancelled. Hopefully it can be revived next year, along with LICA's Second Long Island Jewish Composers Festival.

Meanwhile, the September 3 concert should, hopefully, partially compensate for the missed opportunity the festival has consistently provided to hear new music by living Jewish composers. Others represented on the concert include Adele Berk (a setting of Isaiah), Leo Kraft (a William Cullen Bryant setting), Elie Siegmeister (a Langston Hughes song cycle) and Patricia King ("A Lullaby for Hiroshima" - poem by Joseph Langland). The major work will be Lee Baxandall's and this writer's A Requiem for Hiroshima, featuring four white and four black soloists, piano and organ - the latter performed by Jewish Academy of Fine Arts accompanist Vladimir Polezhayev.

The concert is free and open to the public and will begin at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, September 3. The church is located at 10-12 Nottingham Road in Malverne. For further information or directions call (516) 599-3220 or (516) 626-0238.

Leonard Lehrman

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