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Silent Music: Music of the Holocaust

Categories: Media & Blog, TACA Blog

For #TACATuesday, Sue Latham, Executive Director of Voices of Change, talks about the programming in their upcoming concert titled “Silent Music: Music of the Holocaust.”

Here at Voices of Change, we’re really excited about our upcoming concert, Silent Music: Music of the Holocaust. On Sunday, April 29, we will be performing works by five Jewish composers in commemoration of the Holocaust.  Two of the composers, Boris Pigovat and Simon Sargon, are alive and actively composing today.

Boris Pigovat, Composer
Boris Pigovat, Composer

Israeli composer Boris Pigovat was born in the Soviet Union and is now one of Israel’s most prominent composers. He has won numerous awards, including recognition by the Prime Minister of State of Israel. Voices of Change is performing his piece “Silent Music” for harp and piano. The title of the pieces is a reference to the Israeli ritual of lighting memorial candles at the sites of fatal terrorist attacks, a wordless tribute to the dead.

We are also thrilled to be performing Shema by Dallas composer Simon Sargon, on the 30th anniversary of its commission by Voices of Change in 1988. Shema is the composer’s tribute to a Holocaust survivor, author Primo Levi, who wrote the moving poems on which the piece is based just after the liberation of Auschwitz.

The other three composers whose works we are performing, Erwin Schulhoff, Pavel Haas, and Gideon Klein, died in the Holocaust.

Erwin Schulhoff was well known in his day. His music was popular in Europe between the wars, and he had a successful career as a jazz performer. He wrote his Flute Sonata in 1927 when he was at the peak of his career. However, when the Nazis invaded his native Czechoslovakia, his career came to an abrupt end. Although he had applied for, and was granted, Soviet citizenship, his visa came too late. He was deported to Wülzburg concentration camp in Germany, where he died of tuberculosis in 1942.

'Portrait of Gideon Klein' by Charlotte Buresova
‘Portrait of Gideon Klein’ by Charlotte Buresova. USHMM (27688). Courtesy of Beit Lohamei Haghettaot.

Pavel Haas and Gideon Klein were among several Jewish artists from the former Czechoslovakia that were imprisoned in Theresientstadt (Terezín). Theresientstadt has been described as a hybrid between concentration camp and Jewish ghetto. Theresienstadt was unique in that cultural activities were permitted, and numerous musicians, composers, and other artists were imprisoned there. The Nazis publicized this fact for propaganda purposes; in reality, Theresienstadt was often just a stop for Jews before they were sent to Auschwitz or other extermination camps. Haas and Klein were friends, and wrote the works we are performing while they were prisoners at Theresienstadt. Pavel Haas was a student of Leoš Janáček, and, like Erwin Schulhoff, enjoyed a successful career until the German takeover of Czechoslovakia. He wrote more than 50 works, including an opera, Šarlatán. During the three years Haas lived in Theresienstadt he wrote at least eight works, although unfortunately only a few survive. Voices of Change is honored to be performing one of them, his Four Songs on Chinese Poetry, as well as Gideon Klein’s fascinating String Trio.

Klein finished his string trio just nine days before he was sent to Auschwitz. His music survives because he entrusted it to his girlfriend, who survived the camps. Shortly after he arrived in Auschwitz, Klein was sent to Fürstengrube labour camp in Poland, where he died a few weeks later under mysterious circumstances. Pavel Haas was sent to Auschwitz shortly after Klein and is thought to have been sent immediately to the gas chambers.

Sue Latham
Executive Director, Voices of Change

Voices of Change is a 2018 TACA Grant Recipient.

Experience Silent Music: Music of the Holocaust on Sunday, April 29, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at Caruth Auditorium at Southern Methodist University.

Program:
Boris Pigovat: Silent Music (viola, harp)
Pavel Haas: Four Songs on Chinese Poetry (baritone, piano)
Gideon Klein: String Trio for violin, viola & cello
Erwin Schulhoff: Flute Sonata for piano & flute
Simon Sargon: Shema (for piano & flute, a1988 VoC commission)

Buy Tickets Here