Musica Sacra on Holocaust Rememberance Day

Terezin Memorial Cemetery(Photo: Wikipedia/Miaow Miaow)
Terezin Memorial Cemetery(Photo: Wikipedia/Miaow Miaow)

Sunday is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Such a day calls for a special Musica Sacra.

We generally program the great sacred choral works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi and Brahms, among others. We program a lot of early music mass settings: Machaut, Josquin, Busnois, Monteverdi, Cavalli up to Schutz, and Telemann. This Sunday’s program will be a bit of a departure.

Jewish liturgical music is intended strictly for worship and does not function in the concert hall. Ernest Bloch’s lovely Sacred Service and the early music of Salamone Rossi are among a few exceptions.

Sunday night we have two works anchoring the program. There’ll be Sephardic love music from Hesperion XXI with the late magnificent Montserrat Figueras, conducted by Jordi Savall. The Boston Camerata will sing of the “sacred bridge” uniting the Jews with Christianity in the Colonial Era.

And then there’s Terezin. This was the concentration camp that managed a thriving cultural life, even as prisoners were shipped “to the East” (Auschwitz.) Fifteen hundred children went through Terezin. One hundred survived. The children left poetry, drawings and diaries, and these texts are worked into the Holocaust Requiem: Kaddish for Terezin by Ronald Senator.

This oratorio dates from 1992. We’ll hear a performance recorded in Moscow, with the Yekaterinburg Children’s Choir and the Moscow Philharmonic.

I can’t offer you a work for serenity for Sunday night. The Holocaust Requiem is beautiful for two things: the memory of children shipped to Auschwitz and never again.

Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, Kaddish, premiered in 1963. Bernstein long hoped to be regarded for music besides Candide and West Side Story.  Many an artist would go to the grave grateful to have written one of these great works. Bernstein wanted the concert hall more than he wanted Broadway.

Bernstein’s Kaddish is for speaker, large orchestra, chorus and soprano soloist. We’ll hear Lenny’s own performance with the Israel Philharmonic, the Vienna Boys Choir, Michael Wager and soprano Montserrat Caballe.

Yes, this Symphony is short on subtlety. So was Lenny and who cares? It’s raw and over emotional and Bernstein is clearly “working through” a lot of his own “stuff.” Never mind. His grief and his spirit shine forth, as do the memories of those lost.