Night Songs & Love Waltzes

47384327_2047790578644245_8302776883930464256_oValentine’s Day may have just passed, but that’s no reason to let that lovin’ feeling wilt away like the dessicated bouquet of flowers you’ve got dropping petals all over your table. Keep the love alive by coming to hear MasterVoices’ Night Songs & Love Waltzes, a night of Liebeslieder (German love songs) by the masters of Romantic music! (Here’s the official MasterVoices promotional text):

This evening of songs and piano works will feature the music of such influential Romantic era composers as Felix Mendelssohn, Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, and Johannes Brahms, as well as today’s Ricky Ian Gordon and Stephen Sondheim, and the poetry that inspired them. With soloists including soprano Nicole Cabell, mezzo Kate Aldrich, tenor Nicholas Phan, baritone Nmon Ford, and duo pianists Anderson & Roe, Night Songs and Love Waltzes will display multiple musical configurations, including vocal solos, duets, trios, and quartets; men’s chorus, women’s chorus, and the full MasterVoices chorus; as well as arrangements featuring cellos, horns and duo pianists. 

In the days ahead I’ll post video links to the various artists we’ll be working with, but don’t wait for that in order to buy your tickets. Get them here, and we’ll see you on March 1st!


Defiance and Contrariness: Two Takes on the Requiem

A 2013 production of the Defiant Requiem.  (photo: Ruby Washington/New York Times)

A 2013 production of the Defiant Requiem. (photo: Ruby Washington/New York Times)

The New York Times has published a preview article about Monday’s performance of the Defiant Requiem (in which I’ll be singing with the Collegiate Chorale).  It’s an interesting read.  It highlights the history that I’ve already touched upon here and here, but it also discusses some of the controversy around the production:

So what moved the historian James Loeffler to condemn “Defiant Requiem,” in a 2013 article in Tablet, a magazine devoted to Jewish life, as an example of a new form of “Holocaust Music”? Such efforts, he wrote, “represent a tragically misconceived approach that distorts the memory of the Holocaust and slights the very musicians that they purport to honor.”

Mr. Loeffler…may be the harshest critic of “Defiant Requiem,” but he is far from the only one.

“A lot of scholars hate the show, the way they did ‘Schindler’s List,’ claiming that it misrepresents or exploits the Holocaust with cheap melodramatic effects,” said Michael Beckerman, a musicologist at New York University who has established a specialty in composers at Terezin. “But this fits into a long tradition of tension between performers and scholars. For some, Murry Sidlin’s interpretation of history would only be right if it looked like a scholarly paper.”

Mr. Loeffler calls “Defiant Requiem” “a virtual multimedia extravaganza,” “replete with factual errors and historical distortions in the name of a theme of spiritual resistance.”

“In some versions,” he adds, “actors reportedly wore striped pajamas — though their real-life models in Terezin did not.”

But Mr. Sidlin makes no great claims to scholarship. “What I wrote,” he said, “was as close as I could get to what the survivors related.”

Besides, he points out, scholars commit inaccuracies, too: “There were never striped pajamas in ‘Defiant Requiem,’ ” he insists, though an illustration on the Lincoln Center website for Monday’s performance shows a conductor wearing them.

“Jews are often accused of going like lambs to the slaughter,” he said. “I wanted to show that this was their way of resisting.”

In grad school I was a teaching assistant for a course on The Holocaust in Literature; that there should be concerns about representation is to be expected — it certainly was the case for nearly every book we read and film we watched in that course –and, I think, largely right.  It would be unethical to put forth artistic work that cheapens, trivializes or profits from the Shoah, but I don’t believe that this production does.   It certainly doesn’t suggest that music saved the day, nor that Terezín/Theresienstadt was anything like the retirement resort that the Nazis sold it as to unsuspecting Jews who unwittingly paid for their train tickets.  It is very clear that the treatment of the inmates there was as sadistic and cruel as in other camps, but that being permitted artistic outlets through music and performance allowed them to hold on to an aspect of their humanity that hadn’t be stripped away.  And, according to some of the survivors who contributed to the project, that bit of time they spent in rehearsal and performance helped many of them to carry on.

I feel honored to participate in the sharing of their story.

Defiant Requiem, 3/9/15

Defiant Requiem graphic 450px

Please read this excellent post on the Defiant Requiem from Janet Pascal, my colleague from the Collegiate Chorale.  The Defiant Requiem presents Verdi’s Requiem in a way that honors the lives and courage of the chorus in the Terezín concentration camp led by Rafael Schächter; by doing so it allows today’s audience to contemplate the salvific power of music and art in a time marked by unbridled cruelty.  In Janet’s words:

…[The] Verdi Requiem is simply a magnificent and emotionally fulfilling work. All of us who sing in The Chorale know how singing such a masterpiece can fulfill a need that runs as deep as hunger or grief. And what we get from the music can only be a pale reflection of what it had to offer people in such extreme and desperate need. The pianist Edith Steiner-Kraus, who survived the camp, explained this to [Defiant Requiem conductor] Murry Sidlin in words that cannot be bettered: “We had returned to the source of the music—we were so far inside the genesis of the music that we were at Verdi’s table. . . .You’ll never understand, or get close, to what music truly meant to each of us as a sustaining power and as a way of using our skills to inspire—beyond criticism—beyond any superficial evaluation—we were music.”

The performance will be on Monday, March 9th, at the Lincoln Center (Avery Fisher Hall).  Tickets are still available.


*The image belongs to the Defiant Requiem Foundation.