Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

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lennygoran
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Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

Post by lennygoran » Mon Jun 22, 2020 8:17 am

I remember seeing a 2 segment clip about this on 60 minutes:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/holocaust- ... 019-12-15/

Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

With the help of the Italian government, and others, a musician is working to build a home for an archive of works composed in Nazi concentration camps.

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By Milton Esterow

June 21, 2020

For months, Francesco Lotoro was forced to stay in his home, quarantined by a virus that ravaged his country, Italy, and slowed a project he has been working on since 2014. His dream is to build a study center to house an archive of concentration camp music from World War II, a trove he has been collecting for 30 years.

Now he is back at work, raising money and reviewing plans for what he calls a citadel, one to be built in Barletta, a city in southeastern Italy by the Adriatic Sea where he lives and was born 55 years ago.

“The main hurdles are raising the money and developing an international campaign to get it,” he said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Lotoro, a composer and pianist, and his wife, Grazia, have collected and cataloged symphonies, operas, scores and songs that were composed and performed under conditions so horrible one imagines that music would have lost its ability to encourage and to soothe.

But to review Mr. Lotoro’s archive, 8,000 items collected in trips around the world, is to understand how wrong it is to underestimate the power of song. Survivors saved the music, which in small ways saved them, and they or their families eventually found Mr. Lotoro in their homes, peering at a score, humming along.


It was on such a visit in Prague in 1990 that Mr. Lotoro discovered a five-act, fairy tale opera, “Three Hairs of the Wise Old Man,” by the Czech composer Rudolf Karel during a visit with the composer’s son. Mr. Karel had died at Terezin, a camp 40 miles north of Prague that was disguised as a model Jewish community but actually was a place where the Nazis held prisoners before sending them off to death camps.

“He wrote with a pencil and medicinal charcoal on sheets of toilet paper which were smuggled out of the camp,” Mr. Lotoro said.

The passion to research and preserve the musical history of the Holocaust has only grown in recent years. Music was a buoy for those who played it and those who listened to it in the grim confines of places like Auschwitz where the prisoner band — often nine violins, two clarinets, two saxophones, a cello, trombone, tuba and string bass — performed at Sunday concerts for the SS officers and visiting dignitaries.


“Music was a constant and crucial component of the everyday life in the Nazi-run camps,” said Guido Fackler, a professor of museology at the University of Wurzburg, Germany, and an expert on concentration camp music.

“The music played, first and foremost, as directed by the SS, often while inmates marched to and from forced labor,” Mr. Fackler said. “It was an element of the SS strategy of physical and psychological destruction.”

This music, which Mr. Fackler calls command music, often left a bitter taste with the musicians who played it.

“However,” he said, “when prisoners played music on their own initiative, unlike the command music, the music generally gave them consolation, support and confidence. It reminded them of their earlier lives.”

In May, an ensemble from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance had been scheduled to perform a program of music from Auschwitz in New York at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, but the program had to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Adjoining the work to resurface and perform music made in the concentration camps are efforts to revisit music banned by the Nazis as “degenerate,” much of which — though far from all — was composed by Jews.

In 2017, exil.arte, an organization at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, was created to recover and study the banned music. It has acquired the estates of 20 composers, mainly of classical music, and arranges performances, issues recordings and publishes books.

“Some composers who were banned are making their way into the mainstream of classical music,” Michael Haas, its co-founder, said.

James Conlon is also arranging performances of this music under the auspices of the Orel Foundation, an organization he co-founded that seeks to build appreciation of the once-suppressed music. He conducts this music with symphony orchestras in many countries.

Also expanding is the hunt for musical instruments, books about music and original or printed scores stolen by the Nazis. A nonprofit organization, Looted Music (Musique et Spoliations) was founded in Paris in 2017 to research and recover stolen music objects.

“Publications and conferences are taking place,” said Carla Shapreau, senior fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on looted music material. “Historical records with evidence of looting are being scanned for the first time and made available on the internet in many countries and in many languages.”

And there are others who have joined Mr. Lotoro in the quest to bring the music made in concentration camps back to life. In Boston, the Terezin Music Foundation, founded by Mark Ludwig, a former member of the Boston Symphony, sponsors concerts throughout the United States and Europe, focusing on music from Terezin. Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax are on its advisory board.

But Mr. Lotoro’s vision is perhaps the most ambitious. His citadel — known formally as the Istituto di Letteratura Musicale Concentrazionaria — is to include a museum, a library and a theater at a cost of roughly $45 million.

The city, which is home to a Norman castle, a statue of a Roman emperor known as The Colossus, and some 95,000 people, has donated the two-acre site of an abandoned brandy distillery. The Italian government has provided $5 million in funds and Mr. Lotoro said he was hopeful of receiving as much as $36 million more from the government by the end of the year. This would leave him with a gap of several million dollars to close through fund-raising.

“There are a lot of people who want to help us in the United States and Canada and other countries, and I have to meet them,” he said. “We are preparing a video on the citadel to show them.”

The city is also providing an additional $2.7 million for the construction of a 30-room hotel nearby for students, scholars and others to study the music.

“I want this project very strongly,” Barletta’s mayor, Cosimo Cannito, said in a telephone interview. “It will be a symbol to remember the cruel part of history and that it should not be repeated.”

Mr. Lotoro said he first read about the music that had been written in the camps in 1988.

“I am a musician and I felt the music should be heard,” he said. “I started to do research but I had no focus. And then it became a mission — to give back life to the music, not for me, but for everybody.”


When he started interviewing Holocaust survivors, he said, he looked for music composed by Jews in Nazi concentration camps. But he later expanded it to include political or other religious prisoners in many countries and music created by musicians “of any national, social or religious background.”

Some years ago, Mr. Lotoro created K2Musik, a series of recordings consisting of songs, chamber music and other works composed in Nazi camps between 1933 and 1945.

Mr. Lotoro and his wife converted to Judaism in 2004. “My grandfather’s grandfather was Jewish and converted to Christianity because to be a Jew was difficult at the time in Barletta,” he said.

Though he has preserved the music of a particular space and time because of the power of its history, Mr. Lotoro said that he felt the time will come when the music will be judged on its own merits.

“The music written in camps is defined as concentrationary music,” he said “for the sole purposes of intellectual and geographical research. But one day it shall be called just music; mediocre, good, great as music in general.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/arts ... camps.html

maestrob
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Re: Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

Post by maestrob » Mon Jun 22, 2020 10:53 am

I remember that 60 minutes profile very well. A remarkable project. James Conlon has made a very serious effort to perform "forbidden" music during his career. This project is vital to our understanding of the Holocaust, and of the history of music in general. So much great talent was suppressed and destroyed by the Nazis in their camps, and we must bring out what has been preserved of their creations.

Modernistfan
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Re: Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

Post by Modernistfan » Mon Jun 22, 2020 11:49 am

This is an extremely important project. Unfortunately, there seems to be an increasing reluctance to engage with the musical issues surrounding World War II and the Holocaust, as well as the repression of culture in countries such as the Soviet Union. Regarding the latter, I have been reading about Alexander Veprik, a Jewish composer originally from Ukraine, who was an important composer in the Soviet Union whose works were fairly widely played in Europe by major ensembles who then ran afoul of the Stalinist government and was sent to the gulag. A recording of some of his orchestral music was recently released on the MD&G label, and I need to get this recording.

James Conlon has been a major voice speaking out about these issues and performing some of this music. Some years ago, KUSC used to have a substantial program around Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) on which Conlon appeared and much of this music was played, not all of it, as stated, by Jewish composers (Martinu's "Memorial to Lidice" was one of the works on that program.) The program was gradually cut down and KUSC no longer acknowledges Yom HaShoah or plays any music related to it (I have made several requests to have the Martinu work played on that date, to no avail). Similarly, KUSC completely avoids playing music composed by the Czech composers who died in concentration camps (Pavel Haas, Ervin Schulhoff, Gideon Klein, Hans Krasa, Viktor Ullmann, and others) as well as music composed by the Russian (originally Polish) Jewish composer Moisei Weinberg, who lost nearly all of his family in the Holocaust and then was imprisoned by the Stalinist Soviet government, and the Jewish-themed music written by Weinberg's colleague Shostakovich, much of which was an attempt to commemorate the Holocaust.

Lance
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Re: Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

Post by Lance » Mon Jun 22, 2020 1:32 pm

Having visited Auschwitz, it remains unbelievable to me today that such a place, as the other concentration camps, would have ever existed. Yet they did, and I saw it myself. Some people continue to say these places never existed. To actually go to see these evil places will leave an indelible impression upon your mind. Something like this can NEVER happen again.

In the meantime, I have acquired some works that were composed in concentration camps. Perhaps you know these:

a) Decca 460 211: Waxman: Song of Terezin; Zeist: Hebrew Requiem
b) DGG 477 6546: Music composed at Terezin and Thereisienstadt (violin/song pieces)

I have an ever-growing collection of books on the Holocaust. Several deal with music. I point these out because they are very well written and give proof of what was happening:

a) Alice's Piano: The Life of Alice Herz Sommer by Muller and Pierchoki
b) Alma Rosé: From Vienna to Auschwitz by Newman and Kirtley [couldn't put this down!]
c) Inherit the Truth by Lakser-Wallfisch
d) Playing for Time by Fania Fenelon (a movie exists as well) (couldn't put this down either)

If you know of other books discussing music in concentration camps, I would be interested in knowing what they are. A very special non-music book published in nearby Ithaca, New York is entitled The Dentist at Auschwitz: A Memoir by Benjamin Jacobs(Berek Jakubowicz). His story is incredible. All the SS and Hitler's men wanted HIS services because of the high quality of his work. He was given "special privileges" that are surprising.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Modernistfan
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Re: Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

Post by Modernistfan » Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:11 pm

Yes, it did exist. Unfortunately, too many people, including too many in the musical world, do not want to confront this reality. The present situation with coronavirus has seemingly driven many musical decision makers to avoid anything that might be unsettling; both the music and the extra-musical circumstances could readily be that (at least for some people). These decision makers want to soft-pedal everything, and that destroys the potential emotional power of our musical genre.

On another related matter, I just listened to the Third Symphony of the Estonian composer Mihkel Kerem, entitled "For the Victims of Communism." The idiom is similar to Shostakovich, acknowledged by the composer. Like the Shostakovich Eighth Symphony, when you have finished listening to the work it is as though you have been run over by a truck (presumably a Soviet-era GAZ model). This is on Toccata Classics.

barney
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Re: Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

Post by barney » Tue Jun 23, 2020 7:29 pm

Lance wrote:
Mon Jun 22, 2020 1:32 pm
Having visited Auschwitz, it remains unbelievable to me today that such a place, as the other concentration camps, would have ever existed. Yet they did, and I saw it myself. Some people continue to say these places never existed. To actually go to see these evil places will leave an indelible impression upon your mind. Something like this can NEVER happen again.

In the meantime, I have acquired some works that were composed in concentration camps. Perhaps you know these:

a) Decca 460 211: Waxman: Song of Terezin; Zeist: Hebrew Requiem
b) DGG 477 6546: Music composed at Terezin and Thereisienstadt (violin/song pieces)

I have an ever-growing collection of books on the Holocaust. Several deal with music. I point these out because they are very well written and give proof of what was happening:

a) Alice's Piano: The Life of Alice Herz Sommer by Muller and Pierchoki
b) Alma Rosé: From Vienna to Auschwitz by Newman and Kirtley [couldn't put this down!]
c) Inherit the Truth by Lakser-Wallfisch
d) Playing for Time by Fania Fenelon (a movie exists as well) (couldn't put this down either)

If you know of other books discussing music in concentration camps, I would be interested in knowing what they are. A very special non-music book published in nearby Ithaca, New York is entitled The Dentist at Auschwitz: A Memoir by Benjamin Jacobs(Berek Jakubowicz)
Thanks for pointing out these books, Lance. I will start googling to acquire them (certainly the ones you couldn't put down).
I went to Terezin last year; it was terribly moving.
I think we have spoken before about Decca's Entartete series from 20 years ago or more. I collected many of these, and am very grateful to have them. (If anyone doesn't know the term, the Nazis called Jewish and other contemporary composers' work entartete kunst, degenerate art.)

barney
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Re: Music From the Death Camps: Alive and Being Readied for a New Home

Post by barney » Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:17 pm

I've ordered the Alma Rose, Lance. Decided not to follow up with Playing for Time yet, as it is about the same event, the women's orchestra at Auschwitz. But it remains an option.

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