There is something wonderful about the internet for researching projects. When you hit upon a ‘golden’ selection of ‘key’ words that leads you to thousands of hits or, alternatively when some accidental ‘clicking’ takes you, not down some dark and horrible route, but instead by chance to something you had no idea you were even looking for.
I am currently researching what happened to the Jewish people in Hungary in the last months of World War 2. This is for a wonderful new play by Peter Lantos called ‘The Visitor’. My theatre company Epsilon Productions is presenting a rehearsed reading of it soon to an invited audience at The Park Theatre. In the play one of the characters Anna, a young Jewish musician, an accomplished pianist is robbed of a potentially promising career, and she mentions playing Schubert and Brahms. Whilst listening to some glorious renditions via youtube (see previous links) of Schuberts ‘Piano Sonata in A major’ and Brahms ‘Violin and Piano Sonata No.1’ I started to look for recordings of Hungarian music and anything linked to the Jewish tradition of music, including my own love for Klezmer, which is the musical tradition of Asknazi Jews of Eastern Europe. A few youtube clicks later and I happened upon this……
Dmitri Shostakovich was a soviet Russian composer and this piece of music (according to the youtube page) was “written in 1944, just after his Symphony No. 8, with which it shares its overall structure; it is a lamentation for both Shostakovich’s close friend, musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky, and the victims of the Holocaust, the news of which horror did not reach the U.S.S.R. until the liberation of the camps began; and it is his first work to employ a “Jewish theme,” a musical tribute that used the scales and rhythms of Jewish folk music as Shostakovich knew it. ”
Listening to the full piece is an emotional roller-coaster of a journey. It is agonising in its beauty – even if i knew nothing about the musical traditions set within its score I can feel the pain and torment and suffering that a friend wanted to express for another. It is a study of a different musical culture and yet so personal at the same time. I hope you listen to it and to the other pieces I have mentioned that create the musical score or heart of Peter’s play, at least they do for me.
Equally if you’re interested in modern Klezmer, check out The Matzoh Boys – a great group who played at my wedding – well they could do the Klezmer version of Inspector Gadget!