SUNDAY AFTERNOONS OF MUSIC
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE CONCERT
MISHA VITENSON/MICHAEL KLOTZ/ALON GOLDSTEIN/
By Lawrence Budmen
Transcendent music making by a group of stellar musicians infused Sunday Afternoons of Music's Holocaust Remembrance Concert on May 31 with that unique vital intensity that spells "from the heart." Rather than a somber, elegiac memorial to the victims of man's greatest inhumanity to man, these superb artists presented a joyous tribute to the inextinguishable flame of creativity that refused to die, even under the most horrible of circumstances.
In the clear, transparent acoustics of the UM Frost School of Music's Gusman Concert Hall, the brilliant virtuosic, solo caliber violin artistry of Misha Vitenson and large vibrant tone of violist Michael Klotz (both members of the Amernet String Quartet) ignited some of the finest chamber music performances of the season. They were joined by two outstanding Israeli musicians. Alon Goldstein produced fiery pianism of the most combustible variety. Cellist Amit Peled's patrician fluency and dark core of deep, mellow tone marked this young musician as an artist of exalted gifts.
Vitenson, Klotz, Peled and Goldstein opened the program with Gustav Mahler's early Piano Quartet in A minor, the composer's only extant chamber music score. Tragically romantic in tone, this beautiful work is imbued with the influences of Brahms and Schumann, masters of the 19th century chamber literature. The artists' intense performance and finely honed, perfectly dovetailed playing was exemplary in every respect.
The String Trio (1944) by Gideon Klein (1919-1945) was one of the last works by the Czech composer who was murdered at Auschwitz after being interned in Theresienstadt, the phony artists' camp established by the Nazis to deflect world attention from their atrocities. (Dr. Joel Galand, a musicologist at Florida International University, described how Theresienstadt was used as the basis of an infamous Nazi propaganda film.) Reminiscent of Bartok in its use of folk and indigenous elements, the score's visceral astringency and harmonic richness reveals Klein's visionary original voice, tragically stilled. (In the second movement, a series of variations on a Moravian folk tune expansively synthesize the stylistic cross currents of the era.) The flawless playing of Vitenson, Klotz and Peled was a joy to hear.
The tremendously gifted Peled took solo honors in the Hassidic Suite by Israeli immigrant Joseph Stutschewsky with Goldstein providing sparkling support. This irresistible, toe-tapping piece was brought to life with magical idiomatic fluidity and throbbing verve by this exceptional cello virtuoso.
The Duo for Violin and Cello (1925) by the brilliantly original Erwin Schulhoff (1894-19420), who died of tuberculosis in a concentration camp, is an austere, heartfelt work that ranges from the gypsy incisiveness of an opening Zingaresca to a moving, impassioned final Andante. Vitenson and Klotz exhibited awesome technical command, instrumental dexterity and perfect ensemble in a radiant performance.
Goldstein ignited incendiary pianistic bravura in Brahms' Piano Quartet in G minor, Op.25. In six decades of concert going, this writer has never heard a finer performance of this repertoire staple. The four players produced musical "white heat," infusing every bar with bracing passion and fearless power. From the serene glow of the opening bars to the spacious grandeur of the Andante con moto to the taut, wild flourishes of the concluding Rondo alla Zingarese, this was a performance to remember. Goldstein's hands glided across the keyboard in a visual blur, producing dynamic propulsion and sensitive lyricism in equal measure. The mellow string collaboration of Vitenson, Klotz and Peled gave equal weight to the score's lightning proclamations and soaring lyricism.
For violist Michael Klotz, this memorable concert had deeply personal resonances. Klotz's grandparents were Holocaust survivors. In remembering the millions of victims of the Third Reich, Klotz and his colleagues gave a moving tribute to the healing power of music and the glory of creative genius.