Today is the Holocaust Memorial Day, dedicated to the remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust. The chosen date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Army in 1945.

“Holocaust Memorial Day is the international day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust and of other genocides. On it, we commemorate victims, honour survivors and commit to tackling prejudice, discrimination and racism in the present day. We encourage nations to conquer genocide and atrocity and individuals to stand up against hatred.” (from: http://www.hmd.org.uk/about/)

This is an opportunity to show our respect for the survivors of Nazi persecution and mass murder, and to listen to what they can tell us about the best and the worst of human behaviour.

So here´s an album with “Jüdische Chronik” (“A Jewish Chronicle”) and “Aus jüdischer Volkspoesie” (“From Jewish Folk Poetry”).

In 1960, at the invitation of Paul Dessau, composers from both parts of Germany got together to write a joint work, “A Jewish Chronicle”. This was in response to the wave of activity by anti-semitic and neo-nazi groups which had begun in West Germany on Christmas Eve 1959.

The song cycle “From Jewish Folk Poetry” for soloists and piano, Op. 79, by Soviet composer Dmitry Schostakowitsch is one of the central works of his compositional career. While the cycle has not attained the international celebrity of his superbly crafted and tragically ironic Symphony No. 1, or his artist-as-political-martyr heroism of the Symphony No. 5, or his “is-he-or-isn’t-he a dissident” ambiguity of the String Quartet No. 8, From Jewish Folk Poetry is a deep and heartrending work. He wrote From Jewish Folk Poetry in 1948, 20 years after his first condemnation by the Communist government and only a few months after having been condemned a second time. In 1948, Shostakovich not only knew the horrors of Stalin, but the horrors of Nazism: He knew of the Holocaust’s Final Solution for European Jewry and he knew that Stalin had conceived a similar Final Solution for Russia’s Jews. Thus, Shostakovich’s identification with the suffering of the Jews was total, and this song cycle is the product of his identification.

Set in the Jewish folk idiom that Schostakowitsch had first made use of in his “Piano Trio No. 2” (1944), the songs’ tunes are immediately memorable, their rhythms infectious, and the harmonies both sweet and sour. Needless to say, “From Jewish Folk Poetry” was not performed in public during Stalin’s lifetime, but only in private for close friends of the composer. The first public performance took place on January 15, 1955.

Jüdische Chronik – Aus jüdischer Volkspoesie (Eterna, 1968)
(192 kbps)

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