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CMF Director Michael Christie plans to continue performing works by Jewish composers impacted by anti-Semitism.

Colorado Music Festival Pays Tribute to Jewish Composers

Kurt Gerron

Michael Christie’s interest in “Rediscovered Masters” began with Felix Mendelssohn, and the discovery that this musical giant had suffered a long period of denigration due to anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A little research on the internet led Christie to the realization that many musical artists had similarly suffered because they were Jewish. The Colorado Music Festival Director’s growing fascination led him to a treasure trove of music by Jewish composers who were persecuted and whose work was suppressed. Some died in the Holocaust and some survived the Holocaust. Others simply never achieved recognition. There are works that have never been published, never mind performed.

Christie explained his desire to resurrect such lost or under-appreciated music at a private reception prior to the “Rediscovered Masters” concert July 8 at Chautauqua. The concert featured Soprano Jessica Rivera, and performances of works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Mieczyslaw Weinberg and Henryk Gorecki.

 For those who missed the two “Rediscovered Masters” concerts, there’s good news. Christie announced that he plans to continue his presentation of material by rediscovered masters next year.

And on Wednesday, July 27 at Rembrandt Yard, the CMF chamber music series concludes with “Different Trains,” its title taken from Steve Reich’s Grammy-winning piece. Reich rode a train across the US during WW II and realized that as a Jew, had he lived in Europe, his train rides would have been dramatically different. His composition for string quartet and tape is in three movements: America Before the War, Europe During the War, and After the War. Tickets are $22 and include wine, dessert and a chance to meet the musicians.

As Christie looks ahead to next summer’s season, one of the ideas he’s considering is a performance of “Brundibar,” the children’s opera performed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. There was such strong interest following the announcement that the CMF is meeting with local organizations such as the Boulder JCC to explore the possibilities.

Brundibar children's opera

Brundibar” was written by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása who was deported to Theresienstadt, where a special performance of “Brundibar” was staged in 1944 for representatives of the Red Cross who came to inspect living conditions in the camp and were deliberately misled by what they saw. Later that year this “Brundibar” performance was included in the Nazi propaganda film directed under duress by famed German Jewish actor and director Kurt Gerron.

All of the participants in the Theresienstadt production were herded into cattle trucks and sent to Auschwitz  as soon as filming was finished. Most were gassed immediately upon arrival including the children, the composer Krása, director Gerron, and the musicians.

The Boulder JCC will present a documentary about Gerron, “Prisoner of Paradise,” on Thursday October 6, 2011 at noon as part of Movers’ “Art and Conscience” series.

In 2003 the opera was adapted into a picture book by Tony Kushner with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, who later designed the sets for a staged version of the opera.

For tickets to the Colorado Music Festival, visit coloradomusicfest.org.

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn Bernheimer
Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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