The composer Franz Schreker, portrait by Danny Schwartz, used courtesy of Syracuse University.
The work and lives of such Jewish composers as the Austrians Alexander Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker and the Czechs Erwin Schulhoff and Gideon Klein were brutally interrupted by the Holocaust of World War II. But last Saturday night even bone-shattering cold of a sort we don't see here often could not stop a capacity crowd from filling Syracuse University's Schine Center for the free concert "Recovered Voices" for a narrated performance of theirs and others' works by the Syracuse Symphony and the university's Oratorio Society. This included Schulhoff's "Symphony No. 2," "Trio" by Gideon Klein, Zemlinsky's "Ballet Pieces," and Schreker's "Schwanensang," Opus 11 (based on Dora Lee's poem). Additionally, the concert opened with Maurice Ravel's "Kaddish" from "Duex Melodies Hebraiques," which he wrote in 1914, and also included post-Holocaust works, Elwood Derr's "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" (a song accompanied by saxophone and piano, based on the youth Pavel Friedman's poem), and Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory's arrangement of the traditional "Ani Ma'amin/I Believe." Schulhoff and Klein both died in Nazi concentration camps, Zemlinsky fled to the US in 1938, and the work of Schreker, who died in 1934, was mocked as "degenerate" and banned by the Nazis.
Syracuse International Film Festival provided a video accompaniment to the concert drawn from a variety of sources including footage of concentration camps, children's response to the Holocaust in drawings, survivor interviews and SYRFILM director Owen Shapiro's documentary film "Prisoners of Freedom," about the refugee camp opened to European Jews fleeing the Holocaust in northern New York at Oswego. Large, specially commissioned portraits of the program's composers by SU student Danny Schwartz graced the lobby.
Part of the Regional Holocaust and Genocide Initiative, a Chancellor's leadership project, the multi-sponsored event here was also supported by SU alum Marilyn Ziering, philanthropist and board member of the Los Angeles Opera, and the recently formed Orel Foundation, which has also carried forward the Recovered Voices project begun several years ago by the Los Angeles Opera's music director, James Conlon, to make works suppressed by the Nazis available to US audiences. Ziering made the initial gift for the Recovered Voices project in Los Angeles in 2006 of $3.25 million, raising another $750,000 from family and friends.