Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy:
Psalm 42 As the hart pants, op. 42
Psalm 95 Come, let us pray, op. 46
Leonard Bernstein: 3rd Symphony Kaddish
Friday, 9 November 2018 at 8:00 p.m. | Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt
Pre-concert lecture (in the German language) with Dr. Gerd Belkius at 7:00 p.m.
Dr. Franziska Giffey, Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
Michael Müller, Governing Mayor of Berlin
On the night of November 9th and in the early morning hours of November 10th, 1938, synagogues in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were set on fire and destroyed. Jewish homes, shops, offices, and other facilities were attacked in a wave of destruction and devastation culminating in the mistreatment, arrest, deaths, and deportation to concentration camps of thousands of German Jews. Thus began the systematic annihilation that we know today as the Holocaust. The pogrom was followed by discriminatory decrees, the Aryanisation of Jewish property, the dissolution of most Jewish institutions, and a ban on the Jewish press. Many, provided they had the means, were impelled to emigrate.
The Berlin Concert Choir commemorates the 80th anniversary of these dark days. We raise our voices in memory of this terrible event as a sign that such crimes shall never be forgotten and should never be repeated. For this concert we have chosen works by two composers of Jewish descent that directly touch on the Judeo-Christian faiths and the personal relationship to God.
The American composer Leonard Bernstein (whose 100th birthday we celebrate this year) was the son of Ukrainian Jewish parents. In his Third Symphony he incorporates the Kaddish, the hymn of praise to God used in prayer services and as a part of the mourning and funeral rituals of the Jewish faith.
Felix Mendelssohn was the son of a prominent Jewish banking family in Hamburg. As a child, he and his siblings, later followed by his parents, converted to the Christian faith. This was a step the family deemed necessary in order to fully assume a respected place in society; such a crossover, as Heinrich Heine put it, was the “ticket of admittance into the European culture”. Mendelssohn fervently embraced his new faith and as a composer devoted much effort to enriching the Christian liturgical music. He created a wealth of important works, including (along with his oratorios and choral symphonies) five settings from the Book of Psalms that are deserving of greater attention. The music is set to Martin Luther’s German translation of the Old Testament. The collection of hymns, prayers and poems that comprise the Book of Psalms are still today an important part of worship in both the Jewish and Christian faiths.
In the end, Mendelssohn’s acceptance of the Christian faith failed him. The National Socialists considered him to be a Jew; performance or publication of his work was banned. Mendelssohn and his music were so thoroughly excised from our musical culture that he virtually disappeared. Until recently, his musical contributions to the church also remained largely forgotten. This concert is our own small contribution on behalf of the two psalm cantatas and toward redemption of the historical debt owed to their remarkable composer.
“Because this is where I wish to live...”
With this concert, the Berlin Concert Choir is pleased to participate as a partner in the cultural events program of the Jewish Future Congress in Berlin (5th-11th November). For more information see: juedischer-zukunftskongress.org