The concert Forbidden Music Revealed, part of the Brott Summer Music Festival, will feature music that was banned by wartime dictators Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
The concert will be performed at Hamilton’s Adas Israel Synagogue on Aug. 15 by soprano Sharon Azrieli and pianist Shoshana Telner. Misha Aster, author of The Reich’s Orchestra: the Berlin Philharmonic 1933-45 will narrate the script, sharing details on composers and musicians affected by the politics of Nazi Germany.
“This is an opportunity to hear repertoire that’s seldom performed,” said the Hamilton-born Aster on the phone from his home in Berlin. “In its context, the music comes across in a very accessible fashion.”
The program chosen by Aster and festival artistic director Boris Brott includes selections from Kurt Weill, Felix Mendelssohn, Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith, Alban Berg and songs from Rachmaninoff.
During the Nazi era, contemporary Jewish composers like Czech Erwin Schulhoff, a communist active in Berlin, were affected.
“Schulhoff was a great composer of the early 20th century. A friend of Weill, Stravinsky and Ravel, his music is remarkably original and a vivid reflection of that time. He had a tragic end as he died in a concentration camp,” said Aster, who moved to Berlin in 2006.
“The Czech composers, Pavel Haas and Viktor Ullmann also died in concentration camps. They were tied into the revolution taking place in classical music, which had to do with breaking down boundaries between musical genres.”
Other ground-breaking composers like Arnold Schoenberg left Germany because of Nazi restrictions.
“Schoenberg’s music represents different aspects of musical innovations, and for various reasons, was deemed suspect,” Aster said. “Weill – who was also of Jewish descent and whose music incorporated many influences from a variety of the musical traditions – he, like Schoenberg, emigrated.”
The Nazis also targeted the music of composers of the past, such as Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847).
“Most obviously and most curiously, Mendelssohn was persecuted. He was in no particular sense a professed Jew, but there have been all kinds of attempts to analyze his music and try to distil any kind of Jewish elements,” Aster said.
“Mendelssohn was extremely significant in the revival of earlier German musical forms, but on account of his grandfather, a theologian and philosopher leading the Reform Judaism Movement in Germany in the 18th century, his music was proscribed by the Nazis. Because of this paradox, we wanted to include his music in Hamilton on Aug. 15.”
The Brott concert program also includes five songs from Srul Irving Glick’s We are children just the same, a song cycle based on poems from Vedem, the underground magazine written by teenage boys in the Terezin concentration camp.
“Glick’s song cycle is a contemporary reflection on the fate of composers in Terezin – that’s what makes it so moving. There’s a strong empathetic connection between Glick’s music and the situation in which Ullmann, for example, had lived for almost four years,” Aster remarked.
“I hope people will be moved by the music and the artistic expression behind it, and go away feeling they’ve learned something,” he said.
A kosher traditional high tea will be served at intermission.
Sunday, Aug. 15, 3 p.m. at Adas Israel Synagogue, 125 Cline Ave. S., Hamilton. Tickets: www.brottmusic.com or 1-888-475-9377 or 905-525-SONG (7664). $40, $35 seniors & students.