Listening Notes:

Four of my symphonies (Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh) have been philosophical/religious in tone, in the sense of continuing in the tradition of Mahler’s conception that a symphony represents the world (or is a world unto itself). The most elaborate of these is my Fifth Symphony. This work recreates the essentials of the Jewish faith in musical terms, from the void to the present.

Taken together, these four symphonies sum up my personal quest for my spiritual relationship to the religion into which I was born - hence the subtitle “Odyssey of Faith”.

Symphony No. 5 [Odyssey of Faith] is a hybrid – actually a symphony-oratorio, and is in three large sections: Part One: Genesis of Faith; Part Two: Loss of the Sacred Spirit (Abandonment) and Part Three: Redemption.

The climax of Part Two is “Music of Another World”, heard as a soundclip. I appropriated this descriptive title from a book written by the Jewish Kapellmeister of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. His task was to arrange and conduct music for the entertainment of the Nazi camp commanders. Theresienstadt was the camp reserved for artists and musicians, and was on display by the Nazis as a model of its kind. The Red Cross was invited to inspect the facility, and on the surface, the prisoners were better cared-for than in other camps in the system. Nevertheless, most of the inmates were dead by 1945. In reading the book, I discovered that the typical instrumentation of the camp orchestra (which would include instruments brought into the camp by the inmates) would be: violin, mandolin, clarinet, saxophone, accordion and some drums and cymbals. The Kapellmeister (conductor/music director) would arrange Schubert marches and similar light fare for this folk ensemble. In my work, I wanted to paint a picture of what this might be like, and so I made my own arrangement of a Schubert march for this band. I have this “stage band” play against the full orchestra, which distorts and deconstructs this little march until it is unrecognizable. The march, in my arrangement, is transmogrified into folk klezmer style, and becomes a symbol of artistic expression and survival in the face of brutality. When the music is destroyed, nothing remains of it except the fragment of its march rhythm, played on a snare drum, fading away underneath a lamentoso violin solo.

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