Rest eternal

by Roger Wilson / 22 November, 2008
An emotionally charged Holocaust Requiem

November 9 was the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the violent pogrom that ignited the systematic eradication of European Jews. November 11 was Armistice Day, marking the cessation of hostilities in World War I. It was an excellent idea for the Vector Wellington Orchestra under Marc Taddei, along with the Wellington Holocaust Research and Education Centre, to commemorate these events with two very different requiems.

Israeli composer Boris Pigovat's Holocaust Requiem was written in honour of his grandparents, who were among the 100,000 or more slaughtered at Babi Yar near Kiev in 1941, the worst single massacre of Jews. His initial intention - to create a choral work, a Jewish lamentation with the shape of the Christian requiem mass - became instead what he calls "a tragic orchestral piece in the form of a concert-symphony for viola and orchestra".

There is no text, but the contours of the requiem's Latin words are clearly discernible in various instrumental solos. It is a work of great intensity and vividly straightforward in its graphic depiction of ghastly events: gunshots, breaking glass, the tumbling of bodies into the Babi Yar ravine, falling tears.

There are plenty of thunderous percussion and aggressive brass, screeching discords of horror and a diabolical danse macabre, but the work is at its most haunting when only a few instruments are playing together. And throughout can be heard the plangent keening of the solo viola, part of huge virtuosity magnificently played by Donald Maurice, who knew how to exploit the instrument's full tonal palette.

Unsurprisingly, the Holocaust Requiem has a nod or two at Shostakovich's 13th Symphony, also on the theme of the Babi Yar murders, while the solo string writing owes something to Bloch as well as traditional klezmer music.

But Pigovat, who was present at this month's concert, has gathered all this together into something quite original and deeply felt, with all the immediacy of a brilliant film score but with no need for pictures. The quiet serenity of the ending, drifting along with viola and celeste, was extraordinarily moving: peace after violence and the hope of better things for humanity.

Such an emotionally charged work as Pigovat's would be a hard act to follow, but it proved a hard one to precede also. Brahms' Deutsches Requiem, an essentially secular work offering comfort to the living as much as grief for the dead, might have worked as a foil, a gesture of reconciliation and German atonement for Nazi atrocities. The Orpheus Choir, with soloists Jenny Wollerman and Jared Holt, joined the VWO for the first half, but it seemed most available energy was saved for the second. The mighty Requiem is not an easy work to bring off, and this performance was oddly unengaging.

CONCERT OF REMEMBRANCE, Vector Wellington Orchestra, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, November 9.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Sunday ride: An Aucklander shares one of her favourite bike rides
71797 2017-04-30 00:00:00Z Urbanism

Sunday ride: An Aucklander shares one of her favou…

by Paperboy

Olivia Lynch, partnerships and events manager for Bike Auckland, recommends a weekend cycling excursion.

Read more
Donna Chisholm: Defending David Dougherty
Teeks: The soul singer whose voice will give you goosebumps
71775 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Music

Teeks: The soul singer whose voice will give you g…

by Lydia Jenkin

Growing up immersed in waiata (and the sounds of Bob Marley and Elvis Presley), soul singer Teeks has a voice that gives people shivers.

Read more
Book review: Human Acts by Han Kang
Port in a storm: How long will it take to rebuild Wellington's quake-hit docks?
71836 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Business

Port in a storm: How long will it take to rebuild …

by Tina Morrison

Wellington’s CentrePort’s “marathon” quake rebuild is led by a chief executive who has lived through the experience before.

Read more
Hardcore exercise could be harming your sex drive
71590 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Health

Hardcore exercise could be harming your sex drive

by Nicky Pellegrino

According to new research, pushing your exercising to the limits can have dire consequences for health, libido and fertility.

Read more
The power of an electric cargo bike in Auckland
71804 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Urbanism

The power of an electric cargo bike in Auckland

by Paperboy

"It’s a way back to the freedom of youth, when kicking around on a bike with friends was one of life’s great joys."

Read more
Politicians aren’t talking to us this election year, but to Winston Peters
71902 2017-04-28 14:08:09Z Politics

Politicians aren’t talking to us this election yea…

by Jane Clifton

We don't want any David Cunliffe cod-bogan attempts to get down with the peeps, but MPs seem to be going way too far in the other direction this year.

Read more