|DARKNESS AND LIGHT - vol.
Robert STERN (b.1934)
Hazkarah (1998) [10.52]
Tom MYRON (b.1959)
Käthe Kollwitz (1998) [29.12]
Lukas FOSS (b.1922)
Anne Frank - a tone poem about her life and death (1998)
Karl WEIGL (1881-1949)
Piano Trio (1939) [22.16]
Steven Honigberg (cello) all
Carol Honigberg (piano) Stern
Kathryn Brake (piano) Foss
Joseph Holt (piano) Weigl
George Marsh (violin) Weigl; Myron
Patricia Green (sop) Myron
Glenn Donnellan (violin) Myron
Tsuna Sakamoto (viola) Myron
rec Mar-Apr 2000, St Lukes Church, McLean, VA.
ALBANY RECORDS TROY437
Steven Honigberg's name is not unfamiliar to me. Last year he sent me another
Albany CD for review. This was an outstanding Korngold chamber music collection.
Since then there have been seven other Albany discs. Amongst them is a mother-son
project - the complete works of Beethoven for cello and piano (TROY 268/269).
Honigberg is a member of the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington. He
is Director of the Chamber Music Series at the United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum. This last connection explains the three volumes of the Darkness
and Light series which features music by composers in exile from Hitler,
by those who died in the camps or works written about the Second World War
and the Holcaust. Honigberg's Korngold and Toch recitals are similarly connected.
Darkness and Light No. 3 offers three works written in the 1990s and
one written by Karl Weigl in 1939 in New York fresh from his flight from
Honigberg has a knack for choosing winners or being chosen by them. Robert
Stern, who smiles out affably from the booklet photo has Eastman
credentials. His Yam Hamelach (The Dead Sea), an orchestral
piece, won the second prize in Trieste in 1979. His vocal music has been
played at the Holocaust Museum which presumably is where he and Honigsberg
met. His Hazkarah was prompted by reading Ruth Bondy's Elder of
the Jews and her bleakly unflinching verdict on the six million. Bondy
does not allow herself, or us, the luxury of saying that they died for freedom
or for a Jewish State; 'they died because they were not allowed to live'.
Stern writes with frictionless emotion - perfect communication. Hazkarah
is hoarse, emotional protesting, gripping - writing that challenges the
comfort of the armchair listener. The passion of the writing and the performance
links this work with Bloch's Schelomo (though it is superior in invention
to the Bloch work), with the Kodaly unaccompanied Sonata (in fact Honigsberg
recalls Starker's tone), and with Arnold Bax's much underestimated Rhapsodic
Tom Myron began writing music in his early teens and has studied with
Maw and Reich. Käthe Kollwitz refers to the German artist whose
etchings, woodcuts and lithographs make such a spare and unnerving impact.
The words are by Muriel Rukeyser whose five part poem makes up the five songs
of this cycle for soprano and string quartet. This music has the air of a
work either knowingly or unconsciously written for dramatic soprano and full
orchestra. It is dramatic stuff with lyrical moments of refuge from turmoil
- hectic with activity. Barber's Knoxville comes to mind occasionally. In
The Process Myron's reserves of lyricism are gloriously breached.
The World Split Open is declamatory, delivered with cantorial tension
and intensity. It is as well that the full sung texts are provided as it
is not consistently easy to make out what Patricia Green is singing.
Lukas Foss is likely to be a name well known to many. His Anne
Frank piece is tougher than the Myron or Stern. The rhapsodic course
of this poem proceeds through skipping throat-sore songs of childhood, through
images of waters stirred, via a lyric slowed impulse to bell and funeral
taps effects (5.08), to the Horst Wessel song and a recollection of playful
childhood songs hinting at Anne's death. This is a work likely to repay further
The Weigl is in three movements, two allegros and an
andante. The first dives in with no polite preliminaries, loud with
struggle and stress. It is densely active - possibly too much for its own
good as it needs room to breathe. The music has a Brahmsian sense of struggle
and achievement. This is masterly carried off and the work is very far from
negligible though its density tells against it when compared with the clarity
of the Weigl string quartets. The andante is Bachian and song-like.
This again is very Brahmsian with a flicker of grand Hungarian days. The
rustic rush of the finale imparts yet more Hungarian colour (e.g. 1.23 of
track 10). For me the lovely warm Viennese melody at 3.31 evokes high stepping
horses and landaus - days gone by for the struggling Weigl still trying to
find his feet in a strange land.
A daringly planned well recorded disc showing that the world of insightful
and adventurous composers, artists and record producers has vigour yet and
the power to delight and to shake complacency.
As the composer's grandson, I am particularly pleased that Steven Honigberg
included the Weigl Trio on this CD. With my family, I was able to attend
a performance of this piece a year ago as part of the Holocaust Museum's
chamber music series, and it made a lasting impression on all who attended,
especially my own young daughter who is an aspiring violinist. On these Darkness
& Light recordings, the beautifully performed music provides a continuing
remembrance of those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
Two of the many Weigl music projects currently underway are a recording of
his 5th Symphony on BIS, with Thomas Sanderling conducting the Berlin Radio
Orchestra; and a national radio broadcast on November 29, 2001 of a concert
of Weigl music with violinist Philippe Graffin, pianist Pascal Godart, and
soprano Evelyn Chih-Yih Chan plus Michael Haas as program moderator. I welcome
any inquiries about these or other Weigl music events and recordings:
Karl C Weigl
OTHER STEVEN HONIGBERG CDs:-
Darkness and Light Vol. 1 - Albany TROY 157
Ben-Haim, Starer; Berlinski; Perle; Vainberg
Darkness and Light Vol. 2 - Albany TROY 229
Koffler, Laks, Diamond, Mesiaen, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ben-Haim
American Album - Albany TROY 082
Foss, Diamond, Bernstein, Schuller, Barber
Ernst Toch complete cello works - Albany TROY 421
Erich Wolfgang Korngold chamber music - Albany