This is a timely issue
as the world commemorates the 60th
anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
This is a work I found both beautiful
and dignified, and, though the word
may seem inappropriate, exciting, for
it is extremely powerful with a momentum
that is evident right from the start.
Stale Kleiberg has succeeded in writing
a piece that is a fitting tribute to
the victims of the Holocaust; a piece
that holds its head up high, without
any over-sentimentalising of events
which were so unspeakable they need
nothing but a truthful telling.
The work is divided
into three principal sections representing
Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals to stand
for all who suffered Nazi persecution.
The soloists detail how these groups
were singled out for annihilation. These
sections are framed by and interspersed
with several of the recognised mainstays
of requiems: Requiem Aeternam, Dies
Irae, Kyrie and Agnus Dei, plus Psalm
13, Libera Me and In Paradisum. In doing
this Kleiberg has followed in the musical
footsteps of Britten whose "War
Requiem" was composed to be performed
at the newly completed Coventry Cathedral
in 1960, after its medieval predecessor
was destroyed in the German air raid
of November 1940. For that work Britten
selected poems by the First World War
poet Wilfred Owen to point up his Requiem’s
assertion that war is the signal failure
of societies and governments to resolve
differences without resorting to self-destruction.
Kleiberg, in his turn, has used modern
poetry in a similar way to highlight
this same terrible truth. He commissioned
Edwin Morgan, the Glasgow poet Laureate,
who himself fought in the Second World
War, to write three poems, each representing
a group as mentioned above. And mighty
powerful poems they are too as the following
extract from the 3rd movement
"The Yellow Triangle: Jews"
"…From the shattered shops of the
To the shattered bodies of the camps
Was a small step. From the shattered
To the final solution was a small step.
We entered by the gate of fear.
We exited without hope, as smoke.
The chimneys pointed at the sky
In silence, unaccusing, unaccused..."
Powerful, direct and
brutal in the graphic stories they tell,
the words of the poems are cradled by
some equally powerful music. The second
movement, Dies Irae, reminded me very
much of Orff’s "Carmina Burana"
inasmuch as it is earthy and musically
very strong. All the music is extremely
effective in putting over the horror
and poignancy of the events and is well
played and sung by a clearly devoted
band and choirs. This is a work that
deserves to be heard and it would be
wonderful if it were programmed into
this the 2005 Proms season. I thoroughly
and unreservedly recommend that you
listen to it.