Legend has it that Johann Sebastian Bach composed the Baroque masterpiece known as the "Goldberg Variations" for an insomniac ambassador to be played on sleepless nights by the diplomat's teenage harpsichordist, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756).
The clarinetist Andy Biskin had Bach's work in mind when he playfully named his latest composition "Goldberg's Variations." But the only person losing sleep in this case was the composer himself.
The CDs have been piling up on my desk in recent weeks. Happily, there are some real gems here, so clearing the desk is a pleasure. Hopefully, this will encourage you to grab some for yourself before the leaves turn. But get comfortable, because this will go on until the proverbial frost is on the proverbial pumpkin. Or the snow is on the chanukiyah.
Choral Music of Congregation Shearith Israel (self-distributed)
Stefan Wolpe was one of the lucky ones. A left-wing Jewish activist who had been composing difficult music for Dadaists and workers choruses, he knew he would have to leave his native Germany as soon as Adolf Hitler came to power in January 1933. After a year in Vienna, he moved to Palestine, from which he was able, ruefully, to watch the flames mount in his native Berlin and the rest of Germany. By the time those flames engulfed the rest of Europe, Wolpe was in the United States to stay.
Peter Melnick remembers being taken to see “The Sound of Music” on Broadway when he was a few years old. Growing up, he thought everyone’s grandfathers was like his — Richard Rodgers — and wrote wonderful musicals.
By age 6, Melnick knew that he too wanted to write musicals. At 12, he went with his grandmother to Boston to see his grandfather in rehearsals for “Two by Two,” and he found it “incredibly exciting to hang out in the back of the theater and listen.”
The Israeli Philharmonic, now in its 74th year, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its musical director, Zubin Mehta, this season with concerts featuring leading conductors and soloists from around the world. The Philharmonic will give the premiere performance of Indian composer Naresh Sohal’s “The Divine Song,” in honor of Mehta on Feb. 3. ... Guitar Gems 2009, the 4th International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition, is taking place in Netanya this week.
Two classical ensembles and a new Web site pay tribute to the music of the Shoah.
Holocaust scholars and intellectuals in allied fields have argued for most of the past six and a half decades whether there was such a thing as a cultural resistance to the Shoah. Did creating works of art in the confines of Terezin constitute a rebuke to the Nazis or an unwitting submission? In the face of such brutal inhumanity, how powerful a subversive act could a piece of music, a painting or a performance be?