Uncovering hidden music works

Dr Joseph Toltz is the curator of the Out of the Shadows festival.

Lost cultural works from the 1930s and 1940s are being given new life in a music festival. Danny Gocs reports.

MUSIC and theatrical works of Jewish artists fleeing persecution in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s will be performed in the Out of the Shadows festival being held in Sydney in August.

The festival, which will run from August 5-13, is being curated by Dr Joseph Toltz, a research fellow at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. It will feature performances by leading musicians including the Goldner String Quartet, chamber music concerts and keynote lectures by international guests.

“It has been a lot of work curating the festival – I have been working on the project for the past three years,” Toltz told The AJN.

Out of the Shadows is part of a three-year British Arts and Humanities Research Council project that is uncovering and reviving hidden or lost works and performing them at festivals.

The inaugural festival was held in the American state of Wisconsin in May 2016, followed by Leeds in the UK (June 2016) and the Czech Republic (September 2016).

After the Sydney festival next month the series will conclude in Cape Town in September.

“Some of the material is repeated in the festivals, but we try to present a fresh program in each city, featuring local musicians.”

The opening night gala in Sydney will be a performance of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Seven Deadly Sins, which will be directed by Chryssy Tintner who is the daughter of the late Austrian composer, conductor and refugee Georg Tintner.

The opening night concert will also feature dance and orchestral music written by Jewish refugee composers Werner Baer, Marcel Lorber, H A Peter, Georg Tintner and Simon Parmet in Australia.

Toltz said the festivals are about rediscovering Jewish music and theatre from prewar Europe.

“During the catastrophes of the 20th century and the darkest moments of oppression, people sought solace or distraction in culture,” he said.

“In the aftermath of war and genocide, refugees who found safe haven brought with them cultural works about exile, diaspora and flight.

“As lives were rebuilt in new lands, this cultural material was stored in archives at museums or private collections, or bequeathed to family.

“Many of these works lay forgotten, waiting for their reawakening in performance. The festival brings to life many of these objects created by Jewish artists during desperate times. We are celebrating the resilience and creativity of those artists.

“It is important that the music is taken out of the archives and see if it is worth being performed again.”

Among the items Toltz discovered in archives during his research in Europe was Intermezzo (movement 3) from String Quartet that the Goldner Quartet will perform at the closing night concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on August 12.

“The score was thought to have been lost – it was by Wilhelm Grosz, who was a famous popular music composer living in England in the 1930s who wrote hits such as Isle of Capri and Sails in the Sunset. I found the score in a library in Europe.”

The Goldner String Quartet, which comprises Dene Olding (violin), Dimity Hall (violin), Irina Morozova (viola) and Julian Smiles (cello), will also perform Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor and works by other composers.

During the festival two cabarets will be presented at the Seymour Centre featuring social commentary: Prince Bettliegend, a satirical fairytale written by prisoners in the Terezín Ghetto; and The Merchant of Helsinki, penned in Finland during the depression of the late 1920s.

Red-Riding-Hood, a children’s opera based on the famous tale that was written in 1938 by Austrian-Jewish refugee and composer Wilhelm Grosz in London, will be presented by the Sydney Children’s Choir accompanied by the SSO Fellows.

A collection of Jewish choral works will be sung by three Australian choirs: VOX Ensemble, Luminescence Chamber Singers and the Sydney Conservatorium’s Chamber Choir.

International guest speakers, Dr Brigid Cohen from New York University and Russian-born Dr Anna Shternshis from Toronto University, will present keynote lectures during the festival.

Out of the Shadows festival is at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Seymour Centre from August 5-13. Bookings: music.sydney.edu.au