The University of Arizona’s Center for Judaic Studies, School of Music and Center for the Study of American Ideals and Culture will present a free symposium and concert, “The Jewish Experience in Classical Music: Shostakovich and Asia,” on Sunday, Jan. 13.
The symposium will look at the influence of Jewish liturgical and folk music, liturgy and poetry in the music of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and Daniel Asia, a professor of composition at the UA School of Music.
Shostakovich was not Jewish, but sympathized with the plight of the Jewish victims of World War II. He studied and absorbed Jewish folk melodies, using them in a symbolic way in several compositions created after the war without the hope of seeing them published in a political climate that became more anti-Semitic. Even in 1962, when the Communist Party was under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” was seen as a courageous political act and provoked a heated debate among the party’s officials and Soviet composers.
The symposium will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. in the music building, room 146. Panelists will include Janet Sturman, Alexander Tentser, Alex Dunkel, Aryeh Tepper and Jan Swafford.
The concert, which will be held at 7 p.m. in Holsclaw Hall in the music building, will include excerpts from Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first performance of the work in the Soviet Union. The symphony is based on the poems of the Russian poet Evgeny Yevtushenko. The first poem, “Babi Yar,” reflects on the lack of a monument erected to the memory of the victims of Babi Yar, the ravine in Kiev where almost 100,000 people, most of them Jews, were massacred in 1942.
The concert will also include Shostakovich’s “Piano Trio No. 2” and “Amichai Songs” from Asia’s Symphony No. 5, “Of Songs and Psalms,” based on the poetry of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai as well as the American-Jewish poet Paul Pines and psalms. Asia’s symphony was written in honor of Israel’s 60th birthday, and this version of “Amichai Songs” was written in honor of the 65th. The concert also will feature Asia’s “Piano Trio.”
Performers will include Alexander Tentser, piano; Alla Voskoboynikova, piano; Anna Gendler, violin; Valentin Peitchinov, bass; and Robert Swensen, tenor.
“This event will provide an interesting look at the intersection of Jewish life, its manifestation in music, and our huge impact on the world of classical music,” says Asia.