MusicaNova Orchestra and the ASU Center for Jewish Studies present
Winter Journey: A concert of love, music and resiliency
6 p.m. Jan. 22 * Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Warren Cohen, conductor
Winter Journey, an Anders Ostergaard film
followed by a Q&A with author Martin Goldsmith and maestro Warren Cohen
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Jackie Huber, choir director, with choir members from Congregation Beth Israel Shir Joy Choir, Congregation Or Tzion Choir, Temple Solel Choir, Mountain View Presbyterian Church Choir, Dayspring United Methodist Church Celebration Singers, Arizona State University Choral Union, Phoenix Symphony Chorus, and Sunshine Singers.
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
Symphony no. 4 “The Inextinguishable”
- Poco allegretto
- Poco adagio quasi andante
(Played with no break between movements)
With support from:
Arizona Commission on the Arts
Hannah Selznick / The Oboe Fairy
Center for Jewish Philanthropy
Phoenix Holocaust Association
John & Elizabeth McKinnon
Arizona Jewish Historical Society
Jewish News (media partner)
Ed & Cynthia DuBrow
Incomprehensible pain, inextinguishable triumph
By Martin Goldsmith
“The first scene of the opera Die Walkure, the second of the four operas making up Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, takes place in the house of Hunding, a fierce warlord. The central feature of Hunding’s dwelling is a mighty ash tree, its trunk soaring up from the floor, its branches forming a canopy over the roof.
“In the house where I grew up with my father, my mother, and my brother, there was also an enormous tree growing up through the roof, its great trunk dominating the enclosed space. In many ways we shared a perfectly ordinary family life. But none of us ever acknowledged the tree.
“The tree wasn’t real, of course. But its impact on my family was overwhelming. This immense presence in our house was the fate of my parents’ families — Jews who lived in Germany in the 1930s — and my parents’ escape from that fate. And, as in so many other families like ours, it was something we never spoke of.”
Thus did I begin The Inextinguishable Symphony, the first of two books I wrote in an attempt to learn the truth about what befell the Goldschmidts of Oldenburg. Let me hasten to tell you that talk about what happened in the Old World was never overtly forbidden in our house, that my brother Peter and I were never shushed when we attempted to steer the conversation in a certain direction. We simply never made such attempts. As a family, we didn’t discuss what occurred in 1930s Germany for the same reason we never brought up the topic of bauxite mining in Peru. They were both subjects that simply didn’t exist for us.
And yet, Peter and I couldn’t escape the fact that, while so many of our friends could go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house at Thanksgiving, something from the past had made such excursions impossible for us. Once, Peter mustered the courage to ask our father what happened to our grandparents, our uncle and aunt. His brief reply: “They died in the war.”
As I grew into adulthood, I became increasingly interested in piercing the veil of silence and mystery that surrounded the story of my family. In 1992, the year I turned 40, I met my father in his hometown of Oldenburg. He showed me the site of the women’s clothing store his father owned. We posed for a photograph on the doorstep of the grand house on Gartenstrasse where he grew up, the house the Nazis seized just weeks after they assumed power.
Gradually, these shadowy people — my vanished family, whom I’d never known — began to take on human form. Back in Tucson, where my parents retired, I began asking my father questions about his past. Slowly, through my father’s memories and bolstered by more than two years’ worth of research, I learned about the Jewish Kulturbund, a remarkable collection of German Jewish artists who performed exclusively for Jewish audiences. My parents, Guenther Ludwig Goldschmidt of Oldenburg and Rosemarie Gumpert of Duesseldorf were members of the ensemble.
I completed work on The Inextinguishable Symphony shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1999, and the book was published the following autumn.
On a soft April morning in 2009, my father died at the age of 95. And then, exactly 11 months later, my brother, Peter Goldsmith, succumbed to a heart attack. He was only 60 years old.
My grief reawakened my desire to learn more about my family, since I was now the last Goldsmith standing. In the spring of 2011, I spent six weeks on the roads of Germany, France, and Poland in hot pursuit of my grandfather Alex and my uncle Helmut, who had been among the more than 900 Jewish refugees on board the ill-fated SS St. Louis. Our parallel journeys formed the basis of my second book about those times, Alex’s Wake.
Five springs later, I received an email from a man claiming to be a Danish director named Anders Ostergaard, saying he wanted to make a film based on The Inextinguishable Symphony.
My first impulse was to assume that this Ostergaard fellow was the second cousin of that Nigerian prince who would shower me with riches in return for a few minutes of my time. Luckily, I used my Google machine to learn that Anders Ostergaard was not only a genuine director, but he had made an Oscar-nominated documentary in 2009. I replied to his email very much in the affirmative, Anders jumped on the first flight from Copenhagen to Washington, and he and I began hammering out ideas for his film.
Anders likes to employ what in the literary world is known as “narrative non-fiction,” in that he uses actors to dramatize the cold, hard facts of the true stories he tells. And what a coup it was for him to land the great, late, Swiss-born actor Bruno Ganz to play my father. Best known for his roles as the angel Damiel in Wings of Desire and Adolf Hitler in Downfall, Bruno Ganz uncannily inhabits my father in the film Winter Journey that debuted at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam in November of 2019. It would be Bruno’s last film before his death in February of that year.
Which brings us to this concert in Scottsdale.
I am deeply grateful to three people in particular for presenting a screening of Winter Journey along with performances of music associated with the Kulturbund. Elizabeth Longo McKinnon made the initial contact to get this improbable ball rolling last spring. Robert Leger has shepherded the project from the beginning. And Warren Cohen has exhibited his usual good-natured enthusiasm for the idea even as he has been rehearsing the marvelous MusicaNova orchestra in the music by Nielsen and Sibelius that we will enjoy tonight. Thank you all sincerely for proving yourselves to be musical pioneers, for getting behind this idea that I hope will be replicated by orchestras and chamber music societies throughout the land. My family, past and present, thanks you, too.
Slyly subversive: Finlandia and The Inextinguishable
By Warren Cohen
Sibelius’ most famous piece originated as part of a series of “Historical Tableaux” he wrote for the Finnish Press Pension Celebration of 1899. The final work in the tableaux was titled Finland Awakes. The following year he extracted that final tableaux as an independent piece and retitled it Finlandia.
The anti-czarist sentiment expressed in the music and its celebration of Finland was obvious to all — not least to the czarist censors, who tried to suppress the music. The work rapidly became popular, thought it was often played with titles such as “Flowers Bloom in the Finnish Spring” to keep the censors off the scent.
The obviously subversive nature of the music was evident to the members of the Jüdischer Kulturbund orchestra, who performed it at the last concert in 1941. The program listed the work as Sibelius: Tone Poem op. 26, without any mention of the title.
The music itself is largely of a heroic and spirited character, but the chorale section seemed so obviously “vocal” in nature that Sibelius was consistently encouraged to separate that section of the work and allow it to be performed as a work for chorus. He eventually allowed words written by the poet Veikko Antero Koskenniemi to be set to the music. The poem describes the emergence of the independent Finnish nation in overcoming czarist oppression, using as a metaphor the transition from darkness into light.
In the setting for this concert I have changed references to Finland to a more universal message, but most of the text is a straightforward translation of Koskenniemi’s poem.
Nielsen: Symphony no. 4 “The Inextinguishable”
Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony was written as a response in part, to the horrors of the First World War. Written in 1916, the famous timpani battle in the last movement was directly inspired by the notion of a battle, and the orchestra that sits between the two represents the inextinguishable spirit of life — and of music.
Beyond that, Nielsen did not wish the music to be an expression of anything specific. He was clear that the work was not program music.
Unusual features mark the symphony. There is no pause between its four movements, though they are distinct. The second movement is scored almost entirely for winds, and the third is scored mostly for strings. (Interestingly, Nielsen came back to this idea in his Sixth Symphony, but the spirit of that work — written a decade later — is both more humorous and more pessimistic.)
The Fourth also has various thematic links between the movements. Several simple gestures introduced in the first minutes are central throughout the piece, transformed in various ways. Could it be that there was significance to the fact that these motivic elements are “inextinguishable,” able to be thrown into different contexts and still be recognizable?
The Jüdischer Kulturbund orchestra never performed this work; they were disbanded after the first rehearsal.
It is compelling that they wanted to play it. From the time of its composition, the Fourth Symphony has sat uneasily at the fringes of the standard repertoire. It certainly was not a work that German orchestras of the 1940s were especially interested in. Because the Jewish orchestras were forbidden from performing the standard German repertoire, they were forced to explore composers they probably would have otherwise ignored. The works on this program are a fine example of this.
Martin Goldsmith is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany and Alex’s Wake: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany-and a Grandson’s Journey of Love and Remembrance.
The Inextinguishable Symphony, on which the movie Winter’s Journey is based, has been hailed as a literary journey reminiscent of Art Spiegelman’s in Maus. The book tells the riveting story of the Jewish Kulturbund, an all-Jewish performing arts ensemble maintained by the Nazis between 1933 and 1941, an ensemble that included Mr. Goldsmith’s parents.
Martin Goldsmith is semi-retired as director of classical music programming at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, DC. From 1989 to 1999, he served as the host of Performance Today, National Public Radio’s daily classical music program. In September 1998, Mr. Goldsmith was awarded a Cultural Leadership Citation from Yale University in recognition of service to the cultural life of the nation.
He began his radio career at commercial classical station WCLV in Cleveland, where his mother was a violist in the Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Goldsmith was born in St. Louis, where his mother spent 21 years as a member of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he has sung in the chorus of the Baltimore Opera Company and made a guest appearance with the Washington Opera.
Warren Cohen has been music director of the MusicaNova Orchestra since co-founding it in 2003 with a mission to establish an identity unlike any other orchestra in the Valley.
In addition to his work with MusicaNova, Cohen is artistic director of the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestras. He previously was music director of the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra, the Fine Arts String Orchestra, and the Southern Arizona Orchestra, where he was appointed music director laureate in 2005.
Cohen began his musical career as a pianist and composer. His early positions included a stint as a ballet accompanist for Honolulu City Ballet and as music director of the Kumu Kahua Theatre in Honolulu, where his work in theatre and opera led to his becoming a conductor. Over the past two decades he has conducted more than 1,000 orchestral, operatic, and choral works.
He divides his time between New Jersey and Arizona with his wife, soprano Carolyn Whitaker, and their 23-year-old son Graham, an award-winning composer and violist (and frequent presenter on MNO educational outreach visits), now in the master’s program at the Juilliard School in New York.
MusicaNova Orchestra was established in Scottsdale in 2003 with a mission to play music no one else was touching: new, suppressed and unjustly neglected music. The premiere concert, on Nov. 9, 2003, was the first of 10 with the title Entartete Musik — “degenerate music.” That’s what the Nazis called music they didn’t like. These concerts were dedicated to music that had been suppressed for political reasons.
Over the past 20 years, the orchestra has developed a global reputation for its performances of works by promising young composers, unjustly neglected composers of the past, and fresh interpretations of familiar classics. The orchestra’s primary home today is the Musical Instrument Museum, but it also plays in varies venues across the Valley. It partners with Harmony Project Phoenix in support of young musicians from low-income communities.
The MusicaNova Orchestra
Julian Nguyen, concertmaster
John & Elizabeth McKinnon chair
Jamilyn Richardson, principal
Robert Dixon chair
Stephen H. Tillery
Allyson Wuenschel, principal
Dominique van de Stadt & Octavio Pajaro chair
Maria Simiz, principal
David Connell chair
Nathan Benitez, principal
Jeanie Pierce, principal
Diego Espinoza, principal
Nina Gurin memorial chair
Kristin Fray, principal
Kristilyn Woods, principal
Martha Edwards, principal
Chris Albrecht, principal
Brad Edwards, principal
Sonja Branch, principal
Leger Strategies chair
Liz McKinnon, personnel manager
Spencer Ekenes, librarian
Recording services by David Ice (video) and Nathan James, Vault Classical
The people who make the music possible
Grants, Foundations, Corporate
Arizona Commission on the Arts
Arizona Community Foundation
Selznick Tikkun Olam Foundation
Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture
Center for Jewish Philanthropy
of Greater Phoenix
ASU Center for Jewish Studies
Jewish News (media sponsor)
MusicaNova Circle — $10,000 and above
Robert Altizer & Dr. Deborah DeSimone
Warren Cohen & Carolyn Whitaker
John A. & Elizabeth Longo McKinnon
Ann B. Ritt
Hannah Selznick/The Oboe Fairy
Conductor Circle, $2,500-$9,999
Dominique van de Stadt and Octavio Pàjaro
The family of Alice Bendheim
James & Rita Whitaker
- David Connell
Robert & Cindy Leger
Concertmaster Circle, $1,000 to $2,499
David and Michelle Aristazabal
John & Kathleen Cleveland
Edward & Cynthia DuBrow
Musicians Circle, $500 to $999
Patrons, up to $499
Carol and Dan Damaso
Doris Marie Provine