Raanana Symphonette to Open Holocaust Education Week in Ottawa

Raanana Symphonette/Photo: Gadi Dagon

The Raanana Symphonette has been invited by the Israeli Embassy in Canada and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa to launch Holocaust Education Week on November 9, 2010 with a gala concert conducted by David Sebba. The concert will take place at the close of the Ottawa Conference on Combatting anti-Semitism (November 7 – 9) and will be performed in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to Canada and other diplomats, Ministers and representatives of the Canadian parliament, as well as Israeli government Ministers and Knesset members.

The concert program will include a tribute to the violinist Alma Rosé (1906 – 1944). Rosé, the neice of Gustav Mahler, was born into a musical family – her father, Arnold Rosé was a virtuoso violinist and led the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra from 1881 – 1931, as well as the Rosé String Quartet. Alma Rosé embarked on a successful musical career, founding in 1932 the women’s orchestra Die Wiener Walzermädeln (The Waltzing Girls of Vienna), which toured Europe extensively during the pre-war period. Rosé was ultimately captured by the Nazis and brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she directed a women’s orchestra, compelled to play for their captors in order to survive.

The tribute concert, Alma Rosé: Vienna to Auschwitz, will include works performed by The Waltzing Girls of Vienna before the war and works performed by the women’s orchestra in Auschwitz-Birkenau. This performance in Canada is all the more meaningful as Alma’s brother z”l, was a professor of music at Western Ontario University for thirty years. Today, the University’s Music library archive holds the Mahler-Rosé collection, preserving the family’s heritage with personal letters, documents, photographs and Alma’s concert programs, some of which have been given permission to be used for the concert.

Composer Uri Vidislavsky’s “The Last Waltz” will have a world premiere at the November 9th concert. “The Last Waltz” is an orchestral suite based on six waltzes written by Uri Vidislavsky over the past twenty years. Taking the musical form of the waltz as its starting point, the work confronts the memory of the Holocaust from the perspective of the third generation. In a press release, Vidislavsky expressed his feeling that today, 65 years after the end of the war, memory, forgetting and distortion recompose themselves to create a contemporary perspective on the Holocaust. He chose to compose a piece based on the proximity of terror and happiness, loneliness and unity, the depths of human despair and hope and the continuity of life. The suite is a memory of an era, a world, a way of life, a single distant moment – in the hope that such a dark time will never return.

The Raanana Symphonette will conduct several concerts during their stay in Canada, with the theme of “Alma Rosé: Vienna to Auschwitz.” Much of the research for this concert was based on the book by Richard Newman with Karen Kirtly, Alma Rosé: Vienna to Auschwitz. The Raanana Symphonette has a strong commitment to preserving Jewish musical heritage and the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. In 2007 the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra together with the compower Leon Szydlowski won the prestigious Angel Prize for the creation and making of original Israeli music.

Holocaust Education Week is an annual event of the Shoah Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, intended to teach the legacy of the Holocaust and promote tolerance and compassion through a program of lectures, films, cultural programs and book readings.

The Raanana Symphonette’s tour to Canada is made possible through the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yad VaShem, the Rich Foundation and the Raanana Symphonette Holocaust Memorial Foundation.


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