Of special importance is the fact that they will be performing Aleksandr Krein's
String Quartet-Poeme, Op.9. Aleksandr Krein (1883-1951) was one of the leading modernist composers of the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s.
works are comparable to late Impresionists such as Debussy
, Ravel, and Scriabin.
However, due to the Iron Curtain and the repressive Soviet regime, his
music has been sadly inaccessible and forgotten in the West.
This is only its second performance in the USA.
However, this concert promises to have something for everyone!
The program includes klezmer, Israeli folk, liturgical, and Classical styles.
Aleksandr Krein was born in the Russian city of Nizhni Novgorod into a family of traditional Jewish klezmer musicians.
His father, Abraham, was a klezmer violinist, seven of whose ten children became professional musicians, notably David (1869-1926), the concertmaster of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater orchestra
, and Gregory (1879-1975), also a composer, in addition to Aleksandr
After a childhood spent playing klezmer music in his
father's band, Krein
entered the Moscow conservatory at age thirteen as a cello student.
went on to study music theory and composition with composers Sergey Taneev and Boleslav Yavorsky.
While still a student, he
began to compose song settings for Russian and French symbolist poetry.
By the time he
graduated in 1908, he
had developed a highly original style that combined the new harmonic language of modern composers such as Debussy
, Ravel, and Scriabin, with the lyrical melodies and distinctive modes of Jewish folk music.
This piece represents one of his
first efforts in this direction.
string quartet, written in 1909, takes the listener through unorthodox harmonies, rich in chromaticism and nervous energy, juxtaposed with lyrical and lush flowing melodies based on melodies from his
own father's klezmer repertoire.
It was written after composer Joel Engel had encouraged Krein to explore his own Jewish musical heritage.
Krein played a major role in the emerging school of Jewish national music as a composer and active member of the Society for Jewish Folk Music's Moscow Branch (1913-1919) and its successor organization, the Society for Jewish Music (1923-1929).
In the Soviet era he served in a variety of roles in the Music Section of the Soviet Ministry of Education and later the editorial board of the State Music Publishing House.
Beginning in 1917 he
composed extensively for the theater, including Moscow's Hebrew-language Habimah Theater and the Moscow, Ukrainian and Byelorussian State Yiddish theaters.
During the 1920s he
wrote several important works, including the symphonic cantata Kaddish (1921), the First Piano Sonata (1922) and the First Symphony (1922-25).
In these compositions, Krein
embraced both Jewish folk and liturgical melodies as part of his
search for a distinctive, non-European Jewish sound.
As the Communist regime grew more and more ideologically restrictive in the late 1920s and 1930s, Krein
struggled to reconcile his
art with the increasing political pressures.
In spite of obvious political compromises in the form of works such as the cantata Funeral Ode in Memory of Lenin (1926) and the symphonic oratorio The U.S.S.R.-Shock Brigade of the World Proletariat (1932), Krein
continued to boldly explore Jewish musical and literary themes in his
work well into the 1940s.
opera Zagmuk (1929) concerned the Jewish uprising in ancient Babylon and was staged as the first Soviet opera at the Bolshoi Theater
in Moscow (1930).
In 1934 he
was awarded the title of Honored Artist of the Soviet Union.
As late as 1941 Krein
composed music for the productions of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater and his
Second Symphony (1945), a meditation on the historic sufferings of the Jewish people from ancient times through the Holocaust.