The Second Misha Alexandrovich International Jewish Music Festival will be held in Riga

In late November – early December the second festival of Jewish music – the Misha Alexandrovich International Festival will be held in Riga, with the participation of performers from Latvia, the USA, Israel and Germany. The culmination of the festival will be a symphony concert in the Large Guild on 1 December.

When people speak about Latvian Jewish culture, they most often mention the names of Oscar Strok, Mikhail Tal, Herz Frank, Max Goldin and other outstanding masters who have been recognised not only in Latvia, but also far beyond its borders. These also include the name of Mikhail (Misha) Alexandrovich. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the date of the birth of this outstanding chamber singer and cantor, performer of folk Jewish songs. His art was applauded in Latvia, Russia, Israel, the USA, Germany and other countries.

In 2007 the Misha Alexandrovich International Festival was held in Riga under the auspices of the Council of Jewish Communities and with the support of the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, enjoying great success. Its participants were musicians from Latvia, Israel, the USA, the Republic of South Africa and Finland. This festival became a momentous event in the cultural life of this country and the Jewish community of Latvia.

 “Events such as the Alexandrovich Festival have huge public potential and significance. We know well that really talented art always brings nations together, contributes to mutual understanding between people and appeals to reason and conscience. For us, it is not only the subject of the festival that is of great significance, but also the fact that Latvian listeners will have an opportunity to open the yet unfamiliar pages of Jewish and the world’s musical culture,” noted the Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Latvia Arkady Sukharenko.

This year, from 17 November to 2 December, the Council of Jewish Communities in Latvia arranges the second Misha Alexandrovich Festival of Jewish music, again with the support of the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, the Embassy of Israel in Latvia and Lithuania and the Embassy of USA in Latvia. The following events will take place within the framework of the festival:

– November 17 – Concert-presentation “Moyshele, mayn fraynd”;

The guest of this concert will be the daughter of Mikhail Alexandrovich Ilona and her husband Leonid Mahlis, the author of the book “Six Careers of Mikhail Alexandrovich” recently released in Moscow;

 – November 24 – Concert “Songs of the Riga Ghetto. Dedication to Johanna Spektor”;

Johanna Spektor (1915-2008, Latvia – the USA), born in Liepaja, went through the ghetto and concentration camps, released a collection of ghetto songs after the war and subsequently became a well-known professor of musicology in the USA;

 – December 1 – symphonic concert “Music against totalitarianism”;

– December 2 – Hanukkah concert.

Concerts and events of this festival will unite the best performers and musical groups from Latvia in a joint creative work:

The National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arkady Leytush (the USA),

The State Choir “Latvija”,

Inese Galante (soprano),

Vestards Simkus (piano),

Ramon Yaffe (cello),

Artis Simanis, Professor, Rector of the Latvian Academy of Music (saxophone),

Kristine Gailite, soloist of the National Opera (soprano),

Kristine Adamaite (organ),

Eriks Kirsfelds (cello),

Vlad Shulman (baritone),

Yuri Savkin (violin),

Eduards Raubisko (clarinet),

Yuri Kasper (piano),

RIGA KLEZMER BAND,

Piano duet of Prof. Raffi Haradjanyan and Yelena Lykhvar,

Performance groups of the Riga Jewish Community.

The programme of the festival includes works by Dmitry Shostakovich, Mendel Bash, Don Yaffe, Max Goldin, Johanna Spektor, Oscar Strok, Mark Maryanovsky, Eriks Esenvalds and other composers.

 The culmination of the festival is a big symphony concert under the motto “Music against totalitarianism”, which will be held in the Large Guild on 1 December. This is the day when the victims of communist terror are commemorated throughout the entire of Latvia, and for the European community, late November and early December is also a period of sorrow and remembrance of the victims of Nazi actions in Riga Ghetto in 1941, which claimed dozens of thousands of innocent people.

“Human life is the ultimate value – this leading motif can be heard in all three works included in the concert programme. And each of them, undoubtedly, will become a revelation for the listeners. This music, which is deeply filled with emotional and philosophical content and which is not widely known in this country, will be performed by the best academic and professional performers of Latvia,” says Head of the Organisation Committee of the festival, Chairman of the Board of the Max Goldin Jewish Culture Heritage Society Vlad Shulman. 

The Oratorio by Mendel Bash (1919-2012) “In Memory of Riga ghetto” was performed only once during the Soviet period. The composer, who was a Holocaust survivor himself, dreamed about hearing this work performed at least once more. The M. Goldin Jewish Cultural Heritage Society, of which Bash was an honorary member, started the preparation and rehearsals, but regrettably, the composer was not destined to hear the concert. It is symbolic that one of the impressive fragments of the Oratorio – “The Mother’s Song” will be performed by the outstanding singer, student of Mendel Bash – Inese Galante.

The torch of the Jewish composers of the past is carried today by Don Yaffe. His composition “Exodus.1971” will be heard in Latvia for the first time. Its premiere took place last year in Germany, with the participation of the same soloists the Riga audience will hear now – the pianist Vestards Shimkus and the cellist Ramon Yaffe (the composer’s son).

The Latvian National Symphony Orchestra will perform at the concert conducted by Arkady Leytush (the USA). А. Leytush is acknowledged by critics as “one of the most talented conductors of the mid generation, successfully performing with orchestras of the United States, Latin America and Europe”. А. Leytush is the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra, conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the chief invited conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. From 2002 А. Leytush has been the Musical Director of annual gala concerts dedicated to the Holocaust, which are held in New York with the participation of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.

   The programme of the festival acquaints Riga spectators with artistic works of the outstanding musicians – Mikhail Alexandrovich, Mendel Bash, Don Yaffe, Johanna Spektor, Oscar Strok, Mark Maryanovsky

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