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Music

Pittsburgh Symphony musicians to perform at Holocaust memorial

| Sunday, May 22, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
The Clarion Quartet (from left): Tatjana Mead Chamis, Jennifer Orchard, Marta Krechkovsky, Bronwyn Banerdt
Jim Judkis
The Clarion Quartet (from left): Tatjana Mead Chamis, Jennifer Orchard, Marta Krechkovsky, Bronwyn Banerdt

The grueling schedule of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's current European tour calls for 14 concerts in 16 days, but some of its musicians have decided to put one of their few days off to inspired use.

The Clarion Quartet was formed by associate principal violist Tatjana Mead Chamis to perform “Entartete” music, music which was suppressed by the Nazis before and during World War II. She noticed the location of the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic was a short distance from Dresden, Germany — about as far as Youngstown, Ohio, is from Pittsburgh — and she saw their day off will be in Dresden.

Chamis took the idea of performing Entartete music at a memorial on the site of the concentration camp to music director Manfred Honeck, who enthusiastically backed the plan.

The Clarion Quartet will give a concert of music by composers banned by the Third Reich on May 22 at the Terezin Memorial, on the very stage where one of the pieces was first performed. The program is Five Pieces by Erwin Schulhoff, Quartet No. 3 by Viktor Ullman and Quartet No. 3 by Erich Korngold. The symphony is providing a 50-person bus for the trip for others on the tour to share the experience.

The ensemble was formed in September 2015 to perform Entartete music at a benefit concert March 14 for the Young Israel congregation, which would honor the service of Rabbi Shimon Silver and his wife.

Dr. Frank Lieberman, director of the Adult Oncology Program of the UPMC Hillman Canter Center, and his wife, Beverly Barkon, contacted Chamis. Chamis invited violinists Jennifer Orchard and Marta Krechkovsky and cellist Bronwyn Banerdt to join the quartet.

Lieberman and Barkon became interested in Entartete music thanks to the work of conductor James Conlon at the Chicago Symphony's Ravinia Festival. Lieberman contacted the Orel Foundation, established by Conlon to promote Entartete music, and received valuable advice. Lieberman also provided Chamis with books and CDs. She was shocked by what she discovered.

“It was so exciting,” Chamis says. “It's not just music of the Holocaust and remembering them. This music ranks with Beethoven and Schubert and Brahms. These composers, two of whom died in concentration camps, would have been the teachers of the next generation of Viennese composers. It is a culture that was lost, and this music was lost (for a long time). It's tragic, and what remains should be heard.”

Chamis reports that the musicians bonded quickly as an ensemble and so enjoyed working together on this repertoire, they've decided to continue concertizing together. They will play a concert in November for the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and have received invitations to perform from around the country.

Barkon says it's awesome the Clarion Quartet will perform at the Terezin Memorial.

“It's very humbling,” says her husband, “to think something for which we originated the idea has been taken up by people who are such stellar musicians. It speaks to the humanity of the members of the Pittsburgh Symphony and maestro Honeck.”

Lieberman has been so inspired by getting to know symphony musicians that he has begun flute lessons.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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