OCTOBER 4, 2018 – In what promises to be a stirring evening of music and memory, two generations of an extended family with a long and noteworthy lineage will come together at Symphony Hall for a first-time collaboration at an Oct. 8 concert sponsored by the Terezin Music Foundation.
The Boston-based nonprofit was founded in 1991 by Mark Ludwig, an acclaimed violist who recently retired after nearly four decades with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Ludwig, a Brookline resident, also has devoted himself to another musical passion: bringing to life the work of composers and musicians who perished in the Holocaust.
The foundation recovers, preserves, and performs the music composed by those who were prisoners at the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt in Terezin, in what is now the Czech Republic. The Nazis set up part of the camp to serve as a “model ghetto” where prisoners created art, theater, literature, and music. In reality, the slave labor and transit camp was a sinister Nazi hoax to fool the outside world that it was not committing heinous and murderous acts.
As the foundation’s executive director, Ludwig, a UNESCO-nominated Artist for Peace and Goodwill ambassador, has taken this music to concert stages around the world and shared his award-winning curriculum with students and educators.
Among the works to be performed at the Oct. 8 gala is “Sanctuary,” composed by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a 28-year-old Boston-raised composer, and the son of Mark Ludwig’s cousin, artist Daniel Ludwig. Commissioned by the music foundation, it will be performed by the internationally acclaimed pianist Simone Dinnerstein.
The second world premiere commission is “Refuge,” by Afghan composer Milad Yousufi, which will be performed by members of the BSO. Born when his country was under Taliban rule, which forbade music, the pianist, composer, and poet now based in New York City practiced piano in secret. The program also features works by Erik Satie, Phillip Glass, and Franz Schubert.
The multifaceted event includes a related exhibit of visual art and a separate dinner, when the foundation will present an award to Barbara and Steve Grossman for their contributions to Holocaust remembrance, education, and the arts. They will be introduced by former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty Dukakis; new Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow is also expected to speak, according to Ludwig.
Ludwig said it would be a mistake to think of the Holocaust-era music as one-dimensional.
“There is the assumption that the music is all depressing and full of despair,” he said. “There are pieces that have that element. But the music reveals a wide range of styles and emotions.” Among the musicians whose work he champions include Gideon Klein, Hans Krasa, and Viktor Ullmann. All three died in Nazi death camps.
But the organization also is devoted to creating new music, to carry on the legacy as an enduring memorial to the composers who perished at Theresienstadt.
A generation apart, Ludwig-Leone is already making his mark on today’s contemporary music scene, with his bold embrace of a wide array of musical styles, from classical to rock. He has composed for a number of orchestras, including the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and has collaborated with choreographer Troy Schumacher; their work has been premiered by the New York City Ballet.
Ludwig-Leone, who grew up south of Boston, is in good company in a family that boasts a roster of influential and prominent artists and musicians. His parents are visual artists; Mark Ludwig’s father, the late Irving Ludwig, was a violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and his brother, Michael, is concertmaster for the Buffalo Philharmonic. The late Julius Eskin, the BSO’s principal cellist, was a cousin.
Ludwig-Leone is moved by the Holocaust-era composers’ creative resilience. “Even in a time of such hardship, people made music that had such quality,” he reflected.
“Sanctuary” is a deeply personal composition inspired by three works of art; one by the composer’s mother, Anne Leone; the second, “Sanctuary,” by his father, Daniel Ludwig; and the third, by Simon Dinnerstein, the father of the pianist.
These are works of art that he and Dinnerstein grew up with, he said. Images of the paintings will be projected on stage as the music is performed.
As Ludwig-Leone delved into his parents’ lifelong archive of paintings, he found himself drawn back to the piano music he studied as a child, of Chopin and Rachmaninoff.
In “Sanctuary,” listeners will hear echoes of Ravel, he said, with references to his “Piano Concerto in G,” one of the first pieces of piano music he ever loved.
Music was a source of sanctuary for those imprisoned at Theresienstadt, said the music foundation’s director Ludwig. In the two new commissioned works, this generation of composers give voice to their own powerful stories.
“When you hear this music, you are stepping into another world. It that has potential to be transformative,” Ludwig reflected. “That is what we strive for as artists.”
For ticket information, call 857-222-8263 or visit tmfgala.org.