Monday, April 20, 2015

Thank you my God!

Beethoven puts this "thank you" into music. He entitles a passage of his 15th string quartet (opus 132): "A Convalescent's Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Divinity" (Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit). The entire third movement of this quartet, one of the last ones, composed one year after the creation of the Ninth Symphony, is a long meditation interrupted with moments of joy expressed by a faster tempo and a more joyful tone. The convalescent who thanks God is none other than Beethoven himself, who had been seriously ill in the months that preceded the creation of the work, in September 1825. We must listen to these brilliant fifteen minutes as a prayer. Here is the version – probably one of the best – of the Alban Berg Quartet.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yom HaShoah 2015

By thousands, by millions, all of them were denied their humanity, were crushed by the dreadful Nazi death machine. Each of them, however, had a name, a face, had dreams; each of them loved, laughed, cried, hoped… Golda and Jacob, my paternal grandparents, Esther, Sala, Adela, David, Lajbek and Azyk, my aunts and uncles, who lived in Poland, were massacred at the end of 1942, a few months after my birth...

In April 1946, my father, who had settled in Belgium, received news from Poland by a distant cousin: “According to word-of-mouth information, all the members of our families were massacred by the Germans. In September 1942, an epidemic of typhus occurred in Losic, and Fradla, the mother of David B., my cousin Hindla M. and many other people from Blaszki died. At the end of December, the women, the children and the old people were massacred on the spot, but the young people were transferred to heavy work or death camps. And, according to the information received to this point, no one of your family nor mine asable to escape that city or save themselves in another way. All were killed like innocent sheep”.

Our memories are their graves.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Passover and Easter

Cosimo di Lorenzo Rosselli (1439-1507) - Crossing of the Red Sea
Rome, Sixtine Chapel
This year, our Jewish brothers will celebrate Passover from April 3rd in the evening until April 10th. Western Christians will celebrate Easter on Sunday April 5th and Eastern Christians on April 12th.
It is impossible to understand Easter without referring to Passover. It is so true that, in the Roman Catholic Church, during the Easter Vigil, the reading of chapter 14 of the Book of Exodus -- the crossing of the Red Sea by the sons of Israel under the leadership of Moses -- is compulsory.

Matthias Grünewald (1475-1528)
Colmar Issenheim Altarpiece

Easter, just like Passover, is a memorial. The crossing of the Red Sea is anticipated by a sign -- the blood on the lintels and doorposts (Exodus 12) -- and celebrated in a rite which makes it present: the feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover meal. Similarly, the death and resurrection of Christ is anticipated in a sign -- the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples -- and celebrated in a rite that makes it present: the Easter Eucharist.

I am pleased to mark these festivities with music. Here is a beautiful page for piano and cello of Ernest Bloch from his "Jewish Life", by Wassily and Nikolay Gerassimez, and a magnificent performance of the Easter Oratorio of JS Bach by John Eliot Gardiner.  

Dear Jewish readers, I wish you a beautiful and happy holiday of Passover חג פסח שמח
Dear Christian readers, I wish you a beautiful and holy Easter