A Holocaust premiere

By David Amos

David Amos

SAN DIEGO–Once in a while, a symphony orchestra has the opportunity to present music that transcends the usual hypes such as “masterpiece”, “great soloist”, “fireworks”, “audience favorites”,  and the like.

This is the case with the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra’s concert of Tuesday, June 8, when the orchestra will present a world premiere of an orchestral work with narration, which graphically documents a tragic but important time of the Holocaust. It is titled From the Diaries of Adam Czerniakow, and was composed by Arnold Rosner.

Adam Czerniakow was the chairman of the Judenrat, or Jewish Local Government in the Warsaw Ghetto from 1939 (the beginning of the German occupation of the Ghetto) until 1942 when he took his own life during the time of mass deportation of the population to death camps in the east. In this capacity, Czerniakow kept a secret diary which recounts considerable detail about the Ghetto and its history, and also reveals the growing awareness and torment in Czerniakow himself as the Nazis moved deviously, carefully, and inexorably towards including the Jews of Poland in the “final solution.”

The unique artistic opportunity conveyed by the Diaries is its combination of two otherwise irreconcilable viewpoints – the viewpoint of a mass of victims, which portrays the magnitude of the events, and the viewpoint of a single, tragic individual, which better portrays the human pathos of them. Czerniakow was, after all, a very tortured victim in his own right, and in a real sense, a conduit (sometimes in spite of himself) between the oppressors and the thousands of Jewish victims in occupied Poland.

The work is 24 minutes long and is scored for full orchestra and one narrator, using Czerniakow’s words. These diary entries are spoken only; there is no singing in the entire piece. The music is in one continuous movement, befitting something of an extended stream of consciousness, and the style migrates from symphonic, to coloristic, to cantorial, according to the spirit of the historical events.

The excerpted secret diaries and the graphic event from the body of this musical composition, which, for its historical significance alone, makes for a powerful and emotional affirmation of those horrible times. During our present times, with so many Holocaust deniers coming out of the woodwork, the incidents of anti-Semitism worldwide, Israel haters, and the threats from the Iranian president, it is more important than ever to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive through documentation and statements in the arts.

The text of the narration will be in the concert’s printed program.

The narration will be done by the distinguished San Diego actor and orator Jonathan Dunn-Rankin. He is a busy actor on a number of local stages, most recently Cygnet Theatre’s annual Christmas show It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play as Mr. Potter, the Announcer, and several other roles. He was voted Outstanding Actor in the 2009 New Perspectives Festival of short plays for his role as an ex-Marine in Teed Off. He has also performed at the North Coast Rep, Lamb’s Players, and Diversionary Theatre. While a newscaster at KFMB-TV, Jonathan acted at the Old Globe in ten plays, receiving three Atlas Awards.

This is Dunn-Rankin’s second appearance with TICO. The first, about ten years ago, was the narration of John Biggs’ The Ballad of William Sycamore, which led to his being flown to Prague for the commercial recording of this work with the Czech National Symphony.

Arnold Rosner (born in 1945) is a prolific American composer whose music has been performed in the United States and Israel. His works exceed 120 in number and steer clear, generally of both the post-serial Avant Garde movement of the 1960’s and the minimalist movement which followed it. His treatment of harmony and counterpoint, along with the occasional recourse to an ethnic, Middle-Eastern flavor, places his music in the esthetic milieu of Paul Hindemith, Ernest Bloch, and Alan Hovhaness.

Rosner is currently on the faculty of Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, where he teaches both standard and ethnic music. Having composed since the age of nine, he received advanced degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In past years, TICO has performed, commissioned, and premiered several of his compositions. His works have been recorded by London, Israeli, American, and European orchestras.

The concert of  June 8 which begins at 7:30 p.m., will also present two monumental works by Johannes Brahms: His Tragic Overture, and the Symphony No. 3.

For more information, call the Tifereth Israel Synagogue office (619) 697 6001, or you can purchase tickets online at www.tiferethisrael.com/TICO.


Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and has guest conducted professional orchestras around the world.

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