Pro Musica Hebraica presented the ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada) in a unique evening of 20th century Jewish Soviet music. The event, chaired by Charles Kauthhammer, was an opportunity to hear rare pieces performed perfectly by an outstanding ensemble of chamber musicians.
The main attraction was Mieczslaw Weinberg’s “Piano Quintet Op. 18,” written when the composer first arrived in Moscow in 1943 at age 25, and before he came under the influence of Shostakovich. The work is not only historically interesting but a fascinating work. Shostakovich himself liked to play Weinberg’s music and one can understand why, especially when Benjamin Bowman on the violin brought forth some of the most stunning moments of the dramatically powerful piece.
Weinberg’s “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano” was a fine example of a discrete use of an instrument associated with klezmer music, as well as an excellent selection for clarinetist Joaquin Valdenpenas’s display of rare musical skills.
A rare treat was a piece for piano and cello recently discovered by ARC by the once popular but now unheard of composer, Sandor Vandor, a Hungarian-Jewish composer who died in the Holocaust.
Prokofiev’s “Overture on Hebrew Themes” was the exception on the program, as it was pre-Holocaust and by a non-Jewish composer.