Pro Musica Hebraica: Vivid delight and distress

  • The Washington Post

Czech composer Karel Berman survived internments at Auschwitz, Dachau and Theresienstadt, as well as a bout of typhoid and a Nazi death march, before restarting his life and enjoying a half-century of composing and singing leading roles for the Prague National Theatre Opera. But to hear the richly sung and vividly characterized performance that bass Robert Pomakov and pianist Dianne Werner gave Berman’s spiky, often playful, Czech-language song-cycle, “Poupata” (“Birds”), at a Pro Musica Hebraica-sponsored recital at the Terrace Theater on Thursday, it’s hard to imagine such a life-affirming score was written during the darkest days of the composer’s imprisonment.
Likewise, Paul Ben-Haim’s confidently projected and faith-affirming Hebrew song-cycle, “Melodies from the East,” (its melismatic writing nicely evoking cantorial singing in Pomakov’s performance) didn’t suggest a piece written at the height of the Holocaust, by a composer who fled the Nazis for a life in pre-Israeli Palestine.

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