The Jewish element in the music of the three composer-friends Weinberg, Basner & Shostakovich - from folklore to subversive musical language

Zun mit a regn (sun and rain) is a metaphor for laughter and tears - part and parcel of Yiddish music - and a fitting motto for a program dedicated to the three Russian composer-friends Mieczyslaw Weinberg (Moisei Vainberg) (1919-1996), Veniamin Basner (1925-1996) and Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).

World War Two and the reign of terror in the Soviet Union had a deep impact on the composers. They expressed themselves in their music. The music of the persecuted Jewish people was their source of inspiration - an act of courage in a period when open pronouncements could have fatal consequences. It was often years before the works could be performed for the first time.

Now these extraordinary and intense works are performed by an ensemble of four specialized musicians (with changeable personnel):

Sovali – soprano
Boris Goldenblank / Alexej Pevzner / Alla Kim / Grigory Sedukh – violin
Alexander Oratovski / Wladislaw Warenberg – cello
Sander Sittig / Paul Prenen – piano

  • 2004/2005: concert series throughout the Netherlands supported by the VSBfonds, SNS, Reaal Fund, C.O.S., the Society for the Welfare of the Israelites in the Netherlands, and the M.A.O.C. Gravin van Bylandt Foundation.
  • 2005/2006: concerts in various cities in the Netherlands
  • 12-13 October 2006: concerts at the Shostakovich Centenary Festival in St.Petersburg at the Composers’ House and the Museum-Apartment N.A.Rimsky-Korsakov supported by the Wilhelmina E. Jansen Fund.

The Jewish songs by Weinberg, Basner and Shostakovich are the central line in this programme. Shostakovich’s cycle “From Jewish Folk Poetry” is widely known, but Weinberg’s and Basner’s Jewish songs are rarely performed. The programme also includes known and unknown instrumental works such as the Sonata for Cello Solo, No.1, Op. 72 by Weinberg, the Prelude and Fugue in F sharp-minor Op. 87, No. 8 for piano and the Second Piano Trio, Op. 67 (3rd and 4th movement) by Shostakovich, and Basner’s Poem, Op. 7, No. 1 for violin and piano.

Reactions to “Zun mit a regn”

Eindhovens Dagblad:

“’Zun mit a regn’, splendid Yiddish lyrisism”

Synagogue in Enschede:
“The impressive programme went over very well with the audience. Everyone found it fascinating to witness how original, little known or completely unknown Jewish music was brought back to life..”

Jan Roelofs – review of the concert at Museum ‘De Buitenplaats’ in Eelde:
“How does one describe “atmosphere”? Not in terms like professional or virtuoso, although these terms were certainly applicable. In any case, the atmosphere of the concert was shaped by the Jewish sounds, the melancholy and sometimes heartbreaking grief that could be heard, by the sounds and rhythms that said: “I shall persevere and won’t let them grind me down”, by the Yiddish lyrics that were translated so professionally that they could almost be followed word for word.

Yet the atmosphere of course was predominantly determined by soprano Sovali, violinist Alexej Pevzner, cellist Alexander Oratovski, and pianist Sander Sittig… In a beautifully structured programme, with songs and instrumental works (partly performed as solos), they showed their professionalism, virtuosity and above all their pleasure in singing and playing. The warm cello and violin sounds, the beautiful, supple and agile voice and the pianist who conjured up a rich palette of sounds from the grand piano, were important ingredients for the special atmospere of this concert….”

The DSCH Journal:
“This was an unforgettable event in which the musicians gave their all. Bravo!”

Programme and commentary
(Download PDF file)

Musicians’ resumees
(Download PDF file)

Visual material


From the press

> Review / interview Henny van der Groep DSCH Journal No. 23 July 2005 (PDF file)
> Interview with Sheila Gogol / LJG Dec. 2004 (PDF file)

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