Concert in Jerusalem to feature music rescued from concentration camps

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Concert in Jerusalem to feature music rescued from concentration camps

Italian composer Francesco Lotoro made it his life's work to track down previously lost work from the Holocaust and orchestrate in a concert

Italian composer Professor Francesco Lotoro
Italian composer Professor Francesco Lotoro

An upcoming concert in Jerusalem is to feature music rescued from the Nazi concentration camps for the first time in public.

Italian composer Professor Francesco Lotoro has made it his life’s work to track down and orchestrate the written and oral pieces composed by prisoners, salvaging 8,000 musical works from around the world over the past three decades.

Among the pieces will be a melody taught by famous Jewish musician Ilse Weber to children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where she worked as a nurse.

When Weber’s husband was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, she voluntarily transferred to the camp with their young son in an attempt to keep the family together, but both were killed upon arrival.

The melody was never written down or recorded, but over 70 years later one of the Theresienstadt children Weber treated – Aviva Bar-On – will sing the piece from memory for the first time since the war.

Italian composer Professor Francesco Lotoro at his piano

Other pieces include one by Willy Rosen and Max Ehrlich, deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz, where both were killed. Just before their transfer, they managed to smuggle a folder of their manuscripts out of the camp. Decades later, the folder was discovered in an attic in the Netherlands, about to be thrown away. 

The various pieces, which will be performed in Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Czech and Romani, were composed by inmates of a number of camps, including Auschwitz, Theresienstadt and Westerbork.

The concert, on 15 April, will be staged by Jewish charity JNF UK as part of Israel’s 70th birthday celebrations and will feature the debut public recital of a selection of the rescued works, led by the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra.

Manuscript for one of the pieces composed:, Tango Argentynskie, Zygfryd Maciej Stryjecki

Children from two musical schools in southern Israel – many of whom lost relatives during the Holocaust – will also be performing alongside the orchestra.

“The compositions from the concentration camps are a world heritage,” said Lotoro. “They are a legacy to those artists who despite losing their freedom – in the most unimaginable circumstances – persevered through their music.

He added that through the concert “we are striving to both restore life and dignity to these artists… and through the next generation of young musicians, look forward, with hope, to the future”.

The concert will also symbolically fall on the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Attendees will include the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, world dignitaries and Holocaust survivors.

Italian composer Professor Francesco Lotoro practising with children who will perform at the concert
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