Among the hundreds of synagogues, Jewish business concerns, and other Jewish-owned properties that were destroyed throughout the Third Reich on the ninth of November, 1938—in the nationally orchestrated program known as Kristallnacht, which came to be perceived as having launched the Holocaust in earnest—was the centuries-old synagogue in Aachen, Germany. More than a half century later, the Gesellschaft für Christlich-jüdische Zusammenarbeit (Society for Christian-Jewish Reconciliation) in Aachen commissioned Jan Radzynski to compose his String Trio to commemorate the opening of a new synagogue in that city.
The first of the two movements (Moderato, Tempo di valse, Adagio, Tempo di valse, Adagio) is introduced by a solo cello cadenza that leads into a mournful, quasi-nostalgic waltz. In a subsequent Adagio section, the viola quotes the melody of a setting by the renowned liturgical composer Zavel Zilberts of the Hebrew memorial prayer el malei raḥamim (God, who is full of mercy), which in most Ashkenazi synagogues concludes the Yizkor Service.
The second movement (Con moto, Allegro energico, Tranquillo cantabile) opens with a statement of a five-note motif, which becomes transformed into an expanded ascending melodic line that builds in intensity and power as it winds its way into the upper registers. An ensuing fugue uses the opening five-note motif as a motivic cell that serves as the fugal subject. The tranquil conclusion once again quotes preexisting liturgical material—this time a traditional melody notated by Max Wohlberg for the prayer recited in connection with the dedication of a new house or building, mizmor shir ḥanukkat habayit.
The work was premiered in May 1995 at Aachen’s city hall by Trio Arco.
Performers: David Brickman, Violin; Stefan Reuss, Cello; George Taylor, Viola
Publisher: Keshet Music Publications
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