|I. Berlin During the Nazi Era||08:54|
|II. America During the Civil Rights Movement||10:54|
Throughout I Will Not Remain Silent, the violin represents the voice of Joachim Prinz: passionate, urgent, resolute, heroic, brave, compassionate. The orchestra in the first movement sonically creates the landscape of Nazi Germany: violent, brutal, horrifying. In the second movement, the orchestra makes reference to the protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement by combining fragments and phrases of that music into a rich texture that moves forward with energy and high spirits but is also disrupted by violence. In the end, the music celebrates courage and hope.
At the March on Washington, August 28, 1963, right before Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, Joachim Prinz delivered a powerful message that included these words:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”
My wife’s family is related to Joachim Prinz (he was the brother-in-law of my father-in-law’s first cousin) and so I learned about this extraordinary man through personal stories rather than through media of any kind. My wife and I were married by Jonathan Prinz, Joachim’s son. We have visited with Lucie Prinz, Joachim’s daughter. When I read Joachim Prinz’s autobiography Joachim Prinz Rebellious Rabbi (edited and with an introduction by Michael A. Meyer) I knew I had to compose some music about him, to bring his life and message to others in the best way I could.
In an oratorio I composed in 2011 called Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society — which is about civil rights and justice around the world — I set to music Prinz’s words, “The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence”. Soon after, I began to ponder how else I might compose music inspired by Prinz. I feel strongly that Prinz’s life, his courage to speak out, and his eloquence should be more widely known so that more people could be inspired by his example.
Born in Germany in 1902, Prinz was a brave, outspoken rabbi in Berlin during the Nazi years who saved thousands of lives and risked his own by warning Jews of the evils to come under Hitler. Escaping to America in 1937, Prinz became a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a vociferous, inspiring leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Prinz’s participation in the March on Washington was, he always felt, a highlight of his life, the culmination of all the things he had stood for throughout his career both in America and earlier in Germany.
In the 1950s, the Quakers coined the phrase speak truth to power — it is a phrase that describes the life of Joachim Prinz perfectly. One voice that will not be silent.
The violinist Sharon Roffman approached me about composing a work for her just at the right moment, and I soon began working on I Will Not Remain Silent. Remarkably, Sharon discovered that her parents had been married by Joachim Prinz. My wife and I were married by Jonathan Prinz, Joachim’s son.
For me, music is the most effective way to speak out. Joachim Prinz is portrayed by the solo violin throughout the piece, while the orchestra represents Nazi Germany in the first movement and America during the civil rights movement in the second movement.
I felt that a solo violin was the right instrument to portray Joachim Prinz because the violin has a long history of association with the Jewish soul. Whether in klezmer music, in which the violin is one of the main solo instruments, or in the iconic Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, or even in Fiddler on the Roof, the violin is profoundly tied to Jewish musical identity. Among the many great Jewish violinists who are known throughout the world are such names as Joseph Joachim (friend of Brahms), Leopold Auer, Henryk Weiniawski, Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifitz, Yehudi Menuhin, Nathan Milstein, Oscar Shumsky, Joseph Gingold, Felix Galamir, David Oistrakh, Henryk Szeryng, Mischa Elman, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman, Gidon Kremer, Pamela Frank, Gil Shaham, Maxim Vengerov, Joshua Bell, and hundreds more, including of course, Isaac Stern, whose son Michael is the conductor of Iris Orchestra, and Sharon Roffman.
Since its premiere, I Will Not Remain Silent has been performed by violinist Daniel Hope with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Kahane; Mr. Hope performed the concerto again with the Essen Philharmonie, under the direction of Jaime Martin; Ilya Gringolts performed the concerto with Alessio Allegrini conducting the Human Rights Orchestra in Lucerne; David Felberg was the soloist with Guillermo Figueroa conducting the Santa Fe Symphony; Scott St. John performed the violin solo with Michael Stern conducting ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) and Sharon Roffman performed the work again with Michael Stern and the Boca Symphonia.
Performers: Iris Orchestra; Sharon Roffman, Violin; Michael Stern, Conductor
I Will Not Remain Silent was commissioned by Iris Orchestra
Recorded live, January 2015
Iris Orchestra with Sharon Roffman, violin, under the direction of Michael Stern
Recorded in the Duncan-Williams Performance hall, Germantown Performing Arts Center, Germantown, Tennessee.
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