Songs from a Lost World of Italian Jewish Composers

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017

The Dante Aligheri Society, Michigan Chapter and the Wayne State Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies with the support of the  Italian Program at Wayne State, under the auspices  of the Consulate of Italy in Detroit presented
Songs from a Lost World of Italian Jewish Composers  a performance by  Caroline Helton – Soprano & Kathryn Goodson – Piano
They featured  works by Leone Sinigaglia, Vittorio Rieti, Renzo Massarani, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Life for Jews in Italy was qualitatively different than in the rest of Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were more integrated into Italian society, and Italian Jewish intellectuals also played a major role in the political and social process of Italian unification in the mid 19th century. They wrote music employing European compositional styles and forms, partaking of inspiration from French impressionism of Debussy to the chromaticism of Richard Strauss, rarely drawing on Jewish cultural heritage as a source of musical inspiration. However, with the enforcement of the racial laws after 1938 and even more in 1943-45 when Italy was occupied by Nazi Germany, prominent Jewish composers lost their jobs, were forced into hiding or forced to flee in order to escape from persecution and deportation to the death camps, and some perished in the Shoah. Only the resilience of Italian Jews and the support they received from significant portions of the Italian population mitigated the fate of the Italian Jews compared to that of other European Jews. Because of the chaos that followed World War II, much of the music of the composers on this program was essentially lost, and many of the pieces have only rarely been performed in Italy.

Drs. Helton and Goodson released their first CD of songs by Italian Jewish composers in the fall of 2013, and the American Record Guide has this to say about L’Infinito: Songs from a Lost World of Italian Jewish Composers, 1910-1945: “For the purposes of bringing recently discovered, historically significant music into the public consciousness, this recording should not be missed…. For aficionados of Italian music, opera or song, as well as people with an interest in music of the Holocaust or Jewish composers of this time, this recording is a must.” The duo has performed the program of songs from its CD for audiences around the country, including at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC in commemoration of International Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2014, and on the Shenson Song Recital Series at Stanford University in Stanford, California. With the help of musicologist Aloma Bardi, who is responsible for uncovering and collecting musical scores of songs by these masterful yet little-known composers, Helton and Goodson have continued their exploration of this repertoire with another CD, now available on the Blue Griffin label: La Tregua:Songs from a Lost World of Italian Jewish Composers, Vol. II.