The unknown sheet music for the “tender, pure souls” of the Holocaust
One mournful song for the 6,000,000 martyrs of the Holocaust, among them the 50,000 Thessalonians, will be heard from the evening for first time in nearly 70 yearsin the Thessaloniki Concert Hall at the event for National Day of Remembrance of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust.
Souls tender and pure,
loved and adored,
for you please!
Thunders and lightnings
never again to disturb your (therapeutic) peace,
not to defile you
more barbaric acts!
Fathers, brothers, creatures,
that in your flames breathed,
fathers, mothers, creatures,
that for you we do not hold mourning,
not even the seven (days) did we sit down,
nor did we honor you with a burial,
rest in peace!
Our hearts are heavy as we accept your sacrifice,
we beseech you, merciful God,
to bring us comfort.
And bowing before you,
we offer Kaddish: may it be magnified and sanctified
His great name, Amen!
The sheet music with these lyrics was found in 2018 by historian, writer and professor at the Department of History, Archeology and Social Anthropology at the University of Thessaly, Rika Benvenistein the Historical Archive of the Israelite Community of Thessaloniki. In addition to the notes, it also includes a poetic text in Spanish-Hebrew, which is found in two copies in a folder entitled “Cultural Activities Committee 1954-1955”.
THE doctor and researcher in musicology, Chryssa Skarlatouwho at the time was researching the Israelite Community Archives for her didactic thesis, was informed of the material by its manager, Aliki Aruch and as soon as he got it in hand, he began the study.
As it turned out, the lyrics were written over her music opening three-minute aria “Ombra mai fu”from the famous opera of the German composer of the late period of Baroque music, Georg Friedrich Handel, “Arise”.
The opera has no relation to the historical events in which Xerxes was involved. The case concerns a tangled love story, as the Persian king is in love with Romilda and for her sake he divorces his suitor, Amastri, but Romilda is in love with his brother, Arsamenes.
At the beginning of the opera Xerxes sings in front of a sycamore tree, one of Handel’s most famous melodies “Ombra mai fu”, better known as “Largo”.
This three minute sad song of Xerxes, the unknown Jewish musician (and poet?) took and, paraphrasing the lyrics, wrote a new hymn, a lament for the victims of the Holocaust.
“In the decades of the 1930s-1940s-1950s in the music of Thessaloniki it was a well-known habit to change lyrics from songs, which we see in inspections, they incorporate songs from operas and operettas with altered lyrics,” she says. Voria.gr Chryssa Skarlatou.
The language of the text, according to Mrs. Skarlatou, is the old Spanish of Castile, written in the Latin alphabet.
The poet prays for the “pure and tender souls,” for the fathers, mothers, brothers, all creatures, who met a horrible death in the extermination camps, and with unspeakable grief that tears the heart in two, he prays “that he may not assure you . more barbaric acts.”
Mrs. Skarlatou makes two interpretive observations for a better understanding of the verses. Ni en siete mos assentimos, meaning “not even the seven (days) did we sit down”, possibly referring to the seven days of Israeli mourning, while the Kaddish is the prayer of the mourners.
“This piece of music was apparently intended to be sung on a day of mourning, but there is insufficient evidence for its use in the official events of the Israelite Community of Thessaloniki, while both the poet of the text and the composer of the melody remain unknown,” notes the K. . Skarlatou.
According to an event program he found in the Historical Archive of IKTH, he performed the arias May 2, 1954 the tenor and arti arrived in town as Professor of Melodrama at the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki, Kostas Liontaswith his wife, tenor, Piroska Lionda, accompanying him on the harmonium.
The event took place in the context of Yom Ashoahon Holocaust Remembrance Day, which to this day is a major annual event for Jews around the world.
“From research so far there is no evidence that it has been sung again since then. At least I didn’t find anything in the Historical Archive of the Israelite Community. I don’t know if there is any proof, in a private file”, emphasizes Mrs. Skarlatou.
If so, this aria will be heard for the first time after almost 70 years, tonight at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, by soprano, Mariangela Hadjistamatiouat the event for the National Day of Remembrance of Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, organized by Israeli Community of Thessaloniki in collaboration with Region of Central Macedonia.
They are participating State Orchestra of Thessaloniki and Opera House and the tribute concert also includes works by Anvi, Bernstein and Brahms. KOTH is directed by the internationally recognized Israeli conductor and composer, Joab Talmyon the harp would be Katerina Gima and on the flute Stathis Karapanos.
It will be preceded by the speech of the internationally renowned historian, professor at Columbia University, Mark Mazauer, who has dealt extensively with the history of Thessaloniki and Greece in general. The theme of his speech is “80 years later: Remembering Thessaloniki in 1943” and information states that he made an important revelation about that year and the city.
* The photos of the score and the poem come from the archive of Mrs. Chryssa Skarlatou.