Review: 'I Will Not Remain Silent' -- Daniel Hope and the LA Chamber Orchestra

January 24, 2017, 4:44 PM · If some arts organizations hope to keep out of the political fray during this season of controversy in the United States, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra does not appear to be one of them.

In fact, on Sunday, conductor Jeffrey Kahane did not hesitate to connect the politics of the moment with last week's series of LACO events centered on the theme of promoting peace and speaking out against oppression. Those events featured works inspired both by the oppression of Nazi Germany and by the American fight for civil rights. Sunday's LACO concert featured violinist Daniel Hope, playing a violin concerto called "I Will Not Remain Silent." It was written by Bruce Adolphe to illustrate the life and activism of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who fled Nazi Germany for America, where he later became an advocate in the fight for civil rights.

Daniel Hope and Jeffrey Kahane
Daniel Hope and Jeffrey Kahane.

Introducing the concerto from the podium, Kahane described his own grandfather escaping the World War II Buchenwald concentration camp, and his uncle -- who was in the audience -- later fighting for America and surviving a POW camp.

"My family knows what tyranny looks like, smells like, tastes like," Kahane said. Removing from his coat pocket a blue book that contained the U.S. Constitution, Kahane quoted the 19th c. poet Walt Whitman:

"There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance."

He noted that Saturday's Women's March marked the largest demonstration in the history of America, and warned those who would advise those marchers to "get over it," that "it's not going to happen. Because we, the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, cannot, must not and will not remain silent!"

Kahane's words brought about a long standing ovation, after which violinist Daniel Hope played the concerto -- "I Will Not Remain Silent" -- by Adolphe. Its two movements represent the two major phases of Prinz's life, starting in Nazi Germany and proceeding to civil rights-era America. The solo violin personifies Prinz: strong, intense and ever-wailing against the sinister sounds of the orchestra meant to represent 1930s Germany: militaristic brass, low drumbeats, dissonance. The second movement, representing his move to America, is more melodic and consonant, and the violin rides the orchestra instead of fighting it. It emerges into something rhythmic and changeable, staying off-balance to the end.

Before the concerto, Hope played a "Song-Suite for Violin and Orchestra," an arrangement by Paul Bateman of songs by Kurt Weill, another composer who escaped Nazi Germany, whom many know best for his work, the "Threepenny Opera." Hope played with virtuosity and commitment, though at times a bit more amplification would have helped, as the orchestra occasionally covered the solo violin. Nonetheless, the songs brimmed with energy and expressive singing, even without any words. The arrangement of "Mack the Knife" had a nice episode of casually virtuosic scat, throwing in double stops, runs and all kinds of clever violin tricks. Having never heard Hope play live, I enjoyed his playing immensely and am happy he will be returning more often to the U.S., as he takes on a new role as Artistic Partner at the New Century Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco for the next three years.

After the intermission came a performance of Weill's "Seven Deadly Sins," a 1933 collaboration with librettist Bertolt Brecht (the same creative partner Weill worked with in "Threepenny Opera.") The work is a sung ballet ("ballet chanté"), on Sunday performed by singer Storm Large and a male vocal quartet called Hudson Shad, with LACO. This is one of those works that was met with puzzlement in its time. Given a good solid performance on Sunday, I still needed to refer heavily to the program notes for illumination. The story goes something like this: Anna and her "sister"/alter-ego "Anna II" set out on a trek to earn money to build a family home back in Louisiana, only to be confronted in every city with different "deadly sin." But every "sin" is couched in irony -- Anna commits the sin of "pride" when she struggles with performing as a topless dancer; she commits the sin of "envy" when she wishes for a more virtuous life. Storm Large gave a committed performance, complete with slinky, belly-button revealing dress (and even donning one of those pink pussy hats at one point), but the bitter message felt a little incongruous with the rest of evening's message of hope and empowerment.

Still, the evening ended on a positive note, with Large's encore, a song she composed called Stand Up for Me," about standing up for love. A fitting complement to "I Will Not Remain Silent."

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Replies

January 25, 2017 at 12:25 AM · What "oppression" is currently being protested, exactly?

I find this mindset a bit outrageous. To compare losing a democratically conducted election to the horrors of Nazi Germany is totally far fetched and, in my opinion, totally offensive.

January 25, 2017 at 03:32 PM · There is an attitude that anyone who holds a different view on politics, policy, and government is not just wrong but in some way evil. The jump to a comparison with Hitler is the easy way used to disguise intolerance by those claiming to be tolerant. No need for hard thinking about real problems when you can use the Hitler emoticon.

January 25, 2017 at 05:01 PM · What "oppression" is currently being protested, exactly?

You may be totally offended by this as well but here are just a few issues that concern a large number of Americans.

  • Racial Discrimination
  • Gender Inequality-Women's Health issues and equal pay.
  • Immigrant Rights and Immigration Reform
  • Affordable Healthcare
  • LGBTQ Rights
  • Affordable Housing
  • Affordable Education
  • Religious Freedom
  • Environmental Policies that hurt Native, Latino, African American and low income white populations.
  • Prison Reform
  • Education Reform
  • Minimum Wage Increase

The typical responses are "Get over it" "Go back to Africa" "Go back to Mexico" So will they build a wall to keep women out? The Indigenous population? LGBTQ people?

I'm not an immigrant or a woman or a Muslim or Jewish but as a citizen of the world what happens to them will ultimately affect me too so why is it an "outrageous mindset" to care about people who have been or are being oppressed?

-M

January 25, 2017 at 05:57 PM · Actually the Nazis were democratically elected. And when "different" views advocate the systematic implementation of policies that are oppressive to specific groups of people, then yes, a comparison to other oppressive governments that operated in a similar manner is appropriate.

January 26, 2017 at 04:21 AM · This is a paraphrase from a Lutheran minister who was arrested and sent to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. "First they came for the union leaders and I was silent. Then they came for the Jews and I was silent. Then they came for me and they was no one to speak."

I am grateful that musicians and many others are speaking out against repression and for our environment today.

January 27, 2017 at 05:03 PM · I have a copy of that quote, printed on a magnet which I found when visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. It has remained on my refrigerator for the last 10 years:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was not one left to speak for me.

- Pastor Martin Niemöller

January 27, 2017 at 10:49 PM · Something to consider: perhaps the people who voted for Trump felt as if their rights were being "come for" in a similar manner as to what is now a concern for those in opposition. Just saying.

January 28, 2017 at 07:59 AM · Any educator can see in Hitler and Trump serious bullying personalities.

Steve Kelley

January 30, 2017 at 02:51 PM · I believe politics and music are best kept separate. Nothing good has come from the union of the two. Herbert Von Karajan was forced into politics and it nearly ruined him. Music and politics came hand-in-hand for centuries, but in this day and age; they are best apart.

January 31, 2017 at 03:55 AM · A few thoughts after reading all comments so far:

1. Regarding "Immigrant Rights and Immigration Reform": Immigration is a privilege, not a right. I believe in immigration, but I am realistic enough to know we can't just take everyone who wants to come. This is 2017, not 1860. There are no more open frontiers. First priorities: Secure the borders, stop illegal border-crashing, target sanctuary cities, and enforce the laws already on the books.

2. "Something to consider: perhaps the people who voted for Trump felt as if their rights were being 'come for' in a similar manner as to what is now a concern for those in opposition [to Trump]."

Indeed we did feel this way. We conservatives often felt oppressed these last 8 years. But, at least, we fought back in constructive ways -- e.g., at the ballot box in the 2010 and 2014 mid-term elections -- plus the 2016 election.

Trump wasn't my choice in the 2016 primaries. But in the general election, he got my vote. A Hillary Clinton presidency would have been, for the likes of me, unthinkable. BTW, until about 3 AM EST on November 9, Trump still had the popular vote edge. It was California, which leads the nation in sanctuary cities and illegal alien voting, that gave Clinton the edge.

March 12, 2017 at 08:54 PM · You can say what you like, Jim. Time will judge your wisdom in voting for Donald Trump.

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