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Zwarte bloemen – Twelve Songs for Soprano and Ensemble

Josef Malkin (b. 1950)

Danish String Quartet (photo credit: Caroline Bittencourt)

Danish String Quartet (photo credit: Caroline Bittencourt)

Composer
Josef Malkin (b. 1950)
Composition Year
2009
Work Movements
1. Introduction – Lento
2. Spring – Adagio
3. Butterfly – Allegro moderato
4. Be Quiet – Moderato
5. Hollandsche Schouwburg – Allegro
6. Together – Grave
7. Street Organ – Moderato
8. Lullaby – Lento pesante
9. Classmates – Andantino
10. Mother and Child – Adagio
11. Don’t Leave Me! – Grave
12. Come Back! – Andante
13. Flowers - Grave
Artists
Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]), Dominic Dudley [double bass], Carol McGonnell [clarinet], Charlotte Riedijk [soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Your words are planted like black seedlings forever in my mourning soul

I wash them with my tears and they are blooming with black blossom

And I embrace them with my music black as they are

Is there another colour? ‘To Ida’ Josef Malkin

The Dutch poet Ida Vos was one of a class of thirty five children in a Jewish school in Holland in 1940 - only four of them survived the War and the Occupation by being hidden in a series of safe houses. The rest were sent east in the cattle trains. In 1975 she wrote a set of poems - Thirty-five Tears - in memory of the children in her class who did not survive. Poems that were written because of the survivor’s need to go back and tell the story – a story that cannot be told enough. Josef Malkin took twelve of these poems for his orchestral setting that he called Zwarte bloemen. The Delft Chamber Music Festival commissioned a version for chamber ensemble, which was premiered at last summer’s Festival.

The twelve songs are written as if a mother is singing to her child, so the songs are short and the music simple and tuneful but the mother is the confused and frightened six-year-old thirty years later. And the mother is as distraught as her six-year-old for she still cannot understand how she survived and her class-mates did not, a mother trying to reach back across the years to comfort that terrified six-year-old and all her friends who did not survive.

These songs then tell of a doomed and fractured childhood, of a child that wanted to go out to play but must remain underground like a blind and frightened mole, a childhood where a yellow butterfly is a badge of shame, where the street organ’s melody is a reminder of the song sung by children as they were loaded onto cattle trains, and where a famous theatre becomes the selection place for the one-way journey east. The songs touch but do not dwell on the horrors - the Star of David badge, the Hollandsche Schouwberg, the cattle trains, the poison gas, the crowded graves – what comes across is the sense of total dislocation in place and in time. These songs are sung by the thirty-six-year-old mother with the voice of the six-year-old little girl trying to say the farewells that could not be said thirty years earlier, they are also a voice for the voiceless.

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Zwarte bloemen – Twelve Songs for Soprano and Ensemble

Composer: Josef Malkin (b. 1950)
Performance date: Tuesday 29th June 2010
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Josef Malkin (b. 1950)
Work Title Zwarte bloemen – Twelve Songs for Soprano and Ensemble
Composition Year 2009
Work Movements 1. Introduction – Lento
2. Spring – Adagio
3. Butterfly – Allegro moderato
4. Be Quiet – Moderato
5. Hollandsche Schouwburg – Allegro
6. Together – Grave
7. Street Organ – Moderato
8. Lullaby – Lento pesante
9. Classmates – Andantino
10. Mother and Child – Adagio
11. Don’t Leave Me! – Grave
12. Come Back! – Andante
13. Flowers - Grave
Language German
Artist(s) Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]), Dominic Dudley [double bass], Carol McGonnell [clarinet], Charlotte Riedijk [soprano]
Performance Date Tuesday 29th June 2010
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:20:39
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation S-solo, cl, db, 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Your words are planted like black seedlings forever in my mourning soul

I wash them with my tears and they are blooming with black blossom

And I embrace them with my music black as they are

Is there another colour? ‘To Ida’ Josef Malkin

The Dutch poet Ida Vos was one of a class of thirty five children in a Jewish school in Holland in 1940 - only four of them survived the War and the Occupation by being hidden in a series of safe houses. The rest were sent east in the cattle trains. In 1975 she wrote a set of poems - Thirty-five Tears - in memory of the children in her class who did not survive. Poems that were written because of the survivor’s need to go back and tell the story – a story that cannot be told enough. Josef Malkin took twelve of these poems for his orchestral setting that he called Zwarte bloemen. The Delft Chamber Music Festival commissioned a version for chamber ensemble, which was premiered at last summer’s Festival.

The twelve songs are written as if a mother is singing to her child, so the songs are short and the music simple and tuneful but the mother is the confused and frightened six-year-old thirty years later. And the mother is as distraught as her six-year-old for she still cannot understand how she survived and her class-mates did not, a mother trying to reach back across the years to comfort that terrified six-year-old and all her friends who did not survive.

These songs then tell of a doomed and fractured childhood, of a child that wanted to go out to play but must remain underground like a blind and frightened mole, a childhood where a yellow butterfly is a badge of shame, where the street organ’s melody is a reminder of the song sung by children as they were loaded onto cattle trains, and where a famous theatre becomes the selection place for the one-way journey east. The songs touch but do not dwell on the horrors - the Star of David badge, the Hollandsche Schouwberg, the cattle trains, the poison gas, the crowded graves – what comes across is the sense of total dislocation in place and in time. These songs are sung by the thirty-six-year-old mother with the voice of the six-year-old little girl trying to say the farewells that could not be said thirty years earlier, they are also a voice for the voiceless.