An upcoming Augustana faculty recital, "Lighting a Candle," will bring together sonatas by two composers who lived through the dark times of the Holocaust and the Stalin era.
Deborah Dakin, viola, and Robert Elfline, piano, will present sonatas by Mieczyslaw Weinberg and Dmitri Shostakovich at 4 p.m. March 10 in Wallenberg Hall inside the Denkmann Memorial Building.
Shostakovich, a Russian composer and pianist regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century, was a close friend of Weinberg, a Polish composer of Jewish origin. Their two sonatas share a musical language that includes the same sardonic humor, magical fantasy, and aching lament inherent in much Jewish literature and music.
The Shostakovich piece is the final work that he wrote. It was discovered after his death in 1975. Dakin calls it a "profound work." The final movement uses the famous motif from the opening movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" as a meditative stepping stone.
The Weinberg sonata is an early work. He originally wrote it for clarinet, and then created a viola version.
Both men were familiar with living in fear. Shostakovich was in the Soviet Union under the terror of Stalin, and he knew that not only his profession, but his very life could be taken on moment's notice. The same was true for Weinberg.
In 1996, outside of his personal musical circle, there was very little notice about his death of Weinberg. He was born in Poland in 1919. He was a music prodigy who was the only member of his family to survive World War II. From 1939 he lived in the Soviet Union, and was active in the musical life of Moscow.
But Weinberg was not immune to Stalinist dangers. In 1953, just hours after the successful premiere of his work for violin and orchestra, the dreaded 2 a.m. knock on the door came, and he was taken to prison. He was there for months, saved only by the death of Stalin.
Weinberg was a prolific composer, but most of his works were never published or performed. Shostakovich referred to him as one of the "greatest living composers."
As a part of the program, Augustana student Paige Gerhart will read a short story by David Slabotsky, "The Wandering Jew."
Dakin is an adjunct assistant professor of music; viola, music appreciation. Elfine is an associate professor of music; piano, music appreciation and Senior Inquiry.