Composer's birthday to be marked
In a few weeks the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will pay an unusual tribute to a member of the Jewish community. It will celebrate the 70th birthday of composer Oskar Morawetz and will do so by performing his highly acclaimed and oft-played
Diary of Anne Frank.
Morawetz belongs to
that significant group of
European refugees who
not only found Canada
a land in which they could rebuild their existence but who, in doing so, made a great
contribution to their new home. Morawetz is today one of Canada's
most distinguished composers whose work
has won international recognition. Since he himself has a special fondness for the "Diary," Maestro Andrew Davis appropriately chose this composition to celebrate Morawetz the septuagenarian.
For long ago Morawetz had become intrigued with the spirit of that remarkable little girl who wrote about life and death, hope and despair, the ordinary and the extraordinary, and did so hidden away from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic. After several years she and her family were discovered and shipped away to concentration camps where all of them, except her father, eventually died. Her diary, left behind but discovered after the war, captured the imagina.tion of the world, and eventually was made into a stage and then a television play.
For his composition, Morawetz, who had become a close friend of Anne's father, chose an excerpt from the diary which was not included in the stage and TV productions. It speaks of Anne's best friend, Lies Goosens, who had already been carted away by the Nazis. Anne, believing herself secure in her hiding place, wrote of suddenly dreaming of Lies:
"Oh God, why should I have all I could wish for and why should she be seized by such a terrible fate?
"I am not more virtuous than she; she too wanted to do what was right, why should
I be chosen to live and she probably to die?" (How could Anne know that the opposite was in store for the two of them.)
". . . Good Lord, you have given me so much - which I certainly do not deserve - and still I
do so much that is wrong every day.
"Oh God, protect Lies; protect her; defend her, save her and bring her back to us! Lies seems to be a symbol to me of the suffering of all my girl friends and all the Jews. And when
I pray for her, I pray for all the Jews and for all those in need!"
In the spring of 1945 Anne and Lies met each other briefly in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They saw each other through a barbed wire fence. Recalls Lies, who survived the Holocaust:
"She was in rags. I saw her emaciated, sunken face in the darkness. Her eyes were very large. We cried and cried, for now there was only barbed wire between us, nothing more. And no longer any difference in our fates.
I told Anne that my mother had died and my father was dying, and Anne told me that her mother had died and that she knew nothing about her father. Only her sister, Margot, was with her, but she was already very sick and died a few days later. Anne was not informed of her sister's death, but a few days later she sensed it and died soon afterwards - only seven weeks before the end of the war. She was not yet sixteen.
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Morawetz's Diary will be performed Jan. 14, 15, and 17.