Audiences know to expect high quality at the Music of Remembrance concerts, but Monday night's program was among the best work of this organization's...

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Audiences know to expect high quality at the Music of Remembrance concerts, but Monday night’s program was among the best work of this organization’s nine seasons. The concert commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day with a lineup of high-impact works in sizzling performances by some of the region’s top musicians.

Founder/director Mina Miller, who has regularly commissioned new music from outstanding composers, chose noted opera and song composer Jake Heggie for the most-recent commission; heard in its premiere Monday evening, it will be recorded during the coming week.


Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, Seattle, Monday night

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The new piece, “For a Look or a Touch,” is based on a diary by 19-year-old Manfred Lewin, written for his lover Gad Beck. Lewin, like many gays, died in the Holocaust, but Beck is still alive today. Their story inspired Heggie and his lyricist, Gene Scheer, and the result is a sharply poignant, deeply affecting work for baritone (the young Lewin) and actor (the present-day Beck, who is visited by the ghost of his young lover).

Morgan Smith and Julian Patrick take the breath away as Lewin and Beck, in deeply moving music and lyrics that pull no punches. They’re supported by a first-rate ensemble, with Craig Sheppard (piano), Zartouhi Dombourian-Eby (flute), Laura DeLuca (clarinet), Mikhail Shmidt (violin), and Amos Yang (cello). DeLuca had some terrific jazz solos in a segment where both men remember the “golden years in Berlin.”

But there was much more to the concert than the premiere: three more works, all performed at a high level of expertise and involvement. Soprano Maureen McKay was brilliantly expressive in Simon Sargon’s “Shema,” composed to Primo Levi poems. The 1925 Duo of Erwin Schulhoff was well served by Shmidt and Yang, two artists well matched in terms of passion and expertise. And the 2001 “Lullaby and Doina” of Osvaldo Golijov found the ensemble (joined by violist Susan Gulkis Assadi, cellist Mara Finkelstein and Jonathan Green, double bass) in stylish form for a remarkable piece based on gypsy music.

Melinda Bargreen:

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