- For a Look or a Touch, for narrator, voice, flute, clarinet, violin, cello & piano
- In Memoriam, for cello & string orchestra (or string quartet)
- The Seed of Dream, for voice, cello & piano
The Seattle ensemble Music of Remembrance is dedicated to performing music by composers killed in the Holocaust, as well as works written in commemoration of its victims, and Naxos has begun recording its performances as part of its Milken Archive of American Jewish Music. This release is devoted to three compositions commissioned and premiered by the ensemble between 2004 and 2007. The most substantial is Jake Heggie's "For a Look or a Touch," a dramatic scene accompanied by a chamber ensemble, for baritone and actor about two German gay men, one of whom was killed in the camps and one of whom survived. The ghost of the young man returns to his lover, now an old man. The libretto by Gene Scheer is based on the journal of Manfred Lewin, who died, and also interviews with his lover Gad Beck and other survivors, taken from the film Paragraph 175. The texts sung by Lewin are persuasive -- tender and sweet in their recollection of young love, and chilling in their descriptions of the camps. Beck's narrative is less compelling, and often comes across as stagy and didactic. Ultimately, though, the work is so gripping and emotionally charged that it's possible to forgive the textual awkwardness, and it builds to a final scene that's overwhelmingly moving. Baritone Morgan Smith sings powerfully and passionately and is fully convincing as Manfred. Julian Patrick had a distinguished career as a baritone, but as an actor in this context, he's out of his depth, and the listener is left wondering how much more powerful the piece would be with a professional actor in the role. Gerard Schwarz's "In Memoriam, for cello and strings," was written in remembrance of David Tonkonogui, a prominent Seattle cellist. It's a dignified and poignant elegy, and Julian Schwarz plays it with warmth and deep feeling (Tonkonogui had been his teacher). The texts for "The Seed of Dream," a song cycle for baritone, cello, and piano, are dark poems written by Abraham Sutzkever in Vilna, Lithuania, while it was under Nazi occupation. Lori Laitman's settings are harmonically and melodically conventional, but lyrically graceful, and Erich Parce sings them sings them with clean, full tone and interpretive sensitivity.