On a snowy February day, amongst the imposing columns and marble clad corridors of the Munich music school, the jury for the Wolf Durmashkin Composition Award met to decide their winners.
To be judging an award commemorating a Jewish Musician who died in a concentration camp, in a building that was originally ‘Führerbau’ for Adolf Hitler, is clearly something of great historical significance. As you walk through the corridors, footsteps on the marble floor creating a crisp, resonant percussion, you cannot help but reflect upon the building’s past, trying to imagine the characters from history text books in the same place.
Yet despite its dark history, the feeling of the building is not oppressive. The cheerful sound of music practise spills out from behind the heavy wooden doors and students hurry past with instruments on their backs, stopping to laugh and chat at the foot of the grand staircases. It is clear that the building no longer belongs to the past.
The bridging between past, present and future has been a central theme throughout the discourse the WDCA event. In a concert commemoratingtories from the past, the composition award was envisaged as a way of linking these stories to the present day, and through the use of young musicians and composers, providing a link into the future as well.
The jury, a diverse group of seven, including among them music professors, an orchestral conductor, a violin maker, a Durmaskin relative and a school girl. After some initial meetings, friendly introductions and posed photoshoots, the jury kindly, but firmly expressed their wish to be left alone to have their discussions. Cameras and filming equipment were transported into the corridor and the rest of the team sat together in suspense, waiting for updates. After about 2 hours, the heavy wooden door opened, but the excitement was short lived, they were only making a short ‘pinklepause’, and would resume their secretive work again afterward!
Finally, when the inhabitants of the corridor thought they may not be able to resist the temptations of the buffet table any longer, the doors opened and a room of smiling, tired faces, happily announced that they had found their winners.
To avoid bias of any kind, the identities of the composers was kept secret during the adjudication process, but once the winners had been chosen, the corresponding codes were punched into a computer and, as if by magic, a photo of the composition’s creator popped up on the projector screen, followed by their personal details, each time met with cheers and excitement. Perhaps the most unexpected reaction, however, was when the photo of the second place winner, Rose Miranda Hall, appeared on the screen and a shocked voice from the back of the room, squealed ‘I know her’. Many such instances of chance connections and unexpected links seems to underline the whole weekend, yet for Jessica, a temporary volunteer from the UK, it was a surprise to find that she too was implicated in this strange web of interconnectedness, having studied music in the same year and often the same class as Rose at university in York.
In one of the many different corridor conversations, the nationalities of some of the entries was discussed. ‘There is one entry from Israel’ Wolfgang intimated, ‘wouldn’t it be special if she won’ we all agreed, knowing that it was for the best that the jury would not know this and let it affect their decision. Therefore, when the identity of the composer that the jury had unanimously voted as their winner, emerged as Bdil, from Israel, it felt extra special.
The final results for the composition award are as follows
1st price: BRACHA BDIL Israel
2nd price: ROSE MIRANDA HALL, England
3rd price: OTTO WANKE, Tschech, living in Vienna
A special and memorable day was had by all and we are very excited for the concert in May 10th in Landsberg where we will have the opportunity to see these great new compositions performed.
Text: Jessica Kettle
Photo: Conny Kurz
International composition competition for up-and-coming artists on “Music and Holocaust”
Call for participation in the Wolf Durmashkin Composition-Award.
Landsberg/Munich. With the Wolf Durmashkin Composition Award, WDCA, young musicians up to 35 years are called upon to deal with the Holocaust and to create contemporary and artistical interpretations.
The namesake is the Jewish pianist, composer, conductor and choir director Wolf Durmashkin from today’s Vilnius, who was murdered by National Socialists in an Estonian concentration camp in 1944 at the age of 29. The competition is induced by the 70th anniversary of the concert of the “Orkester fun der Szeerit Hapleitah” (orchestra of the last survivors), which at that time, was conducted by Leonard Bernstein in Landsberg’s camp for displaced persons. Durmashkin’s sisters were members of that orchestra.
Durmashkin had already made a name for himself as a versatile, highly-endowed musician far beyond the borders of Lithuania when, in June 1941, he and his family were forced to live in the ghetto with deprivation, humiliation and constant fear of death. For him, music was an expression of the spiritual resistance against exclusion, hatred, violence and extermination.
His sisters, the singer Henia and the pianist Fania, survived the Holocaust in the concentration camps outside Kaufering / Landsberg after their deportation. They became members of the DP orchestra of St. Ottilien, which gave the so-called “liberation concert” at the end of May 1945, only one month after their liberation. Three years later, in Landsberg’s camp for Displaced Persons, Leonard Bernstein conducted the orchestra, which by then, had changed its name to “Orkester fun der Szeerit Hapleitah” (orchestra of the last survivors). At the occasion of the 70th anniversary of that performance on May 10, 2018, which also commemorates the foundation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, the winning compositions, endowed with a total of 6,500 euros will be premiered.
Apart from the commemoration of the almost forgotten musicians, the aim is to stimulate young people, to develop an awareness of the past and to simultaneously build musical bridges into the future. The internationally announced WDCA was developed by the journalist Karla Schönebeck as well as by the arist Wolfgang Hauck, chairman of Landsberg’s sociocultural association «dieKunstBauStelle e.V.», and is conducted in cooperation with the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich – with Prof. Dr. Bernd Redmann, Prof. Jan Müller-Wieland, and Prof. Tilman Jäger in charge.
Further involved is the director of the Bavarian Philharmonics, Mark Mast, as well as the author and violin maker Martin Schleske. The patron is Abba Naor, vice president of the Comitée International de Dachau, who was born in Lithuania.
Download Poster: www.wdc-award.org/pdf/2017 WDCA-Poster-A2-print-ready.pdf
“Henny Durmashkin, originally from Vilnius, Lithuania and survivor of Dachau concentration camp, was my maternal grandmother.
Wolf Durmashkin was her brother and my great uncle, but I never met him because he was killed in the concentration camps. His musical abilities and genius are legendary in my family.
My entire family is thrilled and truly honored by the creation of a composition award in his honor.
Several of us are excited to be attending the ceremony in Spring 2018.”
Jonathan Reisman, MD
Jonathan Reisman is an internist and pediatrician, wilderness physician, writer and philanthropist.