Silver to perform in Holocaust survivor benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in NYC

Pianist Phillip Silver, a professor of music in the University of Maine School of Performing Arts, will be one of 18 performers taking the Carnegie Hall stage in New York for “Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer,” Nov. 12.

Proceeds from the benefit concert will support the care of the last generation of Holocaust survivors. It is presented by the Defiant Requiem Foundation and UJA-Federation of New York.

In the past five years, Silver has appeared in performances of “Hours of Freedom” in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Jerusalem; and Terezín Concentration Camp, located 60 kilometers north of Prague. The two-hour production features live performance and narration, and video interviews with survivors to showcase the music of 15 composers imprisoned at Terezín.

“So many composers were concentrated in that camp at its height,” says Silver, whose research for the past 20 years has focused on reclaiming for posterity the works of composers who lost their lives in the Holocaust. The music for the Nov. 12 performance will include works for classical piano, string and wind trios and quartets, cabaret, lieder and small orchestra.

“These concerts are eye-opening opportunities to show the audience the courage of people — cultural beings sitting in a limbo world with their identities lost,” Silver says. “Yet they were creating works, some like Viktor Ullmann’s third string quartet that were so beautiful, you would not know there was any relation to the concentration camp, and others that were pointed attacks on the system that was attempting to so completely dehumanize them.”

The hope of Silver and the other artists is that the works of these composers will increasingly find their way into traditional performance settings as works of art.

“If we don’t play these works, it’s tantamount to killing these composers a second time,” says Silver, who has recorded CDs of the works of two Jewish composers of the era — Leone Sinigaglia and Bernhard Sekles — who, like their peers, faced persecution under the Nazi regime. Many of the works, performed with cellist Noreen Silver and violinist Solomia Soroka, are recorded for the first time.

“Hours of Freedom” is one of two performances staged by the Defiant Requiem Foundation, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., founded by conductor Murry Sidlin in 2008. “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín” tells the story of the Jewish prisoners who performed the oratorio 16 times, including one performance to SS officials, and another to an International Red Cross delegation.

The mission of the Defiant Requiem Foundation is to preserve the memories of Terezín prisoners during World War II who, “despite monumental suffering, disease and the constant presence of death, found hope and inspiration in the arts and humanities.”