Neal Stulberg Proves That It Could Have Been Done.
By Carol Jean Delmar
The old news is that in my introductory essay, I suggested that Ring Festival LA – 115 events with the “Ring” as its centerpiece — be expanded to include composers other than Richard Wagner to balance the programming. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich proposed the idea to the Board of Supervisors, but Zev Yaroslavsky ramrodded a substitute motion through, and the Board endorsed the all-Wagner festival.
The new news is that the UCLA Department of Music – specifically Neal Stulberg, the director of orchestral studies who normally conducts the student orchestra — is proving that the festival could have been organized with the diversity Antonovich and I suggested.
As part of Ring Festival LA, James Conlon is conducting the UCLA Philharmonia on May 27 at 8 p.m. in Royce Hall, and there is not a glint of Wagner in the program – only the music of Franz Schreker, Alexander Zemlinsky and Arnold Schoenberg. I applaud Stulberg for his sensitivity and for having the fortitude to break the mold by performing what Conlon calls the “recovered” works of composers who were persecuted by the Nazis.
Stulberg is acting as the narrator for Schoenberg’s stunning “A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46.” Hermann Prey gave a grippingly intense rendition which can be viewed on YouTube. The narration over orchestration with chorus creates an emotionally-charged six-minute score that leaves the audience speechless. The piece pays homage to victims of the Holocaust, the narrator being a concentration camp survivor from the Warsaw ghetto who describes how guards counted and beat Jews until they either died or were transported to death camps.
This concert celebrates the wonderfully talented students who make up the UCLA Chamber Singers, the UCLA Philharmonia and the UCLA University Chorus, and it gives them the opportunity to perform under the direction of Conlon’s skillful baton, which will strengthen the exisiting ties between the UCLA Department of Music and LA Opera.
It remains incomprehensible to me that LA Opera and the Board of Supervisors failed to see the advantages of a diversified festival free of controversy, which would have attracted a broader audience and been far more lucrative than a Wagner fest. This concert was originally set for Schoenberg Hall but was moved to the larger Royce venue because it has been so well-received. Similar programming would have been encouraging from other festival participants, which would have introduced the world to LA’s multitude of artistic and multicultural talent in a creatively free environment without constraints. Celebrating one anti-Semitic composer with a focus on one of his works does not accomplish this end.
Concert made possible by the Mickey Katz Chair in Jewish Music.
Program to include Zemlinsky’s Psalms 13 and 83, and Schreker’s Intermezzo for Strings and “Valse Lente.”