Out of Darkness (Music of Remembrance)
Naxos 8.559770

Rec. Illsley Ball, Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, USA, 16-17 May 2012 (Another Sunrise), 16 May 2013 (Farewell Auschwitz), 17 May 2013 (For a look or a touch)
Sung texts are enclosed.
In Out of Darkness, Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer accomplish something remarkable. They convey the vastness of the Holocaust’s scope through emotionally rich portraits of those caught in its grasp, without reducing them to caricatures of martyrdom. The three chapters of this work relate stories that offer compelling musical witness to survival in the face of unimaginable adversity. Another Sunrise tells the amazing story of Krystyna Żywulska who, after being captured as a member of the Polish resistance, created poems and songs in Auschwitz that circulated secretly and became anthems of defiance amongst her fellow prisoners. Farewell, Auschwitz adapts Krystyna’s lyrics, with their exhortations to preserve a sense of humanity in a place defined by inhuman behaviour. The deeply moving song cycle For a Look or a Touch illuminates Nazi persecution of homosexuals, informing historical realities through an intensely intimate story of memory and loss.
Another sunrise (2012) [28.33]
Jake Heggie
Gene Scheer, lyricist

Lynch, Caitlin, soprano
Music of Remembrance
Mina Miller,Conductor
Farewell, Auschwitz (2013) [27.43]
Jake Heggie
Gene Scheer / Krystyna Żywulska, lyricists

I. Prologue: For Maria 0:41
II. Soldiers 6:23
III. Diamonds 2:39
IV. In The Cards 2:18
V. Irenka 5:11
VI. Miss Ziutka 2:53
VII. The Sun and the Skylark 3:12
VIII. Farewell, Auschwitz 4:27
Lynch, Caitlin, soprano
Sarah Larsen, mezzo-soprano
Morgan Smith, baritone
Music of Remembrance
Mina Miller,Conductor
For a look or a touch, song cycle version (2007, revised 2014) [22.28]
Jake Heggie
Gene Scheer, lyricist
I. The Voice 3:51
II. Golden Years 4:51
III. A Hundred Thousand Stars 5:33
IV. The Story of Joe 3:44
V. Silence 4:28
Morgan Smith, baritone
Music of Remembrance
Mina Miller, Conductor


This disc is described on the front cover — although nowhere else in the documentation, as far as I can see — as “an opera of survival”. This would appear at first sight to put it in the same category as Jake Heggie’s other large-scale successful operas of recent years.
Equal credit and billing are given to the writer of the text, Gene Scheer (born 1958); but in the event only one of the three works on this disc is actually an operatic piece, the monodrama Another sunrise. The other two items are essentially song cycles, although with a decidedly dramatic element and a thematic link to the monodrama provided by the theme of the Holocaust. It is therefore not unfair or inappropriate to regard the three world première recordings here as part of a unified trilogy under the overarching title Out of darkness.
Works which treat of the horror of the Holocaust are nothing new. Those here “were commissioned by Music of Remembrance, a Seattle-based organisation dedicated to remembering the Holocaust through music.” The style of Heggie’s music is not unfamiliar to listeners nowadays. The opening of Another source seems to inhabit the world of Gorecki’s Third Symphony — to cite another work about the Holocaust. However there is plenty of dramatic contrast as well, together with musical reminiscences of Strauss, Liszt and Chopin at various points throughout the trilogy. The action of Another source is slightly reminiscent of Poulenc’s Le voix humaine. Here the solo soprano is not alone with a telephone, but with a tape machine which she turns on and off at appropriate dramatic moments. The music of Farewell, Auschwitz has – as Heggie acknowledges in his booklet note – the not inappropriate cabaret feel of Kurt Weill. The upbeat song about the typist Miss Ziutka (track 7) has an aura of gallows humour, to which the following The sun and the skylark (track 8) provides a heart-rending contrast. The final song is almost triumphant in the manner of Weill’s Mahagonny.
The final song cycle, For a look or a touch, is a revision of an earlier work and Heggie’s style here is more austere in a series of poems dealing with the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. The texts are more harrowing in their graphic descriptions of the torments suffered by the victims, rendered even more horrendous by Mina Miller’s comment that many were unable to speak openly of their treatment after the War because of the continuing illegality of homosexuality in Germany until 1970. The vocal line is more angular, including some elements of speech as well as allusions to Berlin cabaret music as before. The song A hundred thousand stars (track 12), added in the revision, gives some lyrical relief. The Weill-like melodic line is very beautiful indeed; the conductor’s note describes it correctly as “emotionally gripping”. One would like to hear the version for male choir that Heggie wrote for the Seattle Men’s Chorus, although that is not to decry the work of Morgan Smith who sings it with great feeling here.
Naxos are to be congratulated for not only providing the complete texts online but also within the CD booklet, along with full biographical notes and descriptions of the music by the composer, librettist and conductor. In these days when so many record companies releasing material at bargain price cut back supporting material to the bare minimum, this sort of presentation – so essential for the understanding of unfamiliar music – is welcome indeed. It shows what can and should be done. The singers are expressive, accurately toned and dramatically effective even when their delivery of the texts is not always totally clear. The accompaniment is for chamber forces only – variously flute, clarinet, violin, cello, double-bass and piano – but provide plenty of contrast and indeed weight where required. The piano part is taken by an artist of the calibre of Craig Sheppard who blends perfectly into the whole without any hint of star billing.
Those, like myself, who have found Heggie’s Dead man walking and Moby Dick impressive statements of music theatre, will relish the thought of this disc. They will not be unrewarded. Those who are still unfamiliar with the composer’s work may prefer to approach it through one or another of his larger-scale pieces. Despite its horrendous title Farewell, Auschwitz is music which should have immediate appeal. The whole should also make the listener consider the essential banality of evil, which led many of the Nazi persecutors not just to follow orders blindly but then to seek to rationalise their actions as being “the right thing to do”.
Paul Corfield Godfrey


Jake Heggie’s first opera, Dead Man Walking, premiered in 2000 at the San Francisco Opera with Susan Graham and Frederica von Stade among the singers, has become one of the most played modern operas. The Guardian wrote: ‘Dead Man Walking makes the most concentrated impact of any piece of American music theater since West Side Story’. I have heard only snatches of the music, but what I heard was very appealing, so I wanted to explore more Heggie and asked for this disc with even more recent music, composed in 2012 and 2013. That said, For a Look or a Touch started life in 2007 as a drama but was reworked into the song cycle heard here in 2013. The original is also available (Naxos 8.559379).
The overriding title Out of Darkness – An Opera of Survival refers to the fact that there were enough Jews who survived the Holocaust and were able to tell the world about the horrors of the concentration camps. The first two acts are based on the remembrances and poems of Polish-Jewish Krystyna Źywulska. She worked for the Polish underground resistance until she was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau as a political prisoner – not as a Jew. She created poems to well-known folksongs and popular melodies that were passed along orally to her inmates – to write them down would have been suicide. After the war she wrote her memoirs, entitled I Came Back (1946). Another Sunrise is based on this book, while Farewell, Auschwitz is based on the poems she created in the camp.
For a Look or a Touch was inspired by the fact that a ‘look’ or a ‘touch’ was enough to be arrested by the Nazi authorities. Blacks, Jews and homosexuals were in the same division according to the Nazi ideology. In this case two young men, Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, were lovers in Berlin until Manfred and his family were sent to Auschwitz, where they all died. Gad joined an underground group that helped Jews flee to Switzerland. He was imprisoned near the end of the war but survived and also kept Manfred’s poetic diary, which he donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1999. Heggie and librettist Gene Sheer based For a Look or a Touch on parts of this diary.
Out of Darkness is an intensely moving and terrifying trilogy and should be read by every single person in the world to create disgust at what sick brains indoctrinated a whole nation to do; in particular now, when Nazi-influenced parties gain followers around Europe. It makes even greater impact when listened to in these musical settings. Heggie has created tonal, listener-friendly but far from innocent music. Another Sunrise is melodious and utterly beautiful, dramatic, gripping. The scoring is for the same instrumental combination (amended with a double-bass) as in Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps, also written in a prison camp. The voice (Caitlin Lynch sings wonderfully) blends beautifully with the instruments, especially with the clarinet. This is essential listening and those still sceptical towards contemporary music should feel no fear: this music goes straight to anybody’s heart.
This also goes for Farewell, Auschwitz, where Heggie adopts or borrows various musical styles. Thus Soldiers (tr. 3) is in cabaret style, In the cards (tr. 5) is rhythmically alert, rather many-faceted, Irenka (tr. 6) is warm and compassionate and very beautiful, romantic with quotations from Chopin, Miss Ziutka (tr. 7) is jazzy and Kurt Weill’s shadow hovers in the background. The final song is almost euphoric. The three singers are very good.
For a Look or a Touch is also rather kaleidoscopic. Golden Years (tr. 11) opens with a tremendous, swinging clarinet solo. A Hundred Thousand Stars (tr. 12) is in ballad style with a catchy tune. The Story of Joe (tr. 13) is a cruel, knotty song with a celestial postlude while the concluding Silence (tr. 14) is a soft vocalise. The flute gives added variation of instrumental colours and Morgan Smith is excellent as Manfred, returning from the other side to see Gad in present time.
This is a disc to savour and return to for the beauty of the music, for the excellence of the performances and – most of all – for the message. Never forget the sufferings of millions of innocent people.
Göran Forsling