Music of Another World

Szymon Laks, Author Northwestern University Press $0 (8p) ISBN 978-0-8101-0841-7
Although laconic and fragmented, the Polish composer's (1901-1983) Holocaust memoir is valuable as eyewitness testimony. A violinist, composer and conductor in the Auschwitz II orchestra, Laks explains that as camp routine annihilated the ranks of the orchestra--who did double duty as musicians and hard-labor crews--he had to implement a special kind of orchestration, ``which makes it possible for any group to perform any work, regardless of the presence or absence of one or even a few musicians.'' The author drolly denies that the orchestra performed as runaway prisoners were hanged: ``I am not absolving the orchestra, I am absolving the Germans, who love music too much to use it for such prosaic purposes.'' He muses on a Nazi whose forbidden passion for Jewish music caused him to be sent to the front, on clandestine camp celebrations where musicians entertained kapos and other bigwigs for cigarettes and food, and on cultural exchanges with the women's orchestra (the latter recalls Fania Fenelon's Playing for Time ). The songs that originated in the camps were ``vulgar,'' says Laks, ``and had nothing in common with raising people's fortitude.'' Nevertheless, samples are reproduced here (not seen by PW ). (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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