A Modigliani painting at Art Institute Unites two Jewish artists:
"Manet and Modern Beauty" is the ravishing featured exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago this summer. But museum-goers might also want to make a brief detour into Gallery 391 of the Institute's Modern Wing and spend some time with "Jacques and Berthe Lipschitz," a stunning double portrait painted in 1916 by Amadeus Modigliani, one of "the next generation" of Paris-based artists.
As it happens, the painting indirectly suggests the friendship between two formidable Jewish artists of the period: Modigliani--who was born into an accomplished Jewish family in Livorno, Italy in 1884 and moved to Paris in 1906--and the sculptor Jacques Lipschitz, who was born in Lithuania in 1891 and moved to Paris in 1909.
As the story goes, Lipschitz, who was newly married to Berthe Kitrosser, a Russian poet, had just signed a contract with an art dealer and had a little money in hand, so he asked the penniless Modigliani to make a portrait of him and his new wife in their Paris apartment. Modigliani told the sculptor "My price is 10 francs a sitting, and a little alcohol," and completed the painting in a single day. But Lipschitz prolonged the process in order to increase the payment to his friend.
Modigliani died of tuberculosis in 1920, at the age of 35. Lipschitz, who went on to become a major Cubist sculptor, fled the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 with the help of American journalist Varian Fry and made it to New York. He died in 1973 at the age of 81.
Paying homage to composers 'lost' in the Holocaust:
Michael Haas, who has a long and illustrious career as a Grammy Award-winning producer at both Decca and Sony Records, had his first encounter with the music banned under the Third Reich in 1984. That was when he was working in Berlin on the early works of composer Alexander Zemlinsky, a prestigious Austrian-Jewish composer who fled to the U.S. in 1938 and saw his career languish in the subsequent few years of his life.
Between 1990 and 2000, Haas completed work on an extensive Decca Series, "Entartete Musik" ("Degenerate Musik"), whose title echoes the label put on art banned under the Third Reich, with 30 projects devoted to such music. He then took the position of Music Curator at Vienna's Jewish Museum, where he spent a decade mounting exhibitions about Austrian composers banned by the Reich, and proceeded to write a book,
Forbidden Music - The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis
, published in 2013.
Haas, the son of a non-observant Jewish father and a non-Jewish theatrical designer mother, grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and Vienna, where he received much of his musical education. On Aug. 12, from 6:30-8 p.m., he will present a multimedia talk, "German and True," at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, and discuss the contributions of the many composers who either perished in the Holocaust or were forced to flee Europe, with their careers upended, or at least altered, in the process. Along the way, Haas, who is currently Senior Researcher, co-founder and Chair of the exil.arte Center based at Vienna's University for Music and Performing Arts, will play recordings of music by such banned composers as Arnold Schoenberg, Frank Schreker, Eric Korngold, Ernst Toch, Hanns Eisler and others.
Cedille Records releases 'Silenced Voices':
There are more echoes from the composers who were caught up in the horrors of the Nazi onslaught, too. They arrive courtesy of Black Oak Ensemble, the Illinois-based string trio comprised of the Swiss-American violinist Desiree Ruhstrat, British-born cellist David Cunliffe, and French-born violist Aurelian Fort Pederzoli (whose mother is a history teacher of Sephardic Jewish descent).
Black Oak, formed in 2015, has just made its recording debut on the Chicago-based Cedille Records label, with
, an album of string trios by six promising, early 20th century Jewish composers originally from Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands. One of these composers survived World War II as a member of the Dutch resistance while others perished in concentration camps and elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe.
These no longer "silenced" composers include: Sandor Kuti and Geza Frid (who both drew on Hungarian folk music); Dick Kattenburg (represented by a youthful work); Gideon Klein (whose piece is infused with a Moravian folk song theme); Paul Herrmann (whose work has a cosmopolitan sound from the early 1920s); and Hans Krasa (whose dancelike piece was written in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the last year of his life and is eerily framed by the sonic evocation of trains).
For a complete list of Black Oak's 2019-2020 concert dates in the U.S. and Europe (including its Aug. 20 performance at the Terezin camp), visit blackoakensemble.com . To purchase the album, visit cedillerecords.org .
Goldstein's 'Groovy Girls':
Shelly Goldstein is a Chicago-bred writer/performer/producer and Northwestern University alum who has written for a slew of TV shows and films, and for a starry list of artists ranging from Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin to Sharon Stone and Jay Leno. She also wrote
, the Emmy Award-winning 2018 WTTW-TV special devised by Renee Fleming.
Although Goldstein works primarily in LA and London, she will be making a brief homecoming on Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. when she performs her one-woman cabaret show,
How Groovy Girls Saved the World
, at Evanston's Studio 5, 1934 Dempster St.
Described as "a sharply funny musical celebration of great women, great songs, and great social/political changes in the late 1960s and early '70s," it features the music of Carole King, Laura Nyro, Dusty Springfield, Cass Elliot, Carly Simon, Lesley Gore, and Petula Clark, as well as Broadway songs of the era and Goldstein's own comic lyrics. Her music director is the Chicago-bred (now LA-based) Doug Peck.
"The amazing women of the time were so talented, and so different--and each had such wit and style," said Goldstein. "And many of them were Jewish."
For tickets visit: https:/s5-shelly.brownpapertickets.com .
Venturing 'Into the Woods' with Sondheim:
At the age of 89, Broadway master Stephen Sondheim is still going strong, even if plans for his new musical
, inspired by the surrealist Spanish film director Luis Bunuel, remain iffy.
In the meantime, Glencoe-based Writers Theatre will stage a revival of
Into the Woods
, one of Sondheim's most popular shows. The 1987 musical, with a book by James Lapine that cleverly interweaves the quests of a slew of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale characters, will be directed by Gary Griffin, with musical direction and re-orchestrations by Matt Deitchman. It will run Aug. 14-Sept. 22. For more information, visit
Hedy Weiss, a longtime Chicago arts critic, was the Theater and Dance Critic for the
from 1984 to 2018, and currently writes for
website and contributes to the