Pulls of Gravity

Posted on Mar 19th, 2012 by Jeanne Golan

My father’s yahrzeit by the Jewish calendar.  So with last night’s moonrise, a candle is lit.  And yet, the date had been late February – weeks ago and a day that smacked of mid-winter and specific associations, nothing like early spring.  The disconnect is palpable to me.  Which rings truer?  Having been raised with a consciousness of such things, what once seemed a given now calls for examination.  Each year to come, I imagine, will exert its own gravitational pull toward the solar or lunar –

Ullmann came at all this from the opposite direction.   Being brought up in a secular home allowed him access to the highest artistic and educational opportunities in Vienna.  And yet, his contemporary musical heroes were Schoenberg and Mahler.  Driving home earlier this week, Mahler’s Fifth was on the radio; I was struck all over again by how much Ullmann infused his compositions with Mahlerian structures and touches.  Mahler, whose father founded the local synagogue.  More disconnect.  Or maybe not.  Each looked to their music to provide a much yearned-for sense of spirituality.  Unlike Mahler and Schoenberg who grew up with Judaism, it was only when Ullmann got to Terezin that he was in the company of those who practiced it in a tangible way.  Once there, it was natural that he, who had always embraced folk music, reflect this newfound awareness of his heritage  by incorporating melodies that belonged to the community into his compositions.  In the sun’s orbit yet discovering the moon’s draw, he grasped the consequence of both.

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