This Saturday October 12 the Barbican presents the UK premiere Diaries of Hope by Zbigniew Preisner – his new five-movement work for voices, strings, cello and piano, inspired by the diaries and poems of Polish children who were victims of the Holocaust.
Preisner is best known for his scores for the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski (Dekalog, The Double Life Of Veronique, Three Colours Blue and more) and for Requiem for my friend, his moving tribute to Kieslowski. The idea for Diaries of Hopecame from Preisner’s visit with Kieslowski to the Museum Yad Vashem in Jerusalem where the composer saw the exhibition dedicated to children who were victims of the Holocaust. He writes of the visit:
‘When I walked into that dark room, where thousands of candles were glimmering into the distance, I heard the names of the murdered children and the places of their torment, interwoven with the singing of a Cantor. I was crushed. I felt a strange fear. It was a cathartic experience. When we left the museum, Krzysztof said to me: “You have to describe it musically, you have to do it”.’
Preisner searched for material, poems and diaries written by Polish children who had experienced the Holocaust. Diaries of Hope is a tribute to the diaries of Rutka Laskier and Dawid Rubinowicz and the poems of Abram Koplowicz and Abram Cytryn. Of the diaries, which were only discovered in the 1960s and are less well known outside Poland, Preisner writes:
‘Some irrational power let them believe in salvation. They are dramatic descriptions of daily life, the history of their families and suffering. However they also write with a childish joy about each happy moment, live their dreams and believe in their future. And although these diaries suddenly just break off, these children didn’t ever lose their faith. That hope let them live and sometimes even smile. They are diaries of hope.’
In this performance of Diaries of Hope, Preisner conducts Britten Sinfonia strings and Crouch End Festival Chorus. Oscar nominated vocalist Lisa Gerrard, renowned for her collaboration with Brendan Perry in Dead Can Dance and for her vocals on several major film scores, performs in the principal vocal role accompanied by the strings and chorus. Boy soprano Archie Buchanan will be accompanied by cellist Adam Klocek and pianist Konrad Mastylo in two settings of poems from the diaries of Abram Koplowicz and Abram Cytryn. Further information about the concert can be found here.