Musical Discoveries and a Family of Artists between Jerusalem and Berlin

An Interview with Elena Bashkirova

From 7 to 11 May, we will host a chamber music festival in the museum’s Glass Courtyard. Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin and Sylvia Winkler of our press office spoke in advance with the festival’s director Elena Bashkirova.

Press office JMB: As festival director, what themes have you chosen to emphasize this year?

A laughing woman sitting at a piano

Elena Bashkirova, festival director and pianist
© Monika Rittershaus

Elena Bashkirova: Our themes have been determined this year by two anniversaries: on the one hand, the start of the First World War 100 years ago and its impact on music; on the other hand, the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss. Both anniversaries augur a varied program for “intonations”: 1914 saw an astonishing richness of musical styles, which our concerts will reflect. And Strauss composed chamber music nearly his entire life, so I have a wide range of pieces and genres to choose from.

Every year at “intonations,” chamber music classics can be heard together with unknown works. What composers should visitors expect to discover in this third season?

portrait David Coleman

David Robert Coleman, composer and conductor © private

Rudi Stephan was an extraordinary discovery for me. I heard Music for Orchestra and Violin a few years ago here in Berlin. I was impressed and deeply touched by it. As I was putting together the programs for “intonations,” I found his gorgeous chamber music and was delighted to have the chance to present it here with my colleagues. Rudi Stephan died in the war when he was 28. Given his talent, he would otherwise have certainly provided us with more outstanding music.

There will also be another world premiere: the fourth concert, on Saturday 10 May, will open with David Coleman’s “Three pieces for clarinet and piano.” Another significant composer this year will be Karol Szymanowski. He has his own tonal language, writing hauntingly beautiful music that unfortunately is played much too seldom.  continue reading

Question of the Month:
“What role do gender themes play?”

“What’s the story with women rabbis? (And prayer at the Western Wall?)”

Post-it note: "What role do gender themes play? What’s the story with women rabbis? (And prayer at the Western Wall?)"

The question of the month in the special exhibition “The Whole Truth”
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Anina Falasca

Our special exhibition “The Whole Truth… everything you always wanted to know about Jews” is based on 30 questions posed to the Jewish Museum Berlin or its staff over the past few years. In the exhibition, visitors have their own opportunity to ask questions or to leave comments on post-it notes. We answer some of these questions here in our blog.

The question about the roles of men and women in Judaism is interesting because traditional notions about these roles have changed dramatically over the course of the last century. As in every religion, there are also many opinions about this issue among Jews. These correspond with the tendencies of orthodox, conservative, or liberal currents in Judaism, which – while they grapple with the same questions – come to quite different conclusions.  continue reading

Reconsidering What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Page from Nathan Englander's What we Talk about when We Talk About Anne FrankIn the past, a number of literary texts on Jewish topics contributed to Jewish culture in various ways. Some documented and revitalized oral history and folk tales in an attempt to save them from oblivion (e.g. Martin Buber’s Tale of the Hasidim); others made Jewish topics palatable to the majority society (e.g. Sidney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family); and still others helped to build a Jewish community around shared experiences of ritual, emigration and persecution (e.g. Friedrich Torberg’s Tante Jolesch or The Decline of the West in Anecdotes).

Nathan Englander, one of the most sophisticated and provocative current writers, shares none of these intentions. His latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, is a collection of eight short stories loosely bound together under the title of (and a quote from) the first story, arising from a heated conversation about genocide; it refers to Anne Frank not as a historical figure, but as a metonym of victimhood. Accordingly, the stories reflect on the effect of Jewish themes, such as religion, the Holocaust and Israel, on modern Jewish identities. The author’s perspective is from within – he was born in 1970 to an Orthodox-Jewish family in New York – and critical. His gripping, intimate theatre-like episodes are fraught with tense dialog questioning the validity of Jewish cultural practice:  continue reading