IF YOU GO
What: “Inspired,” free concert with the Omaha Chamber Music Society
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Jewish Community Center Theater, 333 S. 132nd St.
Information: 402-960-6943 or omahachambermusic.org
In 1933, as the Nazi party declared cultural war on German citizens, the music of composer Max Bruch fell victim to the upswing of anti-Semitic rage.
Never mind that Bruch wasn't Jewish, or even alive anymore. His music had drawn inspiration from Jewish music and religious traditions — most notably his 1881 arrangement of “Kol Nidrei” — and that alone prompted the Nazis to designate his work a threat.
This Sunday, Bruch will be one of three composers featured during a free concert presented by the Omaha Chamber Music Society at the Jewish Community Center Theater. The program features composers who were not Jewish but were influenced by Jewish sources.
In addition to Bruch, the program includes Maurice Ravel's “Kaddish” and Sergei Prokofiev's “Overture on Hebrew Themes.” Performing will be clarinetist Carmelo Galante, violinists Anne Nagosky and Jeffery King, violist Thomas Kluge, cellist Paul Ledwon and pianist Christi Zuniga.
Stacie Haneline, executive director of the Omaha Chamber Music Society, selected the program to highlight the way folk songs serve as a cross-cultural bond across generations.
“There's a tangible connection with melodies that are folk-like or derived from something along the folk music line, whether it's sacred or secular, that really holds interest,” she said. “Folk music to me is the commonality to people. It's the past, present and the future.”
The concert also is an opportunity to challenge assumptions about chamber music, Haneline said.
“People get stuck on the idea of chamber music as old, but it's where the creative side is. It's a fusion of music, it's a fusion of classical, it's a fusion of jazz, it's a fusion of world music. It really represents where we are today.”
At the same time, it offers a look back.
In an 1889 letter, Bruch cited the influence of Jewish themes on his music, beginning with a lifelong enthusiasm for “folk songs of all nations.” Later, through a friendship with the chief cantor of Berlin, Bruch was introduced to the music of “Kol Nidrei,” the opening prayer of Yom Kippur.
“Even though I am a Protestant, as an artist I deeply felt the outstanding beauty of these melodies,” Bruch wrote, “and therefore I gladly spread them through my arrangement.”