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MUSIC REVIEW : ‘Liberation’ Honors Rabin, Survival of Jewish Culture

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Liberation 1945-1995,” Monday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, was not just a musical event.

It couldn’t be, with speeches and a proclamation given in person by Mayor Richard Riordan, with a letter of good wishes to the organizers of the concert written by Yitzhak Rabin and read posthumously by the consul general of Israel, with a moment of silence observed by a standing audience in honor of the prime minister assassinated a little more than a week ago.

Billy Crystal opened the proceedings with a monologue of a 19-year-old death camp liberator from Newark, N.J.; Martin Bookspan, Dennis Prager and others read from various sources; there was a souvenir program filled with heart-rending memorials and reminiscences of camp survivors and liberators; and films and photographs of the liberation.

It was an event, Rabbi Marvin Hier said from the stage, to “sanctify the memory of the Holocaust,” and therefore, in many ways, beyond criticism.

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Yet there was music, a symphony of 13 sections by Meir Finkelstein, to tie it all together. Finkelstein’s music arrived almost with familiarity. He has crafted short pieces, now evoking MGM films, now Broadway shows, now contemporary pop. There was a little bit of Puccini, some Gershwin, some Bizet, a little Bernstein, a nod to Bach. What there wasn’t was a distinctive musical profile.

It all went down easily, made its effects, and might serve well as a film score.

Nonetheless, Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops led the Liberation Symphony with alert verve. Martin Chalifour, new concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, played his solos sweetly. The Los Angeles Master Chorale provided bright, clear, luscious vocalism.

Melissa Manchester sang “A Soul Saved” with low throatiness. Tenor Stephen Dubov and baritone Raphael Frieder had the lion’s share of solos, which they acquitted honorably. Tenor Chayim Frenkel, executive producer of the concert, joined the two for “Lift Up Your Heads.” Danielle de Niese sang “Together as One” with the Crossroads School Choir.

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Proceeds went to the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.


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