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Marc Neikrug

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Through Roses (1980)
Commissioned by the 92nd Street YMHA, New York
Chester Music Ltd
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Operetta / Musical Theatre
Year Composed
50 Minutes

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Programme Note
Marc Neikrug Through Roses (1980)
Composer note:
Commissioned by the 92nd Street Y in New York, Through Roses was written over a period of 15 months in 1979-1980. The original conception evolved from various sources, foremost being my need for a non-operatic, dramatic form in which to express myself. Around this time I heard a story about a musician who had been forced to perform in a concentration camp. Gradually an idea began to develop: to write a “play with music” in which the protagonist is a violinist who survived the death camps. This gave me the possibility of integrating music that he may have played with music of my own composition.

My objective was to create a form in which both theatrical and musical elements have unconstricted freedom. The actor moves within a set; his actual speech patterns are not regimented, the text and music being connected by means of musical cues marking only the limits within which the actor’s phrases are to be spoken. The musicians are also on stage, as figments of the protagonist’s imagination.

The musical and dramatic structures were developed simultaneously so that while both are able to exist independently, they also support each other in detail, as well as in overall shape. The drama is constructed like a series of concentric circles. As the man’s memories emerge, one leads inexorable to the next. In a sort of maniacal ritual he follows one thought after another, which brings him closer and closer to the central memory that haunts him — and gives the work its title. (One characteristic of trauma victims is the constant urge to relive the experience).

The relationship between music, text, and action is one of psychological levels. The manifest stage actions is supported by text operating on a deeper level, full of associations and traumatic memories, while the music mirrors yet a deeper level, one beyond the possibility of verbal expression.

The musical allusions in Through Roses at relevant points in the drama include fragments of military marches and popular songs, as well as Haydn (the slow movement from the “Emperor” Quartet, the melody of “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”), Beethoven, Paganini, Wagner, Berg, Mozart, Schubert and Bach. When the protagonist recalls being forced to play Bach for the commandant of the camp, we hear this recollection as music: the violinist in the ensemble plays the opening of the Bach G minor Sonata. But it is a distorted form of the music he plays, reflecting the distortion of the event in the man’s memory.

Without wishing to give a description of the action, I feel that certain background information is pertinent here. During World War II there were musicians in Hitler’s death camps who were kept alive in order to perform, they were made to play marches every morning and evening for the work details leaving and returning to the camp. They gave concerts at various camp sites, and played on other occasions at the whim of anyone in power. This included such sadistic ideas as having waltzes played faster and faster while old men were forced to dance until collapsing.

Some specific details of the camp at Auschwitz are relevant to Through Roses. At the arrival point of the transport trains there was no sign to reveal where one was; there was however a fake clock, painted on the wall. The commandant lived just beyond the fence of the camp in a two-story house with his wife and two children. The house had a garden cultivated by his wife: a lawn, rows of flowers, rose bushes. The children played in this garden which was so close to the crematorium that on sunny days the shadows of the smokestacks fell on the lawn. Between the fence of the camp and the garden there was a pathway which went from inside the camp to the crematorium. Bodies were carried past the house along this pathway.

— Mark Neikrug

  • 10 FEB 2018
    Reutlingen, Germany
    Members of the Württemberg Philharmonic
    Theater Die Tonne; Thomas B. Hoffmann, narrator; Frank Zacher, conductor

    Other Dates:
    11,16,17,27,28 February; 2,3,9,10 March - Reutlingen, Germany
  • 08 MAY 2017
    Köln, Germany
    Dozentinnen und Dozenten der Rheinischen Musikschule
    Martin Reinke, narrator
  • 29 JAN 2017
    Auditorium Rai A. Toscanini, Turin, Italy
    Orchestra Sinfonica RAI
  • 27 JAN 2017
    Il Conservatorio per la settimana della memoria 2017 [part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day]
    Montova, Italy
    Camera della Memoria
    Marco Galifi, actor; COD Danza, Chiara Olivieri, director; Romano Adami, conductor
  • 13 FEB 2015
    Berlin, Germany
    Staatsoper Berlin
    Felix Krieger, conductor

    Other Dates:
    17,15,20,22,28,26 February - Berlin, Germany
  • 27 JAN 2014
    Auditorium de Conservatorio Parma, Italy
    Orchestra del Conservatorio
    Andre Grassi, conductor
  • 30 MAR 2013
    Dallas, TX
    Dallas Symphony
    Guillermo Figueroa, conductor
  • 22 JUN 2012
    St Magnus International Festival 2012
    Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall, Scotland
    Ian Mitchell, conductor

    Other Dates:
    27 June - Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall, Scotland
  • 04 NOV 2010
    Magdeburg, Germany
    Theater Magdeburg
  • 05 MAR 2010
    Magdeburg, Germany
    Jovan Mitic, conductor
  • 13 NOV 2008
    New York, NY
    Museum of Jewish Heritage
    Marc Neikrug, conductor
  • 09 NOV 2008
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Royal Conservatory Of Music
  • 24 AUG 2008
    Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
    Santa Fe, NM
    John Rubenstein, actor; Marc Neikrug, conductor

    Other Dates:
    25 August - Santa Fe, NM
  • 15 JUL 2008
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    National Arts Centre
    Saul Rubinek, actor; Marc Neikrug, conductor

    Other Dates:
    16 July - Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • 13 APR 2008
    Cadogan Hall, London
    English Chamber Orchestra
  • 12 APR 2008
    Cadogan Hall, London
    English Chamber Orchestra
    Saul Rubinek, actor; Mac Neikrug, conductor
  • 07 DEC 2007
    Izumi Hall, Osaka, Japan
    Osaka Symphony Orchestra
    Heiichiro Ohayama, conductor
  • 14 OCT 2006
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Royal Conservatory Of Music
    Simon Wynberg, conductor
  • 15 JAN 2006
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Musicians of Oper Frankfurt
    Christoph Quest, actor/Heidi Strauss, dancer; Hartmut Keil, conductor

    Other Dates:
    18,20-22,25,27 January - Frankfurt, Germany
  • 18 JAN 2005
    Teatro Due, Teatro Regio; Parma, Torino
    I Virtuosi Italiani
    Moni Ovadia Pavel Verikov, conductor

    Other Dates:
    27 January - Teatro Due, Teatro Regio; Parma, Torino
  • 13 JAN 2005
    Miami Beach, FL
    New World Symphony
    Marc Neikrug, conductor
  • 30 MAR 2004
    Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA
    Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
    Marc Neikrug, conductor
  • 02 NOV 2003
    Seatle, WA
    Music of Remembrance
  • 10 APR 2003
    Teatro, Alessandria, Italy
    I Virtuosi Italiani

    Other Dates:
    11 April - Teatro Musicale, Modena
    13,14 April - Teatro Bellini, Catania
    15,16 April - Palermo Amici della Musica
  • 05 FEB 2002
    Mestre, Italy
    I Virtuosi Italiani
    Moni Ovadia, speaker; Pavel Berman, conductor

    Other Dates:
    13 March - Belluno, Italy
    14 March - Monfalcone, Italy
    24 March - Pisa, Italy
    23 April - Alba, Italy
    15 May - Varese, Italy
  • 14 APR 2001
    Theatre Bregenz, Austria

    Other Dates:
    18,19,21,22 April - Theatre Bregenz, Austria

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