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The 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht (literally "Crystal Night" - or the "Night of Broken Glass") was commemorated in 2008 as I was beginning to think about this work. In early November 1938 Hitler's troops attached the Jewish people of Germany, already undergoing considerable suffering at hands of the Nazis. Nearly a hundred were killed, and upwards of 30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps. More than 200 synagogues and countless businesses were ransacked. Some consider this event the true beginning of the Holocaust.
Throughout much of this work there is a sense of busy rhythmic energy - the music is marked "with relentless energy". In the piece I wanted to give the impression of frantic activity, of people running and trying to escape the Nazi troops. Bursting in on the music from time to time are march-like rhythms, usually from the snare drms, trying to control the flow of the piece. Eventually the music gives way to grotesque march idea which leads through to the climax of the piece. In the middle of the work there is a calmer section which is marked "sadly". The flute plays a lament against gently dissonant chords from the vibraphone and guitar. This music is the most nearly tonal in the whole piece although there is not a single major or minor chord in the entire work (other than the quote from the Jewish anthem)!
Once the faster music reasserts itself, the music suggests the Jewish people bing overwhelmed by the force of the Nazi troops. Here, the piece incorporates the Israeli national anthem Ha-Tikva to represent those being attached - the guitar plays it softly in the background and it's presence is only occasionally heard when the violent music surrounding it stops. The guitar's music is finally overwhelmed and a percussion outburst marks the climax of the piece. Brief reference back to a series of chords heard earlier, and then ideas from the first part of the work, are combined in a brief Coda. The music ends inconclusively. The running continues.
Kristallnacht was written for students of New Plymouth Boys' High School.
Commissioned by New Plymouth Boys High School
Has previously been performed in the Schools' Chamber Music Contest.
11 Jun 2009: Performed by the Kristallnacht Quintet at Cue Theatre, Inglewood