Brandeis hosts U.S. premiere of Edwin Geist's music on Sunday

The life and work of German-Jewish composer and Nazi victim Edwin Geist (1902-1942) will be presented to a U.S. audience for the first time on Sunday, Oct. 26 at Brandeis' Slosberg Auditorium.

Geist's music is now being re-discovered in Europe and Lithuania, and Brandeis is proud to host the USA premiere of his work.

Geist composed the kind of music Hitler called “degenerate.’’ Born in Berlin in 1902, he was forced to flee Germany after the Nazis came to power and was prohibited to compose or work because his father was Jewish. He lived in Lithuania with his Jewish wife, pianist Lyda Bagriansky, and was interned with her in the Kovno Ghetto when the Nazis occupied Lithuania.

Geist was temporarily released and asked to compose, but he convinced the authorities he could not do so unless his wife would also be freed; she finally joined him, although with cruel limitations imposed on their lifestyle. He was eventually murdered in 1942 and Lyda, unable to live without him, committed suicide shortly after.

The afternoon will begin with a panel discussion of Geist's life and work at 2 p.m., followed by a festive reception at 3:30 p.m. and the concert at 4 p.m.

Panelists include Geist biographer Reinhard Kaiser from Frankfurt, and Musicologist Bret Werb from the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., as well as Geist's niece Rosian Zerner, and Klaus Harer from Berlin, whose German Cultural Forum for Eastern Europe has played an instrumental part in the rediscovery of Geist's work.

German soprano Verena Rein (Berlin), who is featured on the highly acclaimed CD with chamber music and songs of Geist's that came out in Germany in 2007, will perform the music, accompanied by pianist Eliko Akahori, violinist Sharan Leventhal, Nathaniel Farny on viola and David Russell on cello. Mark McSweeney will perform a song for baritone with ensemble.

The Center for German and European Studies is especially proud of the involvement of many Brandeis students in this unique endeavor: The concert will include a “dance pantomime” with Jae K. Han '10 on piano and dancer Anna Kharaz '09. Nicholas A.Brown '10 will conduct the Irving Fine Society Singers in the performance of several choral pieces by Geist.

The event is free and open to the public, but please reserve seats ahead of time, as space is limited. To reserve, please call 781-736-3400 and use option 5.

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