Sep, 2023: the US premiere of the Holocaust Requiem

Sep, 2023: the US premiere of the Holocaust Requiem

In Sep 2023, the extraordinary US premiere of Requiem took place in Annapolis by Peter Minkler and Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by José-Luis Novo.

I have been asked by my dear  friend, Boris Pigovat, to write a few words about his significant work, Requiem “The Holocaust” for Viola and Orchestra.  He composed this music in memory of his grandparents and aunt who were murdered at Babi Yar in September 1941 on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Mr. Pigovat contacted me about fourteen years ago with the hope that I would be able to persuade anyone in this country to perform his work, as it had not yet received its United States premiere.  After listening to Requiem, I was convinced that this is an important and transformative piece that deserves international attention.

After countless inquiries, my long journey was finally over when I was contacted by a local conductor and orchestra willing to tackle this technically challenging, massive 45-minute piece, and I performed the US premiere with Maestro Jose-Luis Novo and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in September of 2023.  These performances, which took place on the 82nd anniversary of the atrocity, were exceptionally well received with standing ovations, multiple curtain calls and brought many, both on and off stage, to tears.

Throughout the performance, the musicians and audience were silently captivated as the music vividly painted an emotional picture.  Other words shared with me and which were used to describe the music included powerful, unsettling, terrifying, gorgeous and deeply moving.

For me, I was both humbled and profoundly honored to bring this haunting music to life.  As soloist, I felt compelled to act as storyteller, narrating and weaving together the threads of this tragic event and bringing its aftermath to the fore.  Within the six-minute-long cadenza alone, we deftly move from horror to despair to acceptance.  The finale, Lux Eterna, ultimately conveys peace, yet is tempered with a stern warning, “Never Again.”

Despite the thousands of miles separating Boris and me, from our very first interaction I felt an unspoken, intense and immediate connection not only with him, but also his oeuvre of extraordinary music.  I am privileged to call him Friend.

I would encourage violists around the world to seek out and explore the wealth of magnificent works written for our oft-maligned instrument by Boris Pigovat, a composer who understands and appreciates the beauty and possibilities the viola can offer.

Peter Minkler
January 4, 2024

All I can add that I am spokeless. Thank you my dear friend Peter for your warm words!


Donald Maurice’s solo playing vividly captures the music’s gamut of supplicatory emotion, while Marc Taddei and the orchestra provide an accompaniment richly-mixed with ambiences of faith and trust, doubt and fear. READ MORE

Peter Mechen
Middle C, Classical Music Reviews
Wellington, NZ
September 15, 2011

This is a most extraordinary release. I guarantee it contains music like you’ve never heard before and that will leave you emotionally shattered and physically drained. …the performance and the recording are stunning, impactful, and overwhelming.

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare Magazine
Junuary, 2012
Nov, 2023: Yizkor

Nov, 2023: Yizkor

For Symphony Orchestra

  • Duration: ca. 16 minutes
  • Picc, 2 Fls, 2 Obs, 2 Cls, B.Cl, 2 Bsns, C.Bn, 4 Hns, 3 Tpts, 3 Tbns, Tba, Timp, Perc (3), Str.

Yizkor (May (God) remember) is an Ashkenazi Jewish memorial prayer service for the dead. The service concludes with the prayer “El male rachamim” (“God full of Mercy”)

Yizkor for symphony orchestra was written in memory of the victims of the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting.

In this work, I tried to express a wide range of feelings caused by this tragedy: pain, grief, anger, inner emptiness and confusion, and deep sadness. The piece ends with the traditional melody of the prayer “El male rachamim”.

Yizkor was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to commemorate the five years Anniversary of the “Tree of Life” Synagogue tragedy.
The world premiere took place on November 26, 2023, in Pittsburgh, USA at the Violins of Hope concert.

Mar, 2023: "Therefore Choose Life" performance  by IPO

Mar, 2023: "Therefore Choose Life" performance by IPO

An exceptional performance of Therefore Choose Life for Symphony Orchestra by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, took place in Tel-Aviv in March 2023.

This performance was recorded by MEDICI.TV and broadcasted around the world.

Below you can find the YouTube video from the live recording of the Israeli premiere.

        Lahav SHANI, Conductor
        Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 
        Duration: ca. 14 minutes
        Picc, 2 Fls, 2 Obs, 2 Cls, B.Cl, 2 Bsns, C.Bn, 4 Hns,
         3 Tpts, 3 Tbns, Tba, Timp, Perc (3), Hp, Cel, Str.

Sept, 2017: Amazing performance of “Poem of Dawn” at 44th International Viola Congress, Wellington, New Zealand

Sept, 2017: Amazing performance of “Poem of Dawn” at 44th International Viola Congress, Wellington, New Zealand

Here is another amazing performance of Poem of DawnRomantic Music for Viola and Symphony Orchestra, by Anna Serova, this time with conductor Hamish McKeich and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Composed in 2010, Poem of Dawn was performed by Anna Serova for the first time in 2013, with maestro Nicola Guerini and the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra. In 2015, they recorded the piece for the Naxos Records CD, which won Pizzicato’s Supersonic Award.

        Anna Serova, Viola
        Hamish McKeich, Conductor
        New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
        Duration: ca. 15 minutes
        2 Fls, 2 Obs, 2 Cls, 2 Bsns, 4 Hns, 2 Tpts, 3 Tbns, Timp, Perc, Hp, solo Vla, Str.

Sept, 2017: Therefore Choose Life for Symphony Orchestra

Sept, 2017: Therefore Choose Life for Symphony Orchestra

  • Duration: ca. 14 minutes
  • Picc, 2 Fls, 2 Obs, 2 Cls, B.Cl, 2 Bsns, C.Bn, 4 Hns, 3 Tpts, 3 Tbns, Tba, Timp, Perc (3), Hp, Cel, Str.

Therefore Choose Life was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) in honor of Manfred Honeck‘s tenth season as music director. The work premiered in Heinz Hall on September 22, 2017, and conducted by Manfred Honeck.

The work based on verse from Deuteronomy 30:19:

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live…

I feel that the phrase “therefore choose life” is essence of the verse.
In my work I tried to express my feeling that life (with all its pain, suffering and tragedies) is meant to be filled with beauty, hope, light and love.
I have written other pieces based on biblical themes: “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” oratorio, A Song of Ascent for Symphony Orchestra, and On Mount Sinai for Symphonic Wind Band. Hence, I was very glad to know from the PSO that maestro Honeck was hoping that my new work “would be inspired by spirituality”.

Therefore Choose Life was written as a free symphony poem, and its duration is approximately 14 minutes.

There are not quotes or references to Jewish liturgical music or other music, but in the coda,  the theme of flutes & clarinets alludes to the singing of morning prayers or psalms.

In 2023, Therefore Choose Life was performed in Israel by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (Conductor – Lahav SHANI).

The 11-minute symphonic poem is meditative but well varied at slow tempos, starting with a strong statement by the strings that conveys concern and aspiration. It leads to a section expressing some of life’s pains before turning to its antithesis – a beautiful and lushly scored section lifted by the light of a flute solo...

Mark Kanny
Classical Voice North America
September 25, 2017

When I conducted the Israel Philharmonic, I got to know Boris Pigovat a little more and started looking at other pieces he's written. I wanted to do more with him. So I was very happy when he agreed to write something new for this season. I think his musical language is very beautiful. It has Russian depth and enormous emotions, but he is also a very, very humble man.

Manfred Honeck
Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
September 20, 2017
Jun, 2015: NAXOS Records launched "Holocaust Requiem & Poem of Dawn" CD

Jun, 2015: NAXOS Records launched "Holocaust Requiem & Poem of Dawn" CD

As named, the CD contains two pieces for viola and symphony orchestra, both performed by the distinguished violist Anna Serova, with the Croatian Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra, conducted by maestro Nicola Guerini.

When Anna listened to the recording of Requiem’s premiere (performed by Rainer Moog, in Kiev) she told me that she wants to perform and record this piece herself. Together with her manager Alessandro Panetto and conductor Nicola Guerini, they made it happen: Requiem was recorded for NAXOS by the Croatian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra.

When planning the Requiem recording, Anna asked me to write another composition for the disk. This is how Poem of Dawn was born: I wrote and dedicated this piece for Anna. Inspired by Nikolaj Kun’s Legends and Myths of Ancient Greece (1914), I used the style and compositional methods of the Russian Romantic school, which I believed to be particularly well-suited to the warm, expressive sound of Anna’s viola playing.

Poem premiered at the  Il Settembre dell’Accademia 2013, Teatro Filarmonico di Verona (Italy), and was recorded, together with  Requiem, for the NAXOS label. The NAXOS CD was released in June 2015; that same year, it received the Supersonic Award from Pizzicato Magazine and was nominated for the 2016 International Classical Music Awards (ICMA).

Below are the full recording and short samples from the CD (the CD is available from Amazon).

Recordings from the Naxos CD
Anna Serova, Viola
Nicola Guerini, Conductor
Symphony Orchestra of Croatian radio and TV



Samples from the Naxos CD

In spite of the more dramatic Dies Irae, Boris Pigovat’s Holocaust Requiem is a music of striking serenity, beauty and depth, becoming highly emotional in the performance by violist Anna Serova and the Croatian Radiotelevision Symphony Orchestra. The poetic and evocative Poem of the Dawn is no less appealing.

Remy Franck
PIzzicato Magazine
October, 2015

Violist Anna Serova is spectacular, delivering exceptionally confident, technically brilliant, sensitive renditions of Pigovat’s heartfelt scores...

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found
August, 2015

Pigovat is a remarkably fine orchestrator. Poem of Dawn makes a fine contrast to the melancholy, passion and tragedy of the Requiem. Nevertheless it is the very fine Holocaust Requiem that I will return to most often. Anna Serova proves to be a first class soloist with the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra under Nicola Guerini turning in first class performances.

Bruce Reader
The Classical Reviewer
July, 2015

Remembered on disc four and more decades ago, the famous Zagreb Radio Orchestra is the renamed orchestra that is providing a high impact Holocaust Requiem and the gorgeous sounds for the land in paradise created for the Poem. A thought provoking release much recommended.

David Denton
David's Review Corner
June, 2015