Swedish musician Jacob Mühlrad was awarded a major grant on Holocaust Memorial Day which will allow him to complete a choral piece about his maternal grandfather’s story of surviving the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.
Mr Mühlrad, 25, has composed the music and written the text for the piece, which has the working title Elegy. It is an imaginary dialogue between the composer and his late grandfather, Michael Bliman, in which Mr Mühlrad poses the questions that he never had the chance to ask his grandfather before his death.
“They are simple questions but I am really asking about his darkest moments, about how he survived,” Mr Mühlrad told Swedish Television.
Mr Mühlrad’s piece, a work-in-progress, also includes quotes from the author Elie Wiesel as well as extracts from the mourner’s kaddish prayer. A three-and-a-half minute taster was performed at the awards ceremony held at the Royal Dramatic theatre on Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27. Mr Mühlrad accepted the grant from Sweden’s Queen Silvia in the presence of several Swedish MPs and political party leaders.
Mr Mühlrad shot to fame even before completing his studies at the Stockholm Music Academy and only recently learned to read music, defying the severe dyslexia that had contributed to him achieving poor grades in school. In just a few years, his compositions have been performed in several major concert halls, including New York’s Carnegie Hall last year. In addition, he is the youngest composer ever to have had a piece commissioned for a ballet at Stockholm’s Royal Opera. He has also studied at the Royal College of Music in London.
The £27,000 grant was awarded by a foundation set up by Micael Bindefeld, an event organiser who supports Shoah commemoration projects. According to the foundation, Mr Mühlrad “weaves together a survivor’s story and the following generations’ inherited wounds through the power of music and in a piece that carries the memory of the Holocaust into our time”.
When completed, Elegy will be performed at Stockholm’s Berwald Hall. The premier is scheduled for October 14.