The first movement of Elena’s new concerto is called Childhood, and its light and energetic music recalls Sara’s earliest years in South East Poland. Her father was a doctor who filled her childhood with love and education; they were surrounded by community. But Sara would soon experience an unimaginable tragedy: the Nazi invasion that would take the lives of her Jewish family.
Rooted in Childhood is a single, insistent note that represents the “stable character, very solid, dependable” young Sara. Towards the end of
the movement, darker chords cut through the innocence – a subtle premonition of the wartime events to come, which are depicted in Danger.
“I did not want to have the word ‘war’ in there,” Elena says of the second movement, noting that Holocaust survivors often avoid speaking about their experiences. Instead, the title Danger represents what Sara was feeling, and “what is coming towards her – it’s like this wall of sound”. It boasts a military feel with dissonant themes set against rhythmic percussion.
“That's the most important part of what happened in her life,” Elena says. “Nothing was the same after that. If you lose your whole family, and you are in danger yourself and you'd survived horrible things, you could never stay the same person.”
The teenaged Sara fled the massacre in disguise. Elena uses her third movement Hope to signal this escape from the Nazis, as well as the following years in which Sara, her husband, and their son Bob travelled by boat to Australia.