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history


Hans KRASA (1899-1934)
Brundibar ‘Opera-Kit’ (CD and CD-ROM)

Czech:
Bambini di Praga, Jerusalem van Leer Chamber Music Players,/Bohumil Kulinsky
German:

Tölzer Knabenchor, Polish Nightingales, Philharmonic Children’s Choir/Raphael Sommer
French:

Choeur d’enfants du Conservatoire Nationale de la Region d’Aubervilles/Francis-Hugues Leclair
Swedish:

Children’s Choir of Malmö Musikteater/Michael Adelson
Italian:
Barbara Strowwi Ensemble, Musica Judaica/Francesco Lotoro
Czech version recorded 1993. German version recorded 1995. French version recorded 1998. Swedish version recorded 1994. Italian version recorded ?
Recorded and produced under the auspices of Jeunesses Musicales Internationale – no index number [36:30]

This is a very special and unusual issue, so it is frustrating that the packaging makes it so hard to work out precisely what the contents are. There are two discs here, which are the outcome of a project that has been going on for some years, and in which children from several different countries have been mounting performances in their own language of Hans Krasa’s little masterpiece of music-theatre, Brundibar.

The first disc is an audio CD, which has a complete performance given in the original language, Czech, by Czech children. This is followed by eight further tracks, with samples of the performances by the French, German, Swedish and Italian groups. The second disc is a CD-ROM – not particularly well produced – with copious information about the project, the piece, other related matters, and, fortunately, the composer. I say ‘fortunately’ because Krasa’s name is difficult to see on the outer packaging, and little is said about him in the booklet. There is also no libretto, which made following the opera a tricky matter, given the standard of my Czech (i.e. virtually non-existent!).

Those gripes aside, the audio CD makes wonderful listening. I love the music; it has vitality, humour, and a cleanness of texture that reminded me very much of early works by Martinů such as La Revue de Cuisine, or Špaliček. There are elements of folk-music and dance, jazz, and a very entertaining references to Petrushka. But the real joy is the children’s voices, which are stunning whether in solo or ensemble, and perfectly captured on the recording. Every children’s choir trainer in the country should listen to this, for both pleasure and instruction!

The opera was famously performed in Terezin concentration camp many times during World War II, by groups of Jewish children who were living under the constant threat of deportation and death; that fate befell just about everyone connected with the opera’s production at Terezin, including Krasa himself, who died in Auschwitz in 1942. These thoughts, and the awareness of the amazing part this music played in keeping up the spirits of those in such dire circumstances, makes the singing of the children not just inherently beautiful but deeply poignant too.

A moving and invaluable issue then; but you have to work hard to get at its full significance. If it’s intended as a resource for teachers, then it could be fine, but there’s probably not enough to attract the initial interest of a child. There is a web-site – www.brundibar.net – and it might be worth visiting this to get a fuller picture of the whole project. To be honest, the CD-ROM is a bit clunky.
Gwyn Parry-Jones


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