Forbidden Voices - Songs by Jewish composers
banned by the Nazis Franz SCHREKER(1878-1934) Acht
Lieder Op. 7 (1898) [15.14] Berthold GOLDSCHMIDT (1903-1996) Three
Songs (1933-1950) [6.21] Victor ULLMANN (1898-1944) Funf
Liebeslieder nach texten von Ricarda Huch Op. 26 (1939)
[13.18] Pavel HAAS(1899-1944) Sedem
Pisni v Lidpvem Tonu Op. 18 (1940) [14.04] Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942) Funf
Gesange Op. 32(1919) [14.13] Erich KORNGOLD (1897-1957) Unverganglichkeit Op.
27 (1934) [10.26]
(soprano); Craig Combs (piano)
rec. Jacqueline du Pre Music Building, St. Hilda’s College,
Oxford, 8 January 2006
texts provided DIVINE
ART DDA25044 [73.49]
you remember Decca’s wonderful ‘Entartete Musik’ series which
started in the early 1990s, music which was banned by the
Nazis. You may also recall the series on Koch ‘The Terezin
Music Anthology’. Even before that Channel Classics produced
a series of discs ‘Chamber Music from Theresienstadt’. Since
then there have been more discoveries on other labels but
before circa 1990 this music was unknown to the general public.
The emphasis of this renaissance has often throughout this
period been on the chamber works and sometimes on the orchestral
music. At last the songs are given an opportunity.
the composers who are not represented on this CD one could
add Gideon Klein, Rudolf Karel and Hans Krasa, all of them
annihilated under the Nazis. All were youngish men whose
careers were just about to take off and all had Jewish ancestry.
Some, like Erich Korngold or Berthold Goldschmidt escaped
to America or Britain or elsewhere after 1933. I have seen
a film of Pavel Haas conducting his Study for Strings at
Theresienstadt made by Nazi propagandists for the Red Cross
no less, to show how well they were treating their artists
in ‘the camps’. One week or so after the film was made, Haas
and many other musicians were dead.
booklet has one of the best essays on the musical background
to the works that I have read as well as extensive biographies
on the composers. Texts of all of the songs are provided
except that is for Goldschmidt’s first song ‘Clouds’ with
words by Rupert Brooke written in 1950 which is obviously
in English; Goldschmidt was living in London by then.
of these composers had been pupils of Janáček, like
Pavel Haas whose ‘Songs in a folk style’ are some of the
most delightful pieces on the disc. Some knew Bartók or had
attended lectures by Hindemith. Ullmann had been a pupil
of Schoenberg. That is the starting point of his harmonic
language but the melodic and rhythmic language of folk melody
and folk dance are often also an influence.
what can we say of this fascinating collection of songs?
mentioned Goldschmidt. He had been a student of Schreker
and it’s true to say that throughout his career he hardly
expanded on his teacher’s language. I have come to know his
music quite well and feel that his earlier pre-war stuff
has more to say that anything post-war. The songs here are
attractive and subtle but have little in them that is memorable.
Also, as they are rather short, they are not easily programmable.
songs open the disc. There are eight of them, settings of
Jul Sturm, E. Scherenberg and Dora Leen, which was a pseudonym
for Dora Pollock, a Jewish poetess. They do not represent
the composer as you might know him, that is through the banned
opera ‘Der Ferne Klang (completed in 1910) and the’ Chamber
Symphony’ (1916). Although charming and each song is well
contrasted they remain mostly derivative of Pfitzner and
Loewe, romantic and conservative composers in vogue at the
Schulhoff is a fascinating figure. You may know him as a
brilliant composer of chamber music. His songs bring to the
fore the exceptional pianism of Craig Combs. These inhabit
an ambiguous harmonic language: Debussy crossed with Alban
Berg. It is here and in the accompaniments to Haas’s songs
that the pianist carries the most weight. Indeed the Haas’ songs
feel as if they are piano studies with vocal embellishment.
Schulhoff has a more balanced and individual approach. He
takes five poems which he may well have written himself.
They are expressionist and elusive ‘Pain lies irksome/With
plenty fingers it gropes for the soul’.
songs are memorable, romantic, tuneful and probably come
off the best on the disc. Victor Ullmann’s songs are also
expressionist in nature. In five poems by the versatile authoress
Ricarda Huch the language of Ullmann’s songs may remind you
of late Strauss or even Wolf. They are moving but I’m not
sure if Judith Sheridan is quite the right singer for them.
Which brings me neatly to the performance as a whole.
Sheridan is very committed to this project, hence her vast
and superbly presented notes, with her list of thank-yous
on the back of the CD and her scrupulous choice of pieces
and careful diction. However I left the CD wishing the whole
recital to be performed again but by someone else. Some songs,
like Ullmann’s need a real soprano yet he uses the lower
register also. Sheridan does not quite fit the bill. Her
upper register does not convince although she has a lovely
pianissimo on top Gs but she evaporates into a different
voice in the lower reaches, with too much vibrato for my
taste anyway. Craig Combs is sympathetic and extremely competent.
His use of pedal is discreet and he is supportive and careful
with dynamics. No praise is too high for his contribution.
in all an interesting collection, recorded in a friendly,
domestic acoustic but not music to rattle anyone’s cage or
be picked up by other singers as a result of this CD.
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