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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Terezín/Theresienstadt
Ilse WEBER (1903-1944)
1. Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt [2:38]
Karel ŠVENK (1917-1945)
2. Pod dešnikem [3:10]; 3. Všechno jde! [2:16]
Ilse WEBER
4. Ade, Kamerad [2:23]; 5. Und der Regen rinnt [1:48]
Adolf STRAUSS (1902-1944)
6. Ich weiss bestimmt, ich werd dich wiedersehen! [3:19]
Anon
7. Terezin-lied (after the song “Komm mit nach Varasdin” from the operetta Gräfin Maritza by Emmerich Kálmán) [2:56]
Martin ROMAN (1910-1996)
8. Wir reiten auf hölzenen Pferden from the cabaret Karussell [4:12]
Ilse WEBER
9. Wiegala [2:35]
Hans KRÁSA (1899-1944)
10-12. Three songs after poems by Arthur Rimbaud: Čtyřverší [1:41] Vzrušení [2:00] Přátelé [1:19]
Carlo Sigmund TAUBE (1897-1944)
13. Ein jüdisches Kind [2:44]
Viktor ULLMANN (1898-1944)
14. Beryozkele from Three Yiddish Songs (Březulinka) op.53 [5:21]
15-17. Six Sonnets op.34: Clere Vénus (Sonnet V) [3:36] On voit mourir (Sonnet VII) [2:39] Je vis, je meurs (Sonnet VIII) [1:22]
Pavel HAAS
(1898-1944)

18-21. Four Songs on Chinese Poetry: Zaslech jsem divoké husy [2:39] V bambusovém haji [2:06] Daleko měsic je domova [5:05] Probděná noc [3:27]
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942) Sonata for solo violin (1927)[12:00] 22. 1.Allegro con fuoco [1:42]; 23. 2.Andante cantabile [5:31] 24. 3.Scherzo. Allegro grazioso [2:11]; 25. 4. Finale. Allegro risoluto [2:36]
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo)/Bengt Forsberg (piano) (1-3, 5, 6, 8, 13, 13-17), Bebe Risenfors (accordion) (1-3) (double bass) (5), (guitar) (9); Christian Gerhaher (baritone) (4, 7, 10-12, 18-21); Gerold Huber (piano) (7, 18-21); Ib Hausmann, (clarinet) (10-13); Philip Dukes (viola) (10-12); Josephine Knight (cello) (10-12); Daniel Hope (violin) (22-25)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4776546 [71:40]



The idea for this CD came as a result of Anne Sofie von Otter being asked to sing at the International Forum on the Holocaust in Stockholm in 2000. She was given a selection of songs to look at by the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation and, as a result, discovered works she had not come across before which made a profound impression upon her. She felt hugely moved by the thoughts of the terrifying situation in which people who had been arrested were herded to the ghetto city of Terezin in Northern Bohemia and whose only ‘crime’ was their Jewish heritage. She understood how the creation of music, art, theatre and literature and other art forms afforded them a few precious moments of serenity and calm. This was against the background of the harsh regime within the city’s walls and the almost daily dispatch of numbers of the inmates to their deaths in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. To quote the liner notes she says: “’We must never be allowed to forget’ has been said many times before, but it must continue to be said again and again. Genocide and persecution are still happening in the world around us every day. This project reflects my sincere wish to commemorate those who created music under conditions of unthinkable misery and who so tragically lost their lives.”
 
I would like to dedicate this review to the memory of my friend and work colleague for 10 years Marlies Fulder who lost both her parents in concentration camps where they were sent from Terezin.
 
Only seven of the fifteen sections on this disc involve Anne Sofie von Otter. This shows how much she was committed to the project to give greater exposure to those wonderful composers whose lives were so cruelly cut short in their prime. It also gives us a glimpse of the huge talent that we could have enjoyed for so much longer had the Nazis not launched their vicious campaign to eliminate the Jewish race in its entirety.
 
Nine named composers plus one whose name is unknown are represented here, all but two of whom perished in concentration camps where they were sent from Terezin. Erwin Schulhoff was sent directly to the concentration camp in Würzburg where he died in 1942. Martin Roman survived to live until 1996. All of them suffered by being banned from performing or being performed before the fateful day when they were sent away. This makes the events which occurred at Terezin all the more cynical since it was there that the Nazis perpetrated their most calculated lie by eventually allowing, even encouraging composing, writing, art and theatre performances in order to fool the world into believing that, as the Nazi propaganda had it, “The Third Reich gives the Jews a City”. They invited personalities and finally the International Red Cross to visit Terezin to see for themselves how ”merry musicians” played café concerts and how full-blown operas and symphony concerts were presented, poets read their own poems, plays were put on and paintings were exhibited, many by the hundreds of children incarcerated there. The true feelings and inspiration behind the wonderful works created, amid the terrible conditions that pertained there in which the inmates were being starved with only the most meagre of rations, were crystallised by the composer Victor Ullmann. In his essay “Goethe and the Ghetto” he wrote “we did not simply sit down by the rivers of Babylon and weep but evinced a desire to produce art that was entirely commensurate with our will to live”. An example of the crude cynicism involved was the putting on of Hans Krása’s children’s opera Brundibar which played there many times with different casts of children since almost immediately after each performance the current cast was dispatched to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Yet after its first public performance in Prague Krása, together with the opera’s director and son plus the cast were sent off to Terezin and the work was banned from public performance.
 
It is therefore against this background of history that this disc should be heard which is full of pathos yet with that inextinguishable faith in humanity shining through. In other words the creation of their art there was a supreme act of defiance in the face of the Nazis’ efforts to erase the works of Jewish composers, writers and artists.
 
The disc begins with one four songs written by Ilse Weber (1903-1944), who wrote more than 60 poems whilst in Terezin. She set many of them to music, accompanying herself on guitar whilst she made her night rounds as a nurse. Ilse Weber volunteered to go to her death in the gas chambers together with the sick children from Terezin. Eyewitness accounts reported that in there she sang them her song Wiegala (Lullaby) (track 9). Her songs with their simplicity and inward regret are among the most poignant written in Terezin. Her first song “I wander through Theresienstadt” ends “…when will our suffering end, when shall we again be free?” Sadly that was never to be. Karel Švenk (1917-1945) treats his laments with a touch of irony and in the first of his two songs on this disc Under an umbrella writes “…even in the strongest gale, one of life’s losers retains a spark of hope, and so I/we can laugh in the rain!” and in the second Anything goes! “Anything goes, with good will, we will join hands, and at the ruins of the ghetto we will laugh”.

Hans Krása, was sent to Auschwitz on the same day as Victor Ullmann and Pavel Haas and all three were gassed immediately on arrival. He is represented here by three songs after words by Arthur Rimbaud. They are easily recognisable as his, such is his cheeky style full of quirky rhythms which reappear in one of his string quartets. Victor Ullmann was an internationally celebrated composer when the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939. Overnight he became a “subhuman creature unworthy of existence” whose works immediately vanished from the stage. He was prevented from appearing in public any longer. His songs Beryozkele, Clere Vénus, On voit mourir and Je vis, je meurs are proof of his musical abilities and give a glimpse of what was lost when he was murdered. Pavel Haas was expressly sent to Terezin as a member of a team designated with the task of building up the camp’s cultural credentials and suffered an almost complete breakdown only coming out if it with the help of other musicians. One of his best-known compositions, apart from his three string quartets, including the wonderful String Quartet No.2 From the Monkey Mountains, is his Four Songs on Chinese Poetry which incorporates a leitmotif of the St. Wenceslas Chorale to symbolize his Czech homeland.

The other composers whose music features on this disc are Adolf Strauss, Martin Roman and Carlo Taube who left behind a single song when he was sent to Auschwitz with his wife and young son, all three of whom were gassed in the autumn of 1944. We do not know the name of the writer who took a famous song from Emmerich Kalman’s Countess Maritza and made a parody of it with the words “Yes, in Terezin we take life just as it comes”. Karel Švenk’s song Anything goes, with good will became the camp’s anthem while Martin Roman’s We’re riding on wooden horses allowed the inmates a brief respite from their privations and to indulge their memories of happier times in childhood. Adolf Strauss’s tango affirms I know for certain that I shall see you again! The disc finishes with Erwin Schulhoff’s sonata for solo violin played brilliantly by Daniel Hope. His devotion to Schulhoff’s music will, it is hoped, bring forth more discs of his music. Hope writes “…What especially fascinates me are the passion and will to survive that speak from this music”. As stated above Schulhoff was the only composer on the disc whose fate was not tied up with Terezin. As a communist as well as a Jew he was sent directly to the concentration camp at Würzburg in Bavaria.
 
This disc is an absolute must for anyone interested in sampling music by those whose lives were cruelly cut short by a monstrous ideology, and who would have made further hugely important contributions to the music of the 20th century. All the songs are wonderfully sung by Anne Sofie von Otter and Christian Gerhaher and accompanied by Bengt Forsberg and others. This is my nomination for Disc of the Year without reservation.
 
Steve Arloff




 


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