Hans KRÁSA (1899-1944)
1. Brundibár (1943) [31:24]
2. Overture for Small Orchestra (1943-44) [5:29] Lori LAITMAN (b.1955)
3. I Never Saw Another Butterfly (1995-96)
Music of Remembrance/Gerard Schwarz (1,2)
Craig Sheppard (piano) (2)
Maureen McKay (soprano); Laura DeLuca (clarinet) (3)
rec. St Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, Seattle, May
2006 (2); Illsley Ball Nordstrom
Recital Hall, Seattle, May 2006 (1,3) NAXOS 8.570119 [53:39]
Very slick. And very wrong. This new translation
of Brundibár is by Tony Kushner,
the playwright who wrote Angels in America. Its
demotic is all very well but the text is careless and unconvincing.
The old English translation by Joza Karas and Milada Javora
has stood the test of time perfectly well and I really
don’t see the advantage of this less sensitive and brusquer
burlesque affair. And then there’s the disastrous decision
to cast adults. We needn’t delve into the work’s well-known
history to appreciate the importance of the child actor-singers.
All the best performances and recordings use them.
Frankly this new release
is, to me, unlistenable. The air of adult vaudeville is
utterly unsympathetic. The ghost of W.C. Fields hovers
with gruesome stupidity over much of this – especially
the Ice Cream Seller scene – and if you think that Mr.
Cellophane haunts Scene Six, the one with the Organ Grinder,
then I wouldn’t disagree. Quite what Vaudeville cum Chicago is
doing here is anyone’s guess but I can’t be bothered to
work it out.
I suppose if you want
an example of Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning American
genius you could do worse than this;
Brundibár; Adios! Vamoose!
Milkman: Didn’t want
my milk, I guess.
Or maybe Brundibár’s
Scene Eight lines;
When I was a tender puppy
Every bully beat me uppy,
Yes, hilarious. I laughed
so much I fainted. It would have helped however had Kushner,
the producers and everyone else concerned with this awful
production managed to notice that one of the central character’s
names is Aninka and not Aninku. Perhaps they were thinking
The Overture for Small
Orchestra features Craig Sheppard. Heavily syncopated it
is strongly in thrall to Weill.
with the farce of the Kushner Brundibár is, unfortunately
for her, Lori Laitman’s cycle I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Written
for soprano and clarinet (though elsewhere the saxophone
has been used) - which imparts a klezmer-like spirit to
the music - these are settings by children, some anonymous,
some not. The fact that the children, so far as is known,
all died in Auschwitz is reason enough for gravity.There
are strong folk elements and moments of what Primo Levi
would call reprieve. Nevertheless what one remembers
most from the cycle are moments such as the repeated line rotting
in silence from the final setting, The Old House.
And also the undulating clarinet lines and of course the
perception of the settings. I prefer this performance to
that by Lauren Wagner (soprano) and Gary Louie (saxophone)
on all-Laitman disc on Albany Troy 393.
Brundibár performance, whether in Czech, German or English,
is preferable to this one. The German language version
on EDA 015 includes a disc of spoken reminiscences entitled Brundibár
und die Kinder von Theresienstadt in which we hear
from survivors such as Anna Hanusová-Flachová, Alice Sommer
and Eva Hermannová amongst others.
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