We have in recent years become used to discovering music by composers
of Jewish origin who perished in the Nazi pogroms. Starting in
the 1980s on Channel Classics we came across Victor Ullmann and
Gideon Klein. Then in Decca’s marvellous Entartete Musik series
we encountered Pavel Haas and Hans Krasa. Companies like Koch
International developed this further with Erwin Schulhoff and
Rudolf Karel. These men were mostly Czech Jews. Some were pupils
of Janáček and most had resided at the Theresienstadt complex.
With this disc new names emerge. These are men who died elsewhere
and in other circumstances, men those birth dates may be unknown
their death dates uncertain and dates of whose compositions and
circumstances behind them impossible fully to ascertain.
Budai is a good example. He was well known in the 1930s as a
choral conductor and teacher yet we do not know much more about
him. His work here is a lively set of five pieces for a ballet
which appears to have been left unorchestrated. It is sophisticated
light music but brilliantly written for two pianos and much
influenced by eastern European folk melodies and rhythms. The
Shepherd’s Song is especially alluring.
good example would be Elemér Gyulai - known as a writer of a
significant book ‘The Effect of Music - A Study in Public Psychology’.
He lectured on the subject and was a renowned expert in this
field as well as a composer of much larger-scale pieces than
the one we have here. The ‘Lullaby’ is not a sleepy piece at
all but a lively simple song in an irregular time signature.
Bartók would have been pleased with it. Its rather sinister
text, quoted in János Mácsai’s extensive and incredibly interesting
notes - with amazing photos of the composers and of the performers
- is in no way described in conventionally expressive terms.
The beautiful ‘Air’ for cello and piano is a modal piece, a
perfect miniature, somewhat reminiscent of Kodály and none the
worse for that. It is most elegantly played here by Rohmann
first work on the CD is the longest. It is by the only composer
represented here that I, and possibly you, might have heard
of; he is László Weiner. He was put to death at the age of 28
having been a pupil of Kodály to whom his music, a mixture of
modality, some whole-tone melodic writing and folk rhythms,
is much indebted. He was also developing a career as a concert
pianist. His Duo for Violin and Viola is in four movements with
an exciting Scherzo placed second.
Kuti had his Serenade for string trio first performed in 1934
when under the great Erno von Dohnányi’s guidance he finished
his studies. He had several works performed in what the booklet
calls a “first composer’s night”. Apparently many of Kuti’s
pieces remain lost but this beautiful and original work is published.
It falls into three movements with a Scherzando 3/8 middle movement
and a mysterious third one which ends in mesmerising fashion
on a dominant seventh.
other work here is the Sonata for unaccompanied violin which
was probably his last as it is dated 14 July 1944. It was written
whilst in the dreaded SA labour camp on scraps of ragged paper.
Dedicated to his wife it she miraculously came into her possession.
Also miraculous is its upbeat if at times quite tough mood.
It is played here by Vilmos Szabadi with tremendous commitment
Jazz Suite by György Justus is his best known work. He was another
versatile musician little of whose music has survived his violent
death. The suite is not conventional jazz, rather more acerbic
with a touch of Kurt Weill in the opening ‘Rhapsody’. Then follows
a somewhat lugubrious waltz, a rather undanceable tango, a really
sleazy blues number and finally a Cole Porteresque foxtrot.
This is al played with a great adroit style by Marta Gulyás.
has especially brought tears to my eyes whilst listening to
these fantastically committed performances of such rare music
is that in these brief works we have but a few surviving remnants
of a large and a lost generation of brilliant musicians. Who
knows in what direction their music would have flowered. On
this evidence they all had talent and considerable promise but
the sharpest regret must be reserved for Kuti and for the very
young Weiner whose musical language must still have had yet
further to go despite the brilliance of the Duo here recorded.
indicated the performances are spectacularly fine and the recording
close and immediate but with space and air.
disc adds to our still growing knowledge of the composers so
tragically cut short by the horrors of the concentration camps.
All in all I can only advise that you search it out and listen