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Works from “Degenerate Music”
Leone SINIGAGLIA (1868-1944)
Little Suite for Flute and String Orchestra op. 45 (1937)
Two Distinctive Pieces for String Orchestra op. 35
Kurt SONNENFELD (1921-1997)
Nocturne for String Orchestra (1951)
Aldo FINZI (1897-1945)
Pavane for Clarinet and String Orchestra
Vito LEVI (c. 1899-2002)
Adagio for Strings In Memory of my Father (1942)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor (1937)
Roberto Fabbriciani (Flute); Davide Casali, (clarinet); Giacobbe Stevanato (violin)
Orchestra Abima;Civica Orchestra Di Fiati G.Verdi/Davide Casali
rec. 2014/18, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Trieste; Festival ViKtor Ullmann, Trieste Synagogue, Italy
TACTUS TC900005 [67:23]

The Festival ViKtor Ullmann continues to showcase works by composers that the Nazis and their allies labelled as “Entartete” or degenerate art. The performances that are presented on this CD feature the works of some less familiar composers from the wartime era and shows just how much work remains to be done to bring the suppressed music to the light of day. Most of these works are receiving their first recording on CD with this release.

Leone Sinigagalia was a a close friend of Arturo Toscanini and performed in concert with him regularly. He was particularly fascinated with the folk musc of the Piedmont region of Italy, and his research into this inspired much of the music he composed. That influence can be felt when listening to the dance rhythms that peek through his Little Suite and the Two Distinctive Pieces. His life was sadly cut short by the Fascist militia who arrested the old man in a nursing home where he had been hiding out, the experience of which caused him to have a fatal heart attack.

Kurt Sonnenfeld was Austrian by birth but he made his home in Milan. He too was arrested by the Fascists and spent the war years in an Italian concentration camp where artists were permitted to perform music. He survived the war but was unable to complete his conservatory training as by then he was too old to be admitted back into the Milan conservatory. His nocturne from after the war is a brief, emotion-filled love song to nocturnal sounds and sensations.

Aldo Finzi was a successful Italo-Jewish composer of the day but he too ran afoul of the Nazi-Fascist authorities. He selflessly gave himself up for arrest to prevent his son from being captured by them; eventually he was able to bribe his way to release only to die before the war ended. His Adagio in Memory of My Father is one of the more emotionally powerful pieces on this CD. It inhabits a similar sound world to Vaughn William’s Fantasia on a theme by ThomasTallis or even Górecki’s Third Symphony.

Vito Levi was a composer and music critic who taught composition at the University of Trieste. He lost his various posts with the laws banning Jews from holding any positions of prominence and ended up by working under the assumed name of “Bruno Bruni”, creating translations of opera librettos for a German publishing firm. He managed to escape arrest by hiding out in Venice until the end of the war. His Violin Concerto is the most substantial work on this CD. It strikes me as a most impressive composition which has similarities to both Elgar and Korngold. The opening allegro at times would put me in mind of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen.
I heartily wish that I could recommend this CD because of the importance of hearing these compositions again; however, in these live recordings the orchestra suffers from some very poor ensemble in every piece. Even more unfortunately, the recording engineers have been defeated by the acoustics of the Lutheran Church in Trieste, where the concerts took place. The opening tracks for the Sinigaglia’s Little Suite are completely obscured a cavernous echo. The tracks that follow this have eliminated the echo but then we are treated to a very flat and one dimensional sound for the rest of the CD. There are very positive contributions by the solo instrumentalists, in particular the excellent violinist for the Levi Concerto. I can only hope to encounter most of these compositions again in concert or on another more successfully engineered recording.

Mike Parr

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