Composers of the Holocaust

by | May 22, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Composers of the Holocaust = Isabelle Ganz, mezzo-soprano; Robert
Paul Abelson, baritone; Marshall Cold, violin; Humbert Lucarelli,
oboist; Mimi Stern-Wolfe, pianist and conductor – Leonardo LE 342,
77:57 ***1/2:

It’s been a long time since I
stopped patting the cat in mid-stroke to listen to every word of a folk
song. That happened with this collection’s Tsen Brider (“Ten
Brothers”), sung by Robert Paul Abelson. It is a song about ten
brothers being led to the gas chambers and it send shivers through me.
The other songs vary widely in themes and styles: The sweetly lyrical
Shtil, di Nakht iz Oysgeshternt is about a female partisan who disables
an enemy caravan with one shot. Isabelle Ganz sings it (and three
others), accompanied on piano in an echoey room, which unintentionally
imparts an extemporaneous recital aura.

Ten years ago, during the resurgence of interest in Holocaust
composers, most recordings featured the instrumental works of composers
Erwin Schulhoff, Gideon Klein, and Pavel Haas; few, if any, included
songs of sorrow and resistance. Schulhoff’s barbed and ironic Violin
Sonata and Haas’ doleful Suite for Oboe and Piano are incorporated here
with splendid renditions. A few songs are arrangements of older ones,
such as Klein’s Wiegenlied, but most are original works by composers
and writers whose careers were cut short by the Nazis. For example,
composer Misha Veksler and writer Leyb Rozenthal collaborated on
Yisrolik, a courageous piece about an orphan selling goods in the
street. Producer Marnie Hall has assembled the definitive selection of
these rare works, all well documented in the accompanying booklet.
Unnecessarily, she reprises Zog Nit Keynmol, a militant marching song,
at the end. While I appreciate why she reiterated its statement, I
regret that she didn’t use the space to include one more of these
stirring songs.

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