NORBERT GLANZBERG: Holocaust Lieder; Suite Yiddish – Roman Trekel, baritone/ Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse / Daniel Klajner – MD&G multichannel SACD (also 2+2+2) MDG 901 1588-6, 70:09 [Distr. by E1] ***1/2:
Like Korngold, Weill, and Gershwin, Polish-born Norbert Glanzberg (1910–2001) enjoyed a career that straddled the classical and popular musical worlds. Like Korngold, his life is a kind of musical sandwich, the meatiest, or most lucrative, part coming in midlife, when he devoted himself to film music and popular song for the likes of Edith Piaf. When pop music trends passed him by, Glanzberg returned to his classical roots and produced works such as the two on the current SACD.
Of the two, Suite Yiddish is closest to his popular vein, I would guess. This is underscored by Frederic Chastin’s orchestration, which employs what sounds like an expanded theater orchestra, with lots of pop touches from the large percussion section, the saxophones, and muted trumpets. As you listen, you can’t help but think Fiddler on the Roof, which also recreates the by-gone world of the Eastern European shtetl. It would be interesting to compare the orchestral version with Glanzberg’s original for two pianos, but that version doesn’t seem to have been recorded. As it is, except for the tender-sad lullaby called Viglid, the Suite is a little lightweight for my tastes. Others might find it appealing in its local color, thanks to the team of Glanzberg-Chastin.
I’m more attracted to the Holocaust Lieder based on a poetry collection entitled Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland (“Death Is a Master from Germany”). The poems were written by Jews and resistance fighters incarcerated in the death camps; most of the writers did not survive the Holocaust. I wish I could report that the twelve poems Glanzberg sets are raw and powerful, but MDG provides no translations, and given the limitations of my college German, I passed on doing my own translating. Ah, well. The music, however, is powerful, and as befits the more serious nature of the work, the orchestration by Daniel Klajner is leaner and more overtly classical in feel.
Though Klajner, in his comments on the score, cites Schumann, Brahms, and Hugo Wolf as Glanzberg’s mentors, the vocal writing and orchestration both recall Mahler and Korngold much more than older classical masters. Baritone Roman Trekel—who has sung in the great opera houses of Europe and has recorded Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms songs—has his Mahler hat on for this session, and his performance is striking. I wonder if Das Knaben’s Wunderhorn is in his repertoire? If so, I’d love to hear it.
Many years ago I stayed for a few days in Mulhouse, famous for the stained glass in its cathedral, but I didn’t know it had a symphony orchestra, let alone one of the stature of L’Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse. At least it makes a very positive impression here, showing sympathy with Glanzberg’s pop-classical style and bringing color and verve to his music.
The recording from MD&G helps. MD&G is known for its high production values, including engineering, but this is the first SACD I’ve heard from the company. They certainly seem to know what they’re doing; the sound has an excellent sense of depth, as well as great naturalness. I hope they’ll continue to record in this medium.