Brundibár

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Krása; Ullmann; Klein; Hass
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Brundibár
WORKS: Krása: Suite from Brundibár; Ullmann: String Quartet No. 3; plus works by Klein; Hass
PERFORMER: Nash Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67973

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It seems extraordinary that the creative spirit could flourish within the unimaginably harsh environment of a concentration camp. Yet the four composers featured in this clearly recorded and highly enterprising release continued to write music despite incarceration in the Nazi-controlled ghetto of Theresienstadt.

Two of the works were actually composed  there. Yet they explore rather different styles, Viktor Ullmann’s masterly Third Quartet drawing much inspiration from the soundworlds of early Schoenberg and Berg, whereas Gideon Klein’s String Trio seems closer to Bartók. Both are powerfully emotional works and they are performed here by the Nash Ensemble with passionate conviction and great attention to detail.

In contrast, a Suite newly arranged by David Matthews from the children’s opera Brundibár by Hans Krása which enjoyed 50 performances in the camp, revives the direct melodic appeal of the ‘objective’ music much favoured during the Weimar Republic. The Nash Ensemble clearly relishes its light-heartedness and its moments of poignancy delivering a performance that is witty and thoroughly engaging.

The most extended work is Pavel Haas’s Second Quartet composed in 1925 and strongly influenced by his teacher Janáˇcek. Here the Nash string players are especially in their element in the exciting Finale subtitled ‘Wild Night’ with its rhythmically propulsive obbligato percussion part. Although the Nash’s performance doesn’t quite convey the same degree of finesse and tonal colour as the marvellous Pavel Haas Quartet release of the same work on Supraphon, it is nonetheless an impressive achievement.

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Erik Levi