Wellesz, Spinner, Goldschmidt, Gellhorn, Tausky, Gál, Seiber, Reizenstein & Rankl

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gál,Gellhorn,Goldschmidt,Reizenstein & Rankl,Seiber,Spinner,Tausky,Wellesz
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Continental Britons: The émigré composers
WORKS: Works by Wellesz, Spinner, Goldschmidt, Gellhorn, Tausky, Gál, Seiber, Reizenstein & Rankl
PERFORMER: Christian Immler (baritone), Erik Levi, Konstantin Lifschitz (piano), Nurit Pacht (violin), Paul Silverthorne (viola); Ensemble Modern
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5730-31

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A fascinating, invaluable collection of music by composers born in Germany or the Austrian Empire who sought asylum in the UK to escape Hitler’s Reich. Grudgingly accepted, they made vital contributions to this country’s musical life. Nearly all of them were established composers before their emigration, but in making their way in Britain they had to use other talents – as conductors (Gellhorn, Goldschmidt, Rankl, Tausky), teachers (Gál, Wellesz) or editors (Spinner). The works presented here span 80 years, from Wellesz’s early, surprisingly Debussian Cherry-blossom Songs to Goldschmidt’s late, haunting Fantasy for oboe, cello and harp; and a stylistic gamut from the traditional (Gál’s post-Brahmsian Violin Sonata) to the abrasively radical (Spinner’s and Seiber’s violin works). Identification with their adopted country appears in choice of English texts (Goldschmidt, Rankl) or subtle stylistic osmosis (Wellesz’s delightful Octet sounds like a union of Schubert and Rawsthorne). Several are represented by pre-emigration works, and generally one detects few musical references to the condition of exile (Reizenstein’s Wind Quintet, written in the year he fled Germany, is witty and efficient), but World War II is reflected in the songs from Rankl’s cycle War and especially Tausky’s deeply moving Meditation for string quartet prompted by the bombing of Coventry. Communal neglect is here redressed in excellent, sympathetic performances.

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Calum MacDonald