Krása: Brundibár; Theme and Variations; Passacaglia and Fugue; Overture for Small Orchestra; Three Songs

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COMPOSERS: Krása
LABELS: Koch
WORKS: Brundibár; Theme and Variations; Passacaglia and Fugue; Overture for Small Orchestra; Three Songs
PERFORMER: Soloists; Bambini di Praga, Group for New Music; Jerusalem van Leer Chamber Music Players/Bohumil Kulínsky
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7151-2
Along with musicians such as Pavel Haas, Viktor Ullmann and Gideon Klein, Hans Krása was one of the many talented victims of the concentration camp in Terezín. It’s a measure of the continuing interest in music written in such an extraordinary environment that this is the fourth recording of Krása’s enchanting children’s opera to have appeared in the last few years. But with some of his earlier music yet to be recorded (including an extended opera Verlobung im Traum), one may question the necessity for yet another version.

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The present disc does, however, deserve special consideration for presenting the world premiere of the Terezín edition of Brundibár, with its modified instrumentation and the addition of a delightful instrumental Serenade that forms an interlude between the two acts.

The performance, featuring the Bambini di Praga (who also appear on the rival Romantic Robot recording), conveys tremendous charm, energy and enthusiasm, and the individual singers deliver sharply defined portrayals of the evil organ-grinder Brundibár (unmistakably equated with Hitler by the inmates of the camp), the Sparrow, the Cat and the two Children.

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Prior to this, Koch offers a fascinating and excellently performed selection of some of Krása’s other works that were composed and performed in Terezín. The most striking of these are a set of imaginative variations for string quartet which derive from a haunting and memorable song composed in 1935, a pulsating Dance for string trio, and a lively and surprisingly optimistic Overture for Small Orchestra. Erik Levi