COMPOSERS: Blacher,Goldschmidt,Harrington Shortall,Milhaud & Vaughan Williams,Weill
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Testimonies of War
WORKS: Dance Scenes; Alla marcia; Chiarina; Partita; Sonatine No. 2; Three Psalms; Fanfare for Those Who Will Not Return; Zu Potsdam unter den Eichen; Choral-Fantasie
PERFORMER: Various performers
CATALOGUE NO: 5130 DDD
Among the plethora of commemorative projects inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Europe, the present collection, masterminded by the scholar David Drew, deserves a special place. Central to the whole enterprise is a timely exploration of the work of the German composer Boris Blacher (1903-75), who bore eloquent witness to the trials and tribulations of survival under the Nazis. Up to now, Blacher’s reputation has rested on a few lightweight orchestral pieces, including the exuberant Variations on a Theme of Paganini, but a cross-section of works featured here suggests a figure of much greater depth and stature.
In this respect, the starkly defiant psalm settings for baritone and piano, written in 1943 in the wake of official censorship from the Nazi party, and the emotionally equivocal Partita for strings and percussion provide the most powerful illustration of Blacher’s capacity to transmit the feelings of loneliness in the face of oppression. A deep sense of unease also pervades the pre-war Alla marcia and Dance Scenes where Blacher, in opposition to rampant nationalism, deliberately employs a cosmopolitan musical language owing much to Stravinsky.
Apart from Blacher, this enthralling set contains further major discoveries including the brief but ineffably poignant Fanfare for Those Who Will Not Return by Harrington Shortall, and two previously unknown psalm settings by Berthold Goldschmidt dating from 1935, the year the composer fled from the Nazis. Such inspired programme planning, coupled with committed performances and outstanding liner notes, make this an urgent recommendation by any standards.