ALBUM TITLE: Forbidden Music in World War II
WORKS: Works by Bosmans, Delden, Flothuis, Gokkes, Kattenburg, etc
PERFORMER: Various artists including Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra & Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and conductors Bernard Haitink, Eugen Jochum and George Szell
CATALOGUE NO: KTC 1530
Following the Nazi occupation of Holland in May 1940, native musicians were coerced into collaborating with the invading forces who sought to impose an ideologically tainted cultural policy on the country. Although many of Holland’s prized musical institutions swiftly succumbed to Nazi influence, a number of individuals refused to cooperate with the authorities and went underground, trying desperately to save the lives of Jews, most of whom were rounded up and sent to the gas chambers. This 10-CD set, released 70 years after the end of the Second World War, celebrates the courage and heroism of these people, but also mourns the terrible loss inflicted on Dutch musical life as a result of Nazi persecution. Flautist Eleonore Pameijer has done a sterling job both in assembling such a fascinating collection of recordings, and in bringing to light a number of works from the first half of the 20th century that deserve far wider dissemination.
As one might expect from a country nestled between France and Germany, the majority of the 19 composers featured here drew their musical inspiration from the different traditions of these two nations, whether it be perfumed impressionism, acerbic neo-classicism, full-blooded late-Romanticism or anguished expressionism. Some, however, draw upon these influences in a very individual and striking manner. I was most taken by the enormously fluent and inventive musical style of Leo Smit (1900-1943). The disc focusing on Smit, which includes the Cello Concertino (with Pieter Wispelwey as the committed soloist), the masterly Viola Concerto (with Daniel Raiskin), a wonderfully scored orchestral piece entitled Schemselnihar and an exquisite performance of the Flute Sonata from Pameijer and Frans van Ruth, provides one of the most vivid musical experiences here. No less attractive is the melodious jazz-inflected work of Dick Kattenburg (1919-1944) who somehow managed to write positive music under the most unbelievably terrible circumstances. Other pieces that made a strong impression include Ignace Lilien’s collection of songs for voice and piano; Henriëtte Bosmans’ propulsive neo-classical Concert Piece for flute and orchestra, and Concertino for Piano and Orchestra; and a very atmospheric Trio from 1927 by Jan van Gilse.
Inevitably, recording quality in a set that draws its material from so many different sources is variable, ranging from the rather scrawny sound of a 1954 live performance of the Royal Concertgebouw under Rafael Kubelík performing Sem Dresden’s Dansflitsen to the generally excellent engineering for the works by Smit, Van Gilse and Bosmans. It’s a pity, however, that the accompanying documentation is so slight, focusing almost exclusively on the lives of the featured composers and providing relatively little information on the music itself. Erik Levi