LABELS: Koch Schwann
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Bohemia and Moravia
WORKS: Partita; Study for Strings; Nonet; Double Concerto
PERFORMER: Jacques Zoon, Monica GutmanBavarian Chamber Philharmonic/ Israel Yinon
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1371-2 DDD
All five Czech-Jewish composers represented here died in Nazi concentration camps and all but Schulhoff were incarcerated for a time in the Terezín ghetto (Karel actually died there). Here they are belatedly celebrated on two fascinating discs, one from the Czech PO endorsed by the Czech and German presidents, the other from a Bavarian youth orchestra making ‘an unequivocal statement against neo-fascism’.
The shadows of Janácek, Bartók, Berg, Suk – even Mahler – lie behind much of this music, yet it emphasises in its own individuality the tragedy of the loss of a whole generation of composers. Most remarkable, given the circumstances of composition (several were written in Terezín), is the optimism and spirit of much of the music, suggesting music became a powerful antidote to the horrors of life as a Jew in the early Forties.
Both discs are worth trying. The Bavarian one is preferable for the more committed performances of the works by Pavel Haas and Gideon Klein (the Czech Philharmonic strings are surprisingly less technically assured here) and above all the wonderfully original Nonet by Rudolf Karel; but the Czech PO disc is a must for the two symphonies, the Schulhoff in the Kurt Weill tradition (complete with a ‘Scherzo alla Jazz’) and the Ullmann a fascinating cross between Mahler and Berg. Matthew Rye