Waxman/Zeisl

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Waxman/Zeisl
LABELS: Decca Entartete Musik
WORKS: Das Lied von Terezín; Requiem ebraico
PERFORMER: Deborah Riedel (soprano), Della Jones (mezzo-soprano), Michael Kraus (bass-baritone); Berlin Children’s Choir, Berlin RSO & Chorus/Lawrence Foster
CATALOGUE NO: 460 211-2
Franz Waxman’s Song of Terezín, composed almost 20 years after the end of the Second World War, is a harrowing musical memorial to the Holocaust. The texts, drawn from poems written by children who were incarcerated in the Terezín concentration camp, are unbearably poignant, particularly so when reflecting on childhood experiences before the Nazi era, or in yearning to escape from the hell of current existence into an imaginary dream world. Waxman sets this material with great sensitivity, employing a powerful musical language that alludes to a number of central European influences (Schoenberg, Berg, Zemlinsky, even Richard Strauss), but establishes an individual identity and a fine sense of dramatic pacing. As one might expect from a highly experienced film composer, Waxman marshals the massed forces of a solo soprano, children’s choir, mixed choir and a huge orchestra with considerable expertise, and each song demonstrates an impressive capacity to highlight the text with an apposite musical illustration, nowhere more compellingly than in the chilling quotation from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata which forms the backcloth to the poem ‘Concert in the old school garret’.

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In comparison, Eric Zeisl’s Requiem ebraico, coincidentally composed in Hollywood by an émigré Austrian composer and also inspired by the Holocaust, strikes a less dramatic pose, making its impact through a quiet yet moving eloquence. I need hardly add that both works are well served on this disc which constitutes another triumph in Decca’s Entartete Musik series. Erik Levi