The idea for this collection of music written by prisoners at Theresienstadt, or Terezín, grew out of Anne Sofie von Otter's performance at the 2000 International Forum on the Holocaust. The music here represents only a small fraction of what was written and performed at the camp, much of which has been lost. Terezín served as the Nazi's model camp, in which artists were allowed to create new works put on display for the international public as a proof of the humane treatment of prisoners. The performances only masked the hard labor and malnutrition the prisoners suffered when they were not on public display, and most of them died there or went to their deaths in other camps. The awareness of the tragedy behind the music heightens its poignancy. Perhaps most moving are the songs that directly address the prisoners' suffering -- Ilse Weber's "I wandre durch Theresienstadt" and "Ade, Kamerad!, Karel Svenk's "Anything goes!," and the bitterly ironic "Terezín Song," set to a merry tune from the operetta Gräfin Maritza. Weber's songs have the sweet simplicity of Schubert, and her lullaby, "Weigala," which she sang as she joined a group of children being taken to their deaths, is almost unbearably poignant. The works by the best-known Theresienstadt composers -- Hans Krása, Viktor Ullmann, Pavel Haas, and Erwin Schulhoff -- are at an entirely different level of compositional sophistication than the folk-like or cabaret style songs of the others, but they are no less deeply felt. The performances are uniformly of the highest quality. Von Otter and baritone Christian Gerhaher sing with extraordinary purity, tonal radiance, and intensity. Pianist Bengt Forsberg accompanies them with comparable eloquence and sensitivity. Daniel Hope gives an impassioned performance of Schulhoff's Sonata for solo violin. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clean, lively, and present, with excellent balance.
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Review by Stephen Eddins
Terezín-Lied (Terezín Song), after the song "Komm mit nach Varassin" from Kálmán's operetta "Gräfin Maritza"
|Brezulinka, Yiddish songs (3) for voice & piano|
|Songs (4) on Chinese Poetry|
|Sonata for solo violin|