Leo Smit Ensemble

Dick Kattenburg: Chamber Music

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Dutch composer Dick Kattenburg barely got started before the curtain came down; in hiding from Nazi authorities in Utrecht, Kattenburg was probably arrested in a movie theater and shipped out to Auschwitz in May 1944. By late September, Kattenburg was dead at age 24; his music manuscripts -- constituting about two-dozen pieces written between 1936 and 1944 -- wound up in the care of Kattenburg's sister Daisy, who managed to survive World War II. The one piece Kattenburg circulated outside of his own collection, his Flute Sonata (1937), was given to its dedicatee, flutist Ima Spanjaard-van Esso. Although Esso never played the piece, she presented its manuscript to Eleonore Pameijer, founder of the Leo Smit Foundation in Amsterdam, who began to play it -- a lot -- in the early 2000s. Word of these performances reached the daughter of Daisy Kattenburg, who discovered the rest of Dick Kattenburg's compositions in the family attic where her mother had left them.

This story of discovery is extraordinary to be sure, but not nearly as extraordinary as Kattenburg's music. Although Kattenburg had some rudimentary musical training, including some contact -- mostly by way of correspondence -- with Smit, he was a self-taught composer bursting with talent, ingenuity, and originality. Kattenburg loved jazz and his works are suffused with its influence by way of both rhythm and harmony; there is even a composition for piano, four-hands, and tap dancer and a lively "Rumba" found among his three Escapades for two violins. These, and much more, may be found among the 13 works included on FutureClassics' disc Dick Kattenburg: Chamber Music as performed by Pameijer's group, the Leo Smit Ensemble. They are very accomplished readings for music that is so new to us; however, Kattenburg's music is very clear in its scoring and should delight performers whose instruments that he wrote for. And it's a pretty extensive range; in addition to the flute works and those for piano, he composed pieces for violin and an intriguing quartet for the combination of flute, violin, cello, and piano, not commonly used in his time since the late Baroque period. Stylistically, Kattenburg is difficult to nail down; earlier pieces have an impressionist tincture, somewhat later ones adopt a Stravinskïan edge, and his last work, the Allegro Moderato for Viola and Piano, shows Kattenburg moving into an entirely original and boldly serious direction that, in the end, he wasn't allowed to follow out to its realization.

As Dick Kattenburg: Chamber Music appears, much is being made of the discovery of a few frames of home film of Anne Frank, leaning out a window and waving; a tiny artifact raised, like Anne Frank's diary, from the rubble of the hiding places that ultimately failed to preserve for us the lives of talented Jews who lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi period. Kattenburg was only a decade older than Frank, and while his music does not speak directly of his horrendous experience like Frank's work does, it remains a testament to what was lost when the hiding places were emptied and these people were betrayed. It also pays tribute to the value of the creative impulse, as it is only through the bright, witty, and effervescent work like those heard on FutureClassics' Dick Kattenburg: Chamber Music that lost ones -- like Dick Kattenburg -- can speak to us.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
9:17
2
3:50
Escapades, suite for 2 violins
3
1:55
4
3:26
5
2:55
Palestinian Songs (7), for voice & piano
6
0:48
7
1:22
8
1:49
9
2:49
10
0:56
11
2:34
12
1:16
13
2:48
14
0:54
15
1:50
16
2:05
17
1:59
18
2:53
Sonata for flute & piano, Op. 5
19
3:39
20
5:00
21
2:14
22
4:24
23
4:58
Quartet for flute, violin, cello & piano
24
4:24
25
5:00
26
4:43
blue highlight denotes track pick