When the Fribourg-based group Ensemble Aventure first released its Ars Musici disc Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, Pavel Haas, Erwin Schulhoff in 1994, it was entering early in the field of reviving works on record of composers who had perished during the Holocaust. In some instances, Ensemble Aventure's were the first recordings of certain works, but in the years to come several of these pieces would be booked in the studio again and again by other artists: the Klein Piano Sonata, the Pavel Haas Suite for oboe and piano, and the Schulhoff Concertino for flute, viola, and double bass. It is a testament to Ensemble Aventure's good judgment that it picked pieces that would matter in the long run, and this disc has remained one of the outstanding entries of its kind. It is therefore appropriate that Ars Musici has decided to reissue it with a much snappier package than in its drab original garb.
Of course, all such things are evolutionary, and as offerings on Holocaust composers began to expand Schulhoff would find himself left out of the company of his fellow Czechs because he never spent a day in Terezin. However, Schulhoff would move into a special kind of prominence on his own owing to the high quality of his music, and his Concertino for flute, viola, and double bass is certainly the most captivating and rhythmically involving work on the disc; like Krása's Fünf Lieder, Op. 4, it dates from the 1920s and not from the era of Terezin. Just barely on the cusp of his confinement, Klein composed his Divertimento for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, and 2 horns; it is like a rather bitter twist on traditional "Harmoniemusik" -- the opening "Tempo di marcia" is especially bizarre. In another demonstration of how interpretations of such music can change, the annotator here describes Klein's Piano Sonata as "a pianistic scream of agony," whereas later writers have termed it languorous and witty; even in this recording that seems a more apt description. Haas' Suite for oboe and piano is one of the most melodious, emotive, and thoughtful chamber works for oboe written in the 20th century. Soprano Gabriele Kniesel and baritone Ulf Bästlein do a superb job of negotiating the tough voice parts in the vocal works on the program. Altogether, Ensemble Aventure's Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, Pavel Haas, Erwin Schulhoff is a terrific selection, particularly for listeners unfamiliar with these composers who want to dip a toe into the water rather than jump into the pool on this repertoire.