Ebony Band

Josef Koffler, Konstanty Regamey: Polish Masterpieces

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Amsterdam's Ebony Band is a set of players from the venerable Concertgebouw Orchestra who have devoted themselves to unusual and neglected repertory. They certainly succeed in that regard here, having dug most of the music out of a Warsaw library, and it seems surprising that no one has tried it out until now, especially in view of the attention given to composers who became victims of the Nazi regime. The two works by Józef Koffler are world premieres. Koffler, a Jewish composer from Lvov (now Lviv), was apparently not interned in a concentration camp but tried to hide out from the Germans and died under murky circumstances several years later. He was the first Polish composer to use the twelve-tone technique, and, especially in the soprano-and-ensemble cantata Die Liebe, Op. 14, he did so distinctively. Both works owe something to Schoenberg's 1920s idiom, but Die Liebe, with a text drawn from, of all things, Paul's letter to the Corinthians, has a voice of its own; the accompaniment seems to constantly shift around a range of textures and instrumental techniques. A similar variety of treatments is heard in Konstanty Regamey, another early Polish dodecaphonist who barely succeeded in fleeing to Switzerland during the war. Regamey, in the words of annotator Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek, "tried to demonstrate in this work that dodecaphony was not a style, but merely a technique"; so one is often told, but with an appropriately titled slow movement called Intermezzo romantico, Regamey comes closer than other composers. Channel Classics contributes strong engineering and deserves strong sales for this album to both those interested in the war era and those deepening their knowledge of Eastern European music in general.

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